I have always been the type of person that liked a schedule of sorts. I like to be able to anticipate my day and know what I need to accomplish and in what time frame. Some might refer to me as a micromanager, and I can’t really argue that. Micromanaging cancer is virtually impossible, so you have to choose your battles and take control over what you can. I opted to gain control by taking on my closet and accessories suited to my new look (somewhat gypsy-esque, so I’ve been told), getting informed (I always knew I should have come with a manual), and becoming acquainted with the full process of taking on my Hodgkin’s. But ultimately the rest isn’t up to me. All I have to do is show up and see what happens. In many ways it is a lot less stressful than one would think. The only decision you make regarding your treatment is whether you are actually going to have it or not. I choose to fight but I can fully comprehend those that feel that they fought long and hard enough and need a break. So for now I am a warrior of some kind on a regularly scheduled treatment program.
Because I like to know what to expect, I was happy to learn that my treatment days and doctors’ appointments and blood draws all pretty much looked the same. Even better that most of those days start with compliments from the fabulous valet/ doormen at the cancer center. I have to admit they are a major confidence booster. I find that I smile a little bit harder every time I see them, although oddly enough I pretty much smile all the time. You have to live each day to the fullest and why not enjoy all of it? After the doormen and I chat about life and theater and my smile, I go in to reception to check in. Where without fail, I am asked my birthday and given an id card with stickers that follow me on my day’s visit. Throughout the day I will be given a hospital bracelet that I usually forget to take off and asked my birthday at least a dozen more times. I actually ordered a t-shirt that has the date just to be funny. All of the people that work in the front offices as schedulers and registrars are amazing. They know you by name and you know them. We joke and comment on each other’s outfits. It is a truly comfortable atmosphere.
I start off on the fourth floor with my Julie or Susan or Stacie or Brenda for a blood draw. One would assume with a mediport a blood draw would be easy, but not me. I usually have to turn into a contortionist to get a blood draw on the first try. Otherwise I usually deplete Julie’s stash of saline and heparin from the cart first thing. I prefer that not happen because I am one of the lucky one third that can actually taste the saline solution and I can tell you it does not taste good at all. Once the blood work is over and I have secured my chair in the corner window by leaving all of my personal belongings (it generally looks like I have packed for the week between my cooler, book bag and other not so necessary things), I get to go down stairs for a visit with the Doc.
My Doc visit always starts off rough with the scale. I have never particularly been fond of the SCALE, it has always mocked my height and weight discrepancy. But alas it is what it is and my cancer has had no interference with my appetite, if anything the steroids and my need to mask the taste of drugs has led me to an even greater love of snacking on popcorn and Pops. So needless to say I’m happy when I step on the scale and there has been no change and so is my Doctor because that means I’m holding steady. After that you get the usual blood pressure cuff routine and temperature, followed by the wait time before Doctor Z graces you with his presence. I actually look forward to our witty banter. He thoroughly checks my lymph nodes and discusses what is next on tap for my treatment options and always assures me that we are on the right track.
After our exchange I am back upstairs to the Infusion room for the duration of the day, where I get to spend quality time with my mom or Steph or Nancy(my chemo buddies) and most importantly my Julie. Julie has been my oncology nurse from the get go and as a result we have become friends. So the afternoon is usually filled with laughs and smiles and funny stories. In addition to Julie, I get to spend quality time with Susan, who recently gave me and my group of girl friends the idea to have rotating dinner parties. And I always love good book suggestions from Stacey, who is also a John Green fan.
And once the infusion is over I go home and come back within 24 hours to receive the dreaded neulasta shot. This is by far the worst part of treatment, the shot that increases your white blood cell count to fight off possible infections. It really just makes you feel like you were hit by a mack truck for a day or that you are an adolescent re – experiencing growing pains. Super fun! I really shouldn’t complain however because it is really the only side effect that I have experienced thus far, minus the hair loss. I usually stayed home the day after neulasta, but was able to go to work the day immediately following chemo and all the other days in between.
So my regularly scheduled programed life was only interrupted by one Wednesday every other week, a shot on that Thursday after work, followed by a rest day and then on with the rigamarole of work and life. I had to show up on the in between Wednesday for routine blood work, but aside from that it was life as usual.