Monday, July 14, 2008

Chemo

When I look back on the last year, I marvel that I made it. People at school would tell me how strong I am. Yes, I am strong, but I can say that I made it because of God and the fact that I had no choice. A parent of a former student emailed me last week wanting to come over and help me with housework. She, another single mother, marveled at my attitude. I responded back that she would have done the same thing I did. With God giving me the ability, I had no choice but to keep working and keep plugging on. Single mothers have no one to fall back on, so we DO.

I have said that to say (oops, I sound like my friend/colleague Carol) that I am a whimp when it comes to pain. Chemo. came every two weeks on Wednesdays. Luckily we have a cancer center 10 minutes from my house. Last August I went into the hospital for outpatient surgery to put the port in my chest. A week later I began a six month, 12 scheduled chemo regimen. When I walked into the cancer center and sat down to wait my turn, I was a basket case. Tears streamed down my face and I was, well, blubbering. The senior RN comforted me, explaining that they would spray the port area to deaden it somewhat before they stuck the needle in. Well, to make a six month story short, it didn't always work, and it NEVER totally deadened it. Finally, there was one person who could reasonably do it without too much pain. Chip was the only male RN there, and he was good. By the time I left, though, I'm sure he was glad to get rid of me (on January 23, 2008).

So, what was chemo like? Well, I'd go and sit for about 3 hours hooked up to the IV in the recliner. There was a large flat screen tv and we'd watch Food Network or Fox News. Almost all the dozen recliners were usually taken. That's a sad reality on cancer. I was usually the youngest there at 44. I'd nap, grade papers, or watch tv.

At the end of my time, they put on the pump. That basically means I wore a fanny pack from the time I left on Wednesday until lunch time on Friday when I'd go back and be disconnected. I used it as a life lesson to explain to my 6th graders what cancer was and what the contraption was going into my chest.

There were, of course, side effects of chemo. Before chemo I had pretty long curly hair. I say pretty because I always got nice compliments on it. Well, halfway through I lost most of it. I bought two wigs; one was the Oprah wig and one reminded me of Wynona Judd. Then there was the hand and feet tingling. I could no longer type because of it. Finally, the worst thing was the weight gain, yes, gain. I went from 120 pounds to 147 pounds in 6 months.

Now, 6 months after chemo ended, I can type again, my hair is slooowly growing back, and I have to tackle the weight. Even so, I am here, I'm alive, and God has been good. I only missed about 4 days of work due to chemo when my boss no longer got me coverage for my treatments times.