Dear Peter, 

You asked me to share my experiences with you about my chemotherapy.

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on November 13, 2005. The protocol was 6 sessions total with 1 session every three weeks. My first session was in the middle of December. I went to my first session feeling apprehension and relief. Apprehension for the unknown--I had heard all about the horrible side effects of chemo--and relief because this drug that was going to be dripped into my system was also going to save my life. 

I did my chemo at Broward General Hospital. It was in a large room with lazy boy chairs in areas that could be closed off by curtains or left open. I brought a DVD player so I could watch movies, my iPod so I could listen to music, and my favorite pillow and blanket. And socks, don't forget the socks. The cancer center was always cold.

I was surprised that the chemo was in a glass bottle. I was not surprised that the oncology nurses were wonderful. I ended up having a favorite nurse who would set up my IV each time since many of the others would stick me and hurt me and not be able to find a vein. I was fortunate I did not have a port.

This is where my experience seems to have differed from others that I have heard or read about. I enjoyed getting chemotherapy. I think this has to do with three things. First, you know how when you are on an airplane and there is nothing you can do but let go of all control. Right? I'm not flying the plane. I didn't check the engines. That's what chemo was like for me. I couldn't control if it was going to work or not so I gave in to what I had to do. This was very freeing. The second thing I enjoyed about going to chemo was that it was all about me. I don't mean this in a selfish way but more in a turn-off-the-noise way. There were no cell phones, no work calls, no bad news coming off the TV. I would sleep, read, and think. It was peaceful. The third reason I enjoyed going to chemo was that I believed it was saving me life. I looked forward to getting it. In fact, after my last session, I felt blue, as if my lifeline was being taken from me.

I chose to get my chemo on Wednesdays. Someone would always take me and stay with me. A relative, a friend. One time, my friend Catherine brought BBQ for us to eat. On Thursdays, the day after chemo, I would go to the mall with my mother and walk around. I was weak but not too bad that I couldn't walk slowly. I used this day to get out since I knew I would be laid up for the next few days. My dad came over on the Fridays after chemo. This was the bad day. I truly knew what it felt like to be too tired, too sick to move. I remember being immobile on the floor in my upstairs den and not wanting to do anything, not being able to think, literally feeling like I was 90 years old. My dad would stay with me and watch me sleep. I spent Saturdays at home and I was able to walk around and eat a little. I was stronger on Sundays. Mondays I would go back to work, although I worked a reduced schedule during this time.

About 10 days after my first chemo session, my head began to hurt. Not headaches, but hairaches. I know that sounds weird but as my hair began to fall out, it was extremely painful. I ended up shaving my head and was glad when I did. I never wore a wig, although I wore hats when my head got cold. I liked being bald.

I had a "chemo coach". Her name was Sandy and she had the same treatment as I had about 1-2 years earlier. When I had an issue, I would call her and she would talk me through it. I remember throwing up after my first session. Sandy asked me, "didn't your oncologist give you medicine to prevent this?" "No," I said. I then asked my doctor for the prescription, which he gave me. I never threw up again after chemo. I do not know why he didn't tell me about this drug before I began chemo but this was something I learned. The doctors don't tell you the simple things, which is why a "chemo coach" is invaluable. Another time, after the second treatment I think, I was very light headed. I called Sandy who said I was dehydrated. I drank a lot of water and some Gatorade and I was fine. Again, this was not something the doctor had told me. 

On the last day of my chemo, I made brownies for the other patients and I wore a graduation gown. As I mentioned, I was sad since I felt scared without the glass bottle of chemo dripping into me, but I was also happy. I was alive. 

It took until my 5-year cancer free anniversary to stop thinking that every ailment I had, no matter how big or small, was the cancer coming back. I just celebrated my 8-year anniversary of being cancer free.

Love, Jo

joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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