Sorry I didn’t report in earlier, but chemo & social media go together like a good book and a curvy road. Actually, chemothreapy doesn’t go well with car rides, walking at a normal rate of speed, carpet with stripes, or being awake. It basically kicked my butt.
Here’s how it went, best I can remember, after two days of anti nausea medication and super weird sleep patterns.
My first chemo treatment was postponed until Wednesday because there was confusion about when my Proton therapy would start. Chemo is a practice of patience. My chemo treatment was scheduled for 3:00, so we got there at 2:15 to find the clinic was running two hours behind. It was packed.
A woman sat across from us in the waiting room. I tried not to stare, but had a hard time because it was obvious she was having a similar treatment to me. I knew she shared my doctors because she was slathering Egyptian Magic on her face. The center of her face was very red. She had surgery. About 2″ behind her hairline the doctors have inserted a thick strip of skin, almost like a two inch head band of calloused skin. Her forehead was swollen on one side. My thought,”This isn’t going to be pretty.” Thankfully, we ended up talking with her. I wish I had gotten a name. It’s amazing how knowing someone changes things. It turns out she had been treated at another hospital for this cancer (in the sinuses on her forehead). The treatments did not go well, and something went wrong with spinal fluid. I didn’t really catch all the details, but the skin headband was put there at MD Anderson to protect her brain during treatments. A plastic surgeon put it in, and will remove it after treatment when he repairs her hairline and forehead. Pretty cool, huh? As we talked, the scars and redness disappeared and a delightful person came to the forefront. Isn’t that the way in life? We spend time looking at people, their differences, we may be put off or scared, but when something happens and we get a chance to know them, they are just people, like us.
The process of chemo is pretty easy, at least for me. Once called back, I was in a room with a bed and a tv. I was hooked up to an IV, given a steroid and anti-nausea medication. That took about an hour, I think. Then I waited another half hour for those to kick in before they gave me the actual chemo drug, Cisplatin. That took a couple of hours. By the time they got me unhooked and on my way, it was 9:30. My first proton treatment starts at 10:00 PM, and that was a mile away.
This is how we found out about the Jetson Tubes. These are the tubes where you sit in a seat, strap in, and then you are sucked up like the little pod at the bank window, and deposited gently at your destination. When they first take off, your stomach jumps a bit like in elevator, I felt my hair bounce a little bit, but most of the ride is easy. I did notice a breeze that would steer you when you changed direction. These are normally saved for staff and extenuating circumstances. Apparently, we are an extenuating circumstance… or we may have Ubered.
I think I’ve written about the Proton Therapy Center. It’s a pretty amazing place. The Jetson Tubes may not have made their way to MD Anderson yet, but sick bay from Star Trek is a real thing. You get to pick your music for the treatments. Then it begins. I layed down on the table. They positioned me, and snapped my mask to the table. The mask is too tight to open my eyes, so the rest of this is told by hearing. Joey was great about walking me through what was going on. He positioned a thick block of copper or brass with a horseshoe cut out of the middle to guide the proton beam where he wanted it, and lined things up. Then I heard 3 beeps. That means everyone else is out of the room. One of the technicians comes on a speaker and says, “beam on” or something like that. Then you hear nothing. It doesn’t make a noise, but depending on where they are shooting the beam from, you smell burning. It’s inside your head. It’s faint, almost like it’s filtering through water before you smell it. The technicians come in and move me, the beam, the whole room I guess where they need it. I think they do four different positions. Then, you’re done. They unstrap the mask, helped me off the table. I put my shoes, shirt and jacket on and head out to Cary in the waiting room… until tomorrow when we do it all again.
Ok, truth, it really is that simple, but not in my head. My claustrophobic self was still snapped down on a metal table thinking, “I CAN’T DO THIS! They are going to have to let me up! What was the signal again?” I tried singing songs in my head, not much luck. Then I remembered I wasn’t alone. I felt Jesus beside me. Then, I saw the face of a friend I have felt I am to be interceding for. So, I spent the 20 minutes praying for him, and the time flew by, distress free.
Here’s the deal. I have spent a lot of this weekend trying not to think about next week. I’m done with this. I don’t want to do it anymore. Yesterday, every time I thought about getting strapped in for proton therapy or chemotherapy, I would want to puke. I can’t even tell you why it bothers me. The process isn’t that bad, but it’s taking away my freedom, my energy, my invincibility. I am having to talk about bowel movements. I don’t do that! I finally gave in to the emotions yesterday afternoon. I layed down in the closet floor and cried while my friends visiting for the weekend talked in the living room. Thankfully, Cary came in, layed down with me, his strong arms around me, and reminded me that this isn’t my battle, done on my strength. This is God’s battle, His strength, His victory. Now, I can face tomorrow. Now I can think about the treatments next week without getting sick. The fear is gone, the reset button has been hit. God’s got this!
I woke up one morning with lots of energy. As I was laying in bed, I asked God what he wanted to talk about. I heard John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,
Isn’t that weird. Jesus loved them, so when he heard Lazarus was sick, he waited two days. A week before I left for the Camino I walked to my friend Ann’s house. While I was there a storm blew up. Ann didn’t offer me a ride home. She shoved me out the door, into the rain. Why? Because she knew I would have to walk in the rain in Spain & I needed the practice. That’s what love looks like. It doesn’t always give you a ride in the rain, sometimes it prepares you for what’s coming next because the journey is going to allow you to find out more about yourself and love. Jesus waited for Lazarus to die so he could really know the glory of God, and His love, and to trust Him, so he could be part of making history. I’m not dying, but I am going through tough stuff I don’t want to, but God speaks, and I am so comforted by his promise that healing is coming. I look forward to seeing him continue to show up.