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First Chemo Is Over

June 29, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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My first chemotherapy treatment was last week and I prepared for it carefully. Since I need two aides to assist me with transfers, I was concerned. I knew it would not be possible for the facility to send two aides with me to chemo to assist me in the bathroom. So I made a concession by using the suggestion of my oncologist, and had a Foley catheter inserted just for chemo day. It was not something I wanted to do, but I did not want to worry about getting to the bathroom either.

It is a 20-mile trip to the oncologist's office, which is in part of the hospital. As I entered the chemo room I stiffened—it was more clinical looking than the one I got chemo in 18 years before. I tried to shake off my negative feelings and pay attention to the nurses and patients. I was led to a large reclining chair. It looked inviting but it was difficult to get me into it since the locks did not hold well on the linoleum floor. With some patience from those who were assisting me, I got comfortably into it.

A nurse carefully explained all the drugs I would receive. I was told I needed to return the next morning for a Neulasta injection which would boost my body's production of white blood cells and help it fight infection. I was not thrilled about returning the next day for just a shot. But I was told the $4,000 shot had to be given by a provider who could bill my part B Medicare.

Afterward I called the nursing home to make transportation arrangements for my Neulasta shot the next day. They accessed my port and began to administer the drugs. The nausea medicine and steroids made me feel numb and dopey. The nurse had to infuse the Adriamycin by hand which took 45 minutes. She chatted while doing it, so I could not nap. After that, the Cytoxan dripped in and took about 30 minutes.

Sitting alone, I watched the other patients. Each recliner had a small television attached nearby. But I was not interested in TV. The nurse remarked about a 93-year-old female patient who always had the nurses laughing when she arrived and when she left. This woman’s story had the ability to inspire me just by living her normal life.

When my treatment ended, I headed to a wig shop across town run by the hospital and several charitable organizations. Since I may lose my hair, I wanted to see what was available. As I entered the shop, I was told that appointments are usually necessary. But since I had not known that, the woman kindly showed me what they had. Unfortunately, none of the wigs looked like my hairstyle, so I left empty-handed.

I was surprised that I felt well, though a bit dopey. I rode across the parking lot in my power chair on this bright, sunny, warm day. I stopped in a store to pick up organic shampoo that is supposed to be better when you are on chemotherapy. Riding across the parking lot to a restaurant, I began to wear out. After our quick supper at a Chinese fast food restaurant we returned to the nursing home.

I sat for awhile in the hallway waiting for the aides to help me lie down. It was supper time so they were quite busy. After I was in bed it was not long before my sister called to see how things went. We had a nice conversation but she kept suggesting that I should rest. I told her that I was wide awake and felt wired. That night I had a difficult time sleeping.

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...