So here we are. Almost two months after her initial diagnosis, today she gets her first chemo.
The four of us, my mom, dad, grandpa, and myself, sit in the open concept, brightly lit infusion center. It’s a large half moon-shaped room with the recliners, separated by curtains, facing a well-groomed peaceful garden with a full-size fountain.
Before starting the drip, the chemo nurse, a pretty middle-aged women with stylish short brown hair, sits down with a packet of patient education and reviews the medications and side effects with us.
Hair loss, nausea, nail discoloration, and low white blood cells, among many others, roll off my tongue daily at work, but sound so foreign coming from another nurse in reference to my mom.
One by one the nurse pushes the four different premeds, which prevent nausea, hypersensitivity reactions, and anxiety. One of them being Ativan, causes her to be drowsy, and as she lies next to me in the recliner, sleeping, I try to picture her without hair. I feel my throat constrict as an image flashes in my mind of her sweating, sick from nausea, embracing a barf bag. I think I need some Ativan too.
I feel helpless, jittery. Right up until this morning I was secretly hoping some kind of miracle cure would come along and she wouldn’t have to do chemo. Denial. I hate this.
“Snap out of it, nurse,” I tell myself. I remind myself that chemo kills cancer everyday, and people are given new meaning to their lives and decades added to their lifespans.
The nurse comes to give the first chemo, Adriamycin, a red-pink concoction in a giant 60cc syringe, almost as big as a flashlight, to be given in an IV push for 10 minutes.
We gather closer, hold hands, the nurse included, and say the Lord’s prayer, and ask God to bless the chemo, and help it do its job. I hold my breath.
No reaction to the chemo. Phew.
Now Cytoxan, a clear med in a 250mL bag is to be given over half an hour. She falls back to sleep quickly, occasionally looking up with a squinting face to ask for some decaf coffee, then back to sleep again.
Before I know it we’ve been here for almost three hours, including the doctors visit which preceded the infusion, and she’s done.
We leave the building and in the darkened parking lot, say our goodbyes, and I drive back home to LA, as I have to work the next morning. Reaching home I call my folks and according to my dad, she’s still pretty doped up, but sounds like her normal self on the phone.
“One day down, one year to go,” I think to myself. “Lord please let her be one of the lucky ones with little to no side effects.”
And so it begins.
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