Tuesday, July 3, 2012
chemo - round 2
Chemo treatments - not for the fainthearted.
Here is Terry during Monday's treatment. It was a marathon day...
Radiation first - except "the Dragon" is down for the count, a technician must be called, they send Terry to start chemo at the other hospital and tell us they'll call later to reschedule.
Chemo begins with a visit with the medical oncologist who...
asks about all the side effects of treatment, makes understanding noises and good suggestions
tells what to expect for the next few weeks
schedules a shot of some-thing-or-other to boost the expected loss of white blood cells, says it will hurt, cause joint pain, will be worth it
schedules another blood test
pokes and prods and peers
answers our questions
pats our hands, cheers us immensely with his kindness, makes sure we have his cell number
Down the hall to the 'lounge' for treatment and people watching...
- a blood draw through the port, a long wait for it to come back
We visit with the nurses we know from last time. They remember Terry and tease him about his new look...Stanley Tucci's name is invoked and compared to Terry and they do the flirt thing nurses do to make you feel better. It makes him smile.
We meet a very young 20-something guy in treatment for the first day, his mom is with him, they are both wide-eyed and frightened. He went to get his tonsils out last week and instead got a lymphoma diagnosis, he has a tracheotomy and a very lost look. He won't be going back to college this fall - with his Stage IV diagnosis he wonders if he ever will. His mom and I talk about mothering sons and what is important. Terry talks to him about treatment and choosing to plan for a future cancer-free. They get quiet, begin to just look at us and nod. Are we too 'forward' we wonder later in whispered conversations? They watch US all day and come to shake hands when they leave, the tall momma and the football-player size son, both looking so fragile.
- a nurse finally starts a bag of saline dripping....the sticky window bandage causes a skin reaction within 15 minutes...the nurse rrrriiiipppps it off and tries tape instead...the tape is hard and uncomfortable and causes the same skin reaction....alarms go off, the drip is no longer dripping...that needle comes out and another goes in...this time stuck with a very expensive, breathable, comfortable bandage - the nurse writes in his chart that he gets this first the next time
- the saline takes about an hour and a half
The grumpy WWII guy and his geisha-girl arrive, it's his last day of treatment - he's been coming since February. He is happy, but he doesn't have his teeth in today so his face is quite a contortion of what we're pretty sure are smiles. She settles him in for the day with a Tom Clancy novel and leaves for shopping, he never turns another page. He asks, "What are you in for?" to everyone nearby, listens for a moment and then tells his own story again and again. He occasionally falls asleep in mid-conversation...everyone is grateful for nap time and indulgent when he wakes up and begins where he left off.
- two bags of anti-emetics are dripped in with more saline - they take about half an hour each
A breast cancer lady comes in with her husband, she is beautiful with her egg-shell-like skull exposed. She can barely walk. He looks at his watch a lot and leaves, with just a nod, once her treatment begins. She's done this before, her smile is sad - her pink ribbon breast cancer bag is packed with what she needs, she closes out the room and reads a fat romance novel with a racy cover.
- the cisplatin arrives - we pray over it (kill the bad stuff, leave the good stuff alone) it takes about an hour and a half to drip in. Terry begins almost immediately to do the chameleon change of color, he turns brown like the chair, then grey like the walls. I am praying again...kill the bad stuff, not the good stuff. There is nothing very eloquent in me, just a little terror and some bigger trust which grows.
The Texas rancher guy arrives. Alone again, but not in a lot of pain today. He sits by Terry and they talk as his own potions begin to drip. His ranch is near Bastrop and was not touched by the fires last year - he had no way to save his many horses and goats should it have come just a few miles nearer, his ponds and the creek drought-dry. He also works as a farrier and was trained by the Amish a half a century ago. He talks about horses as if they are his only friends. He is tired and sick and his sister wants him to return to their family ranch land near Fredricksburg to live near her. Theirs was one of the original German families to settle the area, they still speak German when they are together. His great grandfather and great uncles were Texas Rangers and remember the Comanche and Apache. His eyes are far away when he re-tells the stories he has heard all his life under stars, around camp fires.
- another anti-emetic for about a half an hour
- another bag of saline for an hour and a half
Terry's exhaustion sets in. We just sit and listen to the stories of the early days of the state we so love and feel we've been given a gift. Wrapped up in a wounded package.
- a phone call tells us "the Dragon" has been repaired, there's no reprieve. We wave goodbye to everyone who is still around and head back to the other hospital.
Darby has stayed after 5PM so Terry won't miss a day of treatment. So kind.
Radiation Day 16 of 34 - done.
Chemo Day 2 of 3 - done.
Terry is so tired as he stumbles in at home and to bed, I hate to wake him for drugs and food.
Side effect hit quickly and powerfully early Tuesday morning. Terry still went to work for a few hours. He still ate and drank, although it is very painful. He is still kind to everyone. He is brave.
There's much grace at work in our lives. We are so thankful for your prayers, your messages of encouragement and love.
God is good and faithful.