One year ago, on the 3rd Friday of July 2007, I began chemotherapy. At the time, I was unable to walk very far or move my legs to get into a car -- not because of pain but because my legs just didn't move. So the nurses checked with my insurance company, and it was arranged that an ambulance would take me to the hospital for treatment. A 30-minute ride each way.
What I didn't know was that ambulances don't have very good shock absorbers. Also, the stretcher they had me in would recline back significantly, but it wouldn't lie flat. That meant I was lying back as the ambulance went over bumps, and having back spasms every time. Of course, there was significant road construction last summer, with gravel roads for part of the way... I will never forget holding tightly onto the side rails of the stretcher, desperately trying to lift my body off the cushion so that my back would not feel any of the bumps.
It was hell.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was delivered to the infusion center and transferred to a bed for receiving my first round of chemo. There were papers to sign, nurses to listen to, side effects to learn about, drugs to take orally, drugs to take trough an IV. I was given a notebook full of information. I was told about the side effects of drowsiness from thalidomide, of possible neorological damage, of constipation. I was told about the side effects of dexamethasone, including bone loss (and my bones were already breaking down) and constipation. I was given phone numbers to call if I had questions. And lastly, I was given a 3 second long IV of velcade, the new drug for treating multiple myeloma that makes everything else more effective, except one's intestines. You guessed it -- velcade is constipating.
Leaving the hospital with a body full of toxic chemicals, a notebook full of information and a hand full of prescriptions, I joined the ranks of millions of cancer patients who experience chemotherapy. And even though I loathe putting toxic chemicals into my body, for me chemo made the difference between life and death. And for that I am immensely grateful. I wouldn't be where I am now, had it not been for chemo, and I am very grateful for where I am now.
I have no doubt that I would have died last summer had it not been for chemo, beacuse even with chemo, I almost died. But that story is for another post.