The Beginning of the End

Thank God! I was at the beginning of the end of breast cancer treatment, CHEMOTHERAPY.  Boy was I nervous.  I was nervous not because I did not know what to expect.  Rather, I was nervous because I did not know exactly how my body would respond.  In the days following my appointment with the oncologist, where we discussed what I should expect during chemotherapy treatment, I took it upon myself to do additional research.

There were several books that I found to be extremely helpful, and that were authored by breast cancer survivors.  The books included personal narratives of several survivors.  Their stories were inspiring and encouraging to me.  Additionally, their suggestions on how to survive treatment, particularly chemotherapy, were priceless.

Two books in particular that I read and found very educational were called “Uplift” by Barbara Delinsky and “Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul.” These books provided invaluable information on preparing emotionally and nutritionally for chemotherapy.  For example, I learned that sipping ice cold ginger tea during the chemo session could ward off mouth sores and could be beneficial to overcoming nausea during chemotherapy treatment.  I also learned that it is a good idea to be proactive with regard to cutting your hair when it begins to shed from chemotherapy, rather than enduring the agony of watching your hair fall out in patches over an extended period of time.  I found that being PROACTIVE during that time was very EMPOWERING.

I read countless articles and books on health and nutrition also.  A couple of books that I referenced frequently were “The Divine Weight Loss Formula: One of a Kind Vegetarian Cookbook” by Barbara L. Ray and “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.  These two books proved priceless information with regard to increasing my knowledge about food, its purpose, and benefits.

On the eve of the initial chemotherapy session, I prepared a large mason jar of ginger tea and packed a few saltine crackers inside of a ziplock bag. These two items were my anti-nausea defense.  I felt very optimistic because I knew that chemotherapy was the BEGINNING OF THE END to breast cancer treatment.  I ate a good meal, said my prayers and retired early to bed because tomorrow would be a big day.

The chemo clinic was located about 50 miles from my home.  The drive was long and long awaited.  I could not wait to get there; because I wanted to get it over with.

Upon arriving at the clinic, my husband and I were greeted by kind and friendly staff who seemed to be anticipating my arrival.  They called me by my first name and welcomed me into the chemo clinic environment.  The waiting room was congregated with individuals of all ages, races, gender, and socio-economic classes. No matter our obvious differences, the fact was evident that there was at least one commonality that existed between us; the commonality was CANCER.

I remember sitting in that waiting room, observing the faces around me and wondering what their stories were.  We all had a story.  I wondered if anyone’s story was similar to mine.  “Would I make a chemo buddy?” I thought to myself.  As I drifted deeper and deeper into thought, my name was called.  This jilted me back into reality.

Following the nurse through the doors that closed behind me, I walked past several rooms.  Some of the rooms were occupied and some were empty.  Each of the rooms contained a sheet covered gurney, a chair and a television with a DVD player.  As we continued down the hallway, we came to an open area that housed several vinyl covered, remote controlled recliner chairs.  This area was populated with individuals who were conversing, laughing, reading, sleeping, or knitting.  Although these people were connected to IV bags, which contained solutions of varying colors, they looked NORMAL!

I had a preconceived notion that I would observe chemo patients who would be slouching in their seats, drooling at the mouth, throwing up in bed pans, and who were too sick and weak to hold their heads up!  I envisioned that most of them would be bald or in the process of balding and that they would have sunken eyes, and ashen, pale skin, which were telling signs that they had cancer.  As I am writing this, I feel ashamed and embarrassed that I allowed my imagination and stereotypical ideologies to overrule mature thinking and reality.  I can not begin to tell you how relieved I was that day in May of 2011, when all of my preconceived notions about what chemo patients would look like, were banished! I suddenly felt hopeful.

Before ushering me to my chair, the nurse took all of my vitals which included weight, temperature and blood pressure.  After I settled into the chair, my portacath was flushed and then connected to an IV bag which contained anti-nausea medications.  I remember questioning everything, not to be difficult, but to be informed.  The nurse kindly answered all of my questions as she effortlessly and fluidly performed her duties.  My wristband was checked several times throughout the visit to ensure that I would be administered the correct chemotherapy medications.

After the anti-nausea medications were administered, I began to feel a little drowsy and woozy. As requested, the nurse informed me that I would be receiving one of the chemotherapy drugs, Cytoxan next.  I sipped the icy ginger tea simultaneously as the Cytoxan entered my body.  I could feel the sting of the drug as it traveled through my bloodstream, however this feeling subsided after about 30 seconds.  The next chemo medication was Taxotere.  This medication created a “warm” sensation at the roof of my mouth for about 30 seconds before it subsided.  The initial chemotherapy session took approximately four hours. The medications had to be introduced into my body very slowly and I needed to be closely monitored for any serious adverse reactions.

At the conclusion of the initial chemotherapy session, I was instructed to return the following day in order to receive the Neulasta injection to boost the white blood cell count in my body.  I was also given a set of instructions regarding after chemo home care.  Overall, the day went well.  Praise God!

Until next time, Ciao!♥




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