Friday, June 27, 2014

First Chemo Yesterday

Yesterday was my first chemo treatment. When we'd seen the oncologist for our first meeting, she said that some very tiny percentage of the population lacks an enzyme to deal with one of the drugs she would be giving me, and because of that, they die. Their very first chemotherapy treatment proves fatal. And the only way they discover this is when it happens, there is no way to test for it!

That was disconcerting, to say the least. We both went in yesterday morning wondering if I'd survive, or be in the group lacking the enzyme. Apparently it happens immediately upon the start of the infusion,  so within a few minutes, they know you're fine. I sat in a quite comfortable reclining chair, with pillows and warm blankets, and dozed through part of it. I talked to my neighbours, who were a very nice older couple from one of the islands around here. She'd had some vague bleeding, and went to her doctor to receive the devastating news that she has cancer.

I came home from chemo and slept for most of the rest of the day, getting up at 11pm to eat a little cottage cheese. I had hot and cold sweats, but other than that, I was just exceedingly tired.

So none of my not-very-invasive fears of what it would be like, came to pass. I'm hoping things will continue to be this way. I'm attached for two more days to a little bottle contraption attached to the PICC line, which is infusing more of the one drug for another 46 hours after the in-hospital treatment.
Robert was willing to be trained how to detach the bottle when it's empty, to save us a trip to the hospital for a ten-minute procedure. 

He is such a loving comfort to me, with his willingness, his loving caring, and his wicked sense of humour. We were lying in bed this morning laughing, and I felt that same enormous gratitude that the gift of his presence always stirs in me.

Yesterday's lesson was another one in gratitude for the wisdom of Al-Anon. Apart from a few qualms I've already mentioned, I was able to detach from the future possibilities, stay in the moment up until it was time for chemo, and be happy and relaxed. I was able to push intrusive thoughts out of my mind, and as my first sponsor used to say, "... firmly shut the door on them."

When I consider what going through this would be like, did I not have close to 30 years in Al-Anon, it gives me pause. I used to live in the future, or in the past, with most of my days sliding past me almost unnoticed, while I railed over the past hurts, losses, and sorrows, or trembled and raged in fear of what my future might hold. I was a supremely negative person. I have changed so much as to be almost unrecognisable as that terror-stricken woman with a non-existent self-esteem.

And I owe it all to the wonderful program of Al-Anon.

May your Higher Power be close beside you, and may you feel a sense of delight in today, because as a wise old AA gentleman used to declare:
"Today is all you get, so you better make it a good one."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PICC line installed today.

Today we went to the hospital at the edge of the city, (where I had the second operation, and from which I went home believing myself to have very little time left to live,) and had a PICC line inserted. This is a peripherally inserted central catheter, and I was a little anxious about having it done, because the line is put into a vein in the upper arm, and advanced until it's in a larger vein close to my heart.

These lines are used to give chemotherapy, avoiding the continual insertion of an IV into my arm every second week and then withdrawing it two days later. With care and good hygiene, a PICC line can be left in for months without problem.

I was a little anxious when we first started, but the specialist nurse was a warm and friendly woman, who laughed at my silly jokes, and was very soothing and calming. Apart from a slight pinch when the local freezing was used, it was all painless, and since I made a point of not watching while she did it, quite peaceful. I looked at the ceiling tiles, asked her about herself and how she got into nursing, and enjoyed talking and laughing with her.

On this journey, I've met some amazing nurses. I like to ask them about themselves, and have been interested to hear the various ways in which they've arrived in the nursing profession. Some wanted to be a nurse since the age of six, and never wavered. Some applied to nursing as an alternative in case they didn't get into their first-choice program.

Al-Anon has taught me that everyone has a story, and they are all fascinating, if I take the time to listen, and to really hear. I like to make the nurses laugh while they are looking after me, it's fun for us both. I figure they hear enough complaint; if I can lighten their day with some laughter, I feel better for it.

Last night the meeting topic was "detachment." I realised that over the years, I've become rather skilled at this, and I no longer carry that which isn't my burden to shoulder. I heard a Polish proverb used to describe detachment last night:

"Not my circus; not my monkey."

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Different Viewpoint.

This week I met with an oncologist, who after introducing herself and talking for a few minutes, asked me what my understanding of my illness is. I explained that the surgeon who had done the operation had been very negative about my prognosis, and given me very little time. He told Robert directly after the operation that had he known ahead of time what was in there, he'd have cancelled the surgery.

She was taken aback.

The cancer has not reached any of my major organs, but it is in my lymph system. The doctor explained that because of this, she considers that I am a good candidate for chemotherapy. If the cancer responds to the chemo, as it has a good chance of doing, I could live for several more years.

We were stunned; the surgeon had given us both the impression that I was on my last legs. This oncologist said that she has patients who have been living with cancer in their lymph system for years, with chemotherapy keeping it from metastasising any further, and she believes this may be a possibility for me.

This is the first hope we've had since the surgery on May 9th. We left her office feeling almost giddy and at the same time, a little choked up.

It's very strange to have been given the impression that it was pretty much all over, only to go see another doctor, and get a completely different prognosis. This had been a roller coaster ride, for certain.

I went to a meeting the next evening, for the first time in about six weeks - it was heavenly. So much love and humour and wisdom.

I go to get a PICC line installed in my arm next Tuesday, and start chemo on Thursday, so am working my program, and hoping that the oncologist's more positive outlook is the correct one of the two.

This is one of the most pointed examples I can recall for myself, of the way a different viewpoint, outlook or attitude, changes everything.