To The Best of My Memory…

Before I left the office, that first visit with the GYN/Oncologist, I was sent into a room on the side of the building. The Chemo room. There I met with the two nurses who ran the room, who would oversee my chemotherapy. They took blood, explaining that they would do that each week to be sure my levels stayed high enough to tolerate the chemo that week. Then they rattled off a list of things I should know. Standard stuff like what I needed to bring with me on Chemo day each week, what the process would be when I came in each time, and what side effects I could count on happening and what others were possible. I remember sitting there thinking this whole thing felt so surreal. It was happening to me but I was having trouble accepting that it was real. I don’t remember a lot of what was said, I clearly recall them saying that the chemo drug I would receive, Cisplatin, typically does NOT make your hair fall out. Whew. At that moment I was looking for anything to hang on to, so that was huge. I don’t remember much else about that visit.

Next stop was to meet with the Radiology Oncologist who would be in charge of my radiation therapy. I’d been given a phone number and told to call and schedule an appointment, they would be expecting me. When I called to schedule the appointment, I thought to ask their location. This office was quite a ways away from my home; they had another office located by the hospital near me, just blocks from my GYN Oncologist. They gave me that number so I could call and schedule there instead. Since I’d be going there five days a week for more than a month, and some days straight from there to the oncologist office for chemo, it seemed logical to go to the office that was closer. I did not realize by choosing the other office I was delaying treatment by several weeks. Regardless, time passed and I went for my first visit although I remember nothing about it.

The next couple of weeks were a blur; I don’t remember the exact order of things. Since I had kidney involvement in the cancer, I had outpatient surgery to insert stents between my kidneys and bladder to ensure they would drain properly – I understand the chemo not flushing from the kidney is a danger. I also went to the location where I would have the radiation therapy sessions. I remember what might have been the worst session on the entire experience, being measured, marked, and cast for immobilizers so once treatment began they could line me up to hit the exact correct spots each time. I remember going home from that visit in the most pain I’d experienced so far.

One date that is definitely etched in my brain is September 18, 2010. The day I quit smoking. You’d of thought the moment I found out I had cancer I would have put them down forever, but not so. This might be something only a smoker or former smoker can understand, but in that moment I needed them more than ever. Of course I knew its’ days were numbered, but in those first days, ok weeks, I was trying to accepting the fact that I was very likely going die. I needed any kind of help I could get, and come on, at that moment it wasn’t like I was worried that I might catch cancer from them.

September 18th was a Saturday, Monday the 20 I was scheduled for outpatient surgery to have stents inserted in my kidneys.  My oncologist was wonderful, he never preached or beat me up about smoking, he never even asked me to quit.  He gave me one simple statistic to consider.  He told me that smoking while receiving chemotherapy reduces the chemo’s effectiveness by 40%. So I picked my date, smoked that one last sweet cigarette, and haven’t had one since.  I’d tried to quit many times before but the withdrawl symptoms were so bad I’d always start back within a couple days. This time I had the advantage of already being in so much pain, weak, sick – that the nicotine withdrawals just blended right in and I never even noticed. What a way to quit.

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