Chemo, Shots, Oils and Trees

We started chemotherapy on Wednesday.  I was supposed to start on Tuesday but when we go there, we found out that they didn’t have enough dosage of the Abraxene to administer the chemotherapy.  I liked my friend Kyle’s comment, “How does a cancer center not have enough chemotherapy?”  To which I have to answer, “no freaking idea.”  It was a tough blow.  I was all psyched up and ready on Tuesday.  When they sent us home, I felt pretty discouraged.  It was as if the Lord was purposely putting obstacles in our way as to avoid remission.   I do not see it that way now but Satan is a tricky foe.

We arrived Wednesday and they accessed my port for the first time.  In my mind it was going to be painless and worth having.  I quickly learned that you have to use the port for a while so that scar tissue can develop and make the port access painless.  Anyway, they drew my blood for labs, to ensure my cell count was okay, and we waited.  Literally, we waited for 2 hours for the green light.  When the go ahead was given, my nurse, Teresa (whom I adore), came in wearing a full hazmat suit and putting on a double set of latex gloves.  At this point, I am thinking, “you hazmat up to put this crap in my veins?  I’m a dead man.”  She was awesome.  She explained the process and then within a half hour, she was flushing my port with saline (which tastes the way the inside of a mechanic shop smells) and sending us on our way.

The best part had to be when Josue and I got to the car.  After nearly 15 years of marriage, he went out of his way to open to my door.  He pointed out that he would be willing to open it every time if I can kick the cancer.  That alone makes the fight worth it. He has been such a trooper.  He has been beside me for every appointment, even when I was upset and didn’t want him there.  He shows up by side to comfort the discouragement and laugh at everything we can.  He is a constant reminder that I have to believe in the positive or it won’t happen.  Unknowingly, he lives by the words of my grandmother “If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me.”  Ten two letter words that have made such an impact in my life and now his.  I find great comfort in his act of frequently seeking me blankets.  Each time I sit down or lay down, he covers me up, even if I already have a  blanket.  He endearingly worries if I am warm enough.  Unfortunately, in my worst moments he is also my target, for which I publically ask his forgiveness, as I don’t feel I can possibly as for it enough privately.

Wednesday night turned out to be without any nausea.  Instead, I was part of the 5% that gets chemotherapy induced diarrhea.  There was a point where I thought Josue was going to just bring me a blanket and pillow and I’d make a bed in the sitting position in my bathroom.  We finally got it stopped…all hail Imodium.  But that wasn’t the bad part.  Thursday was to bring what I now refer to as the shot of doom.  When a patient does chemotherapy, the following day they have to return for a Neulasta shot.  This is a chemical designed to stimulate your bone marrow to begin producing white blood cells at hyperspeed.  Why, because the chemotherapy the day before is killing the ones you already had.  They warned me!  No warning could have prepared me for the pain.  White blood cells are made in your bone marrow, primarily in what is considered your long bones (pelvis, femur, ribs).

By Friday, the pain in my hips was so bad that I couldn’t control the tears.  They just came.  I quickly learned that moving helped.  It’s the still that makes it worse.  My good friends have graciously taken turns walking with me around the block.  We walk at a slow pace.  By slow I mean Rachelle’s twins have enough time to get out of the little red wagon for a Chinese fire drill and I’m pretty sure that if Danyelle let Calvin (her 1 year old) out of his stroller, he’d have me beat.  Each step often comes with a shooting pain in my hips but it is relieved as we walk.  The worst is the idea of stopping.  I know if I sit the throbbing will return.  Stairs are difficult but not impossible.  The major relief comes from knowing that the side effects from the shot only last about 4 or 5 days but the worst is day 2 and 3.

My friend Katie gets the award of the day!  I have never been a huge Oil fan but she brought me this little bottle of oil called Deep Blue.  She told me just to try it.  She said it might help with the pain.  I have never been a believer in that stuff but my pain was so bad yesterday that I would tried anything.  I told her I was so desparate that I would use donkey pee if she told me to.  Luck for me it was some pretty good smelling oil instead.  I did what she said and now I am a believer.  For the first time yesterday, after I used that oil my hips hurt only in the bone and didn’t radiate out to the muscle.  You better believe I will be purchasing the biggest bottle of Deep Blue available to mankind.  I have a few more rounds of this whole chemotherapy/Neulasta shot combination and plan to have my oil ready.

Really quick, I want to make a quick shout out to the Taxus Brevifolia.  It is more commonly known as the Pacific Yew Tree.  It is a coniferous tree associated with several conifer and hardwood tree species on a variety of sites. Pacific yew tolerates shade, and in undisturbed stands is usually found as an understory tree. Growth of such trees is slow, but where the over story has been removed or thinned, diameter growth on undamaged yew trees may increase considerably. Pacific yew rarely exceeds 60 cm (24 in), and 15 m (49 ft) in height. The largest on record is 142 cm (56 in), and 18 m (60 ft) in height (28). The wood is hard, heavy, and resistant to decay. Although not of great interest to the forest products industry, it has many special uses. The bark of Pacific yew contains a drug, taxol, that is being used in cancer research, so demand for yew bark by the National Cancer Institute has increased dramatically in recent years (9).  My chemotherapy is derived from this tree.  Praise nature, it’s saving my life.

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