Thursday, September 02, 2010


Yesterday was a chemo day. In the chemo room. I have nightmares and flashbacks during the day now about the smell of the chemo room. I imagine that will stay with me a long while.

The first time I saw the chemo room I had a melt-down. I ended up there by accident when I first was diagnosed with cancer because the clinic sent me to the wrong room for a pre-chemo procedure and they finally gave up figuring out the mistake and said to go see Nurse Janice and she'd figure it all out.

Nurse Janice was in the chemo room.

I breezed into the room un-knowing what room it was and what I saw hit me between the eyes and made me loose all thoughts in my head and made me stutter and then weep. The nurse grabbed my hand and said, "Are you ok?" and I gulpinly replied, "I have so much anxiety right now, I dont know why, I'm sorry." and she said while patting my hand," Everyone does the first time they see this room, it makes it all a reality for you."

This is the reality of what I saw:

Imagine a small room. Living room size. It has the typical blue green clinic industrial tiles. Non shiney like it has been neglected for a while. Around the room are 10 green plastic reclining chairs. Shiney so they are easily wiped down. The recliners all have a little shelf on the right arm. It extends out about 10 inches from the right arm. This has a flat small pillow with a disposable towel on it. This is where you put your arm to receive the I.V.

To the right of the recliners are imposing I.V poles, computers, monitors and waste bins. One waste bin per chair. These get filled up fast with various flotsam and jetsom that gathers with the care of the chemo patient.

On the I.V. poles are many bags. Various colors of medicines getting ready to be interveniously pumped into bodies to make cells retreat and die. Poison really. But poison invented purposely to kill the cells that make our bodies die faster. I am shocked by the various colors. Neon orange, cherry punch red, Molasses brown, milky white, corn syrup clear, and they all hang atop the poles with tubes connected to the patients.

Besides the overwhelming view of seeing 10 chairs, poles, violently colored medicine is hearing the beeps and chirps from the monitors and blood pressure machines and the IV machines..It first sounds so loud it rushes through your head like a locomotive. THen you see the patients and you loose all train of thought completely.

Chemo patients come to the chemo room because they have to. They are in various stages of cancer. They ...wait. why am I typing "they" like I have no part of this?
We. We come to the cancer room because we have to.
We are in various stages of cancer and we all have a different type of cancer. And its men and women mixed.

The first time I went to the chemo room I saw the 10 recliners full of various patients and my head exploded. My heart broke. I saw very sick people. People reclining with several blankets covering them sleeping with their mouths open and I thought they looked dead. Some were bald, some had a little hair fuzz, some had hats. Most were pale or had facial peeling of the skin. But they all looked helpless.

The helplessness made me loose it.

To the right of all this reclining is a nurses station. Small desks, Computer monitors and straight ahead is a small window. Through this window you see a darkened room with pharmacists hunched over desks and some are busy in the back but you cant see that far to really tell what they are doing. This is the hub of chemo mixing. All medicines and orders come from this window. The people in that window are the masters of the poison that is going in our bodies in the chemo room. Its a scarey room. They have to wear protective gear and goggles. Thick special gloves.

We have a special bathroom behind the nurses desk. When having chemo therapy they give you an IV bag of just saline fluid first and they also "flush" you in between each medicine too. Thats a lot of liquid. There is a regular chain of us pottyers. Its comical if someone goes to the potty before we can disconnect and get there..we get like 5 year olds and say" Whose IN there" " Oh my I hope they HURRY".

To go potty you have to get yourself hoisted out of the green shiney recliner and reach behind the chair making sure not to dislodge the IV from your arm or hand and unplug the IV monitor that is attatched to a pole. You have to then shuffle to the bathroom pushing your IV Monitor pole with your IV bags on top to the bathroom and manage to go to the bathroom one handed.Not easy but doable.

Seeing all this going on really did make my cancer and what I was facing a reality. It made me go to my car and have a melt down and cry and really face what I was to become. A helpless chemo patient going to the chemo room.

But not helpless. It made it so much easier the first time I did have to go to the chemo room to get chemo. I was prepared. My head was wrapped around the reality. I also decided to call it the Party room and I go every time armed with my sense of humor and my gift of gab. I decided not to be helpless but be helpFUL. I make it a visit and got to know all the seat mates and I make the nurses laugh.

The nurses. The chemo nurses deserve all the praise and hugs and love and any raises or benefits they get. TO coin a oft used phrase; they are angels on earth. What a tough tough heart wrenching job they have. I cannot say enough about them in praise of what they do for us.

So I make them laugh. Compliment them. Make sure I say thank you for each chore they perform. Make sure they know that I'm glad they are there. Make sure I'm appreciative.

Having chemo with grace and dignity.

1 comment:

Kayte said...

You are such a sweetheart, worrying and caring about everyone else when you are the one that needs the extra caring about! This is all heartbreaking, and I want to thank you for sharing it because it is making me a much more compassionate person. It is making me see the true picture of what people go through with this disease and treatment and I am so grateful for the knowledge so that maybe I can dole out some extra care and smiles along my way each day. Thank you for all you are doing to enlighten us all. Hugs for you...and for your guys!