My Blog

My Blog

23

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