(Week 4 of treatment)
“It’s Like Having a Baby!”
The nurse hovered by my reclining chair and tucked a pillow behind my head. Each corner of the room hosted a cancer patient wrapped in a warm blanket as their chemo made its way from bag-on-a-pole to vein. At any given moment there were dozens of us in various four-corner pods.
Two weeks into my daily outpatient treatment and I’d worked my way through most of the nurses. But today there was a new smiling face, ready to start the drip, drip of my infusion. She’d seen me coming and going and asked about my treatment protocol. I explained the nine month process of arsenic infusions and ATRA pills.
“It’s like having a baby!” she exclaimed.
I instantly loved the analogy. It was perfect. Nine months to a new, cancer free me and a rebirth of my life and body.
(Week 6 of treatment)
Digging for Gold
I watched the Keurig sputter and spit my coffee into a flowered cup. As I poured the hazelnut creamer, I could hear the alarm going off in the bedroom, but I’d been up for hours. Today was an important day.
Six weeks into treatment and it was time to have another bone marrow biopsy. Unlike the past two that had brought the crushing diagnosis of leukemia, this biopsy held the possibility of good news.
Later, while sitting in the exam room, I tried not to think mean thoughts about the pleasant nurse as she described the procedure. I knew from experience the biopsy wouldn’t go the way it was being cheerfully described in the pre-consultation. You’d think it was like baking a cake; easy peasy lemon squeezy. Everyone in the room smiled… except me.
Forty minutes later, the doctor’s face strained as she pushed and turned the screw, drilling into my hip bone. She stood on her toes so she could lean over and put more of her weight into it. No one in the room looked happy anymore. Her heavy breathing and sweaty forehead told the story of how hard she was working to dig her way to the marrow. Through clenched teeth she mumbled something about hard bones. Shooting pain radiated down my leg and across my lower back as I reverted to the Lamaze breathing I’d learned for childbirth decades earlier. The doctor paused just long enough to give me another shot of local anesthetic.
“It’s like digging for gold,” I thought to myself. “It’ll be worth it.”
Three days later, the call came.
“You’re in remission!”
It was a short, wonderfully-to-the-point, call that included too many thank you’s on my part. But, I couldn’t help it. I was so grateful. I knew that this was only an initial remission, as the cancer would come back without further chemo, but it was still a glorious moment. My body was responding to the treatments.
My hands shook as I phoned my daughter. I wanted her to be the first to know.
“Hi honey! Guess what?!”…