“Hi, I have an 8:30 appointment with the nurses.”
“Hi Lydia, you do know that it’s 9, right?”
“Well, I was here yesterday at 8:25 and didn’t get in to see them until 9:15, so I decided to cut out the wait this morning. Is that going to be a problem?”
Today is Day 8.
My time these days goes in chunks of 21. Day 1 is the first day of chemo, and we go from there. Every 21st day, the calendar resets, and I start over again. This is helpful for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I’m learning which days are “better” or “worse” and therefore when I need more help or can go to work.
Round Three started last Tuesday (Day 1) and was entirely uneventful. Got home on Saturday (Day 5), rode my prednisone high to a couple parties that night, and spent Sunday (Day 6) doing Sunday things. Yesterday (Day 7), I went to my docs, 4 blocks away, got a blood draw and a Neupogen shot, took myself out to breakfast, then went home and slept for the rest of the day. My chemo tends to have a build-up effect on me, not exhausting me during treatment, instead hitting me over the head just afterwards. I’ve discovered that half-way through Day 7, I lose everything from the ability to walk in a straight line to intellectual curiosity to patience to even the ability to swallow properly, which makes staying hydrated (vitally important for immediate post-chemo) extremely difficult (especially because I’m still sweating through two t-shirts a night). By Day 9, My strength begins to return. But today is Day 8.
“Huh, a little high for me.”
“Blood pressure, 82/34; heart rate, 114.”
“Guess I’m getting fluids today.”
Here’s some cool medical factoids for you: if your heart rate is high, and it’s coupled with low blood pressure, you’re dehydrated. Also, if you can’t feel your pulse in your wrist, then your blood pressure is below 90. Nifty way to check if the machines are wrong. This morning, the machine wasn’t wrong.
“Hi Lydia, I’m going to start you on fluids now, but first I need to do another blood draw. Your potassium yesterday was a little low, so we need to make sure that it hasn’t continued to drop.”
“Oh crap, does this mean that I’m going to be sitting here for four hours during a potassium drip?”
“Well, I’m hungry. Can I go get some breakfast first?”
“I’ll go grab you a bagel…your blood pressure is so low that I’m nervous you’ll pass out.”
“Thank you very much…extra cream cheese please.”
Hour one: 1000 mL of saline (with 20 mg of potassium…just in case). Read email. Scan work email. Drift in and out of sleep. Watch other patients get infusions. Be fascinated by the stoicism of the older ones; the nonchalance of the younger ones.
“Sorry…no news yet on your potassium counts. I’m going to give you another bag while we’re waiting.”
Hour two: another 1000 mL of saline. Wonder about whether the cats have caught themselves on fire from the chicken stock simmering on the stove. Talk to Michael on the phone. Reassure him that I’m okay.
“Okay, let’s take your blood pressure again…84/45 with a heart rate of 88. One more bag while we wait.”
“At least my heart rate has calmed down.”
“There is that.”
Hour three: here I sit, getting IV fluids through my port, arm sore from today’s Neupogen shot, exhausted but not sleepy, weak enough that the bagel I ate an hour ago made my jaw ache from chewing too much, and waiting to hear what my potassium levels are to see if I’m going to have to sit here for another four hours getting a potassium drip.
Every time I walk by someone standing in the street smoking these days I want to punch them in the nose and then while they’re lying on the ground sit on them and ask them if they want to hear about what it’s like to have cancer. Perhaps share a Day 8 morning with them. Maybe one of these Day 8s I’ll do just that.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash