December 27th was a day that I will not soon forget. Two days after Christmas, I am feeling great. I arrive at the clinic right on time or so at around 9 am. After some waiting it is time for my first chemo port blood work. I was very much looking forward to not being stuck in the arm, but sadly the stick in the port was worse. Not bad mind you, but it wasn’t pleasant. However, it was nice that they took the blood and then left the needle in so that I would not have to be stuck again. Later we find out that there is a cream we get that numbs the skin for treatment days. I now have it ready for my next visit. We visit with our doctor and enjoy quiet comfort in their words, but entering into the chemotherapy area is quite disruptive. For those of you that do not know, I co-host a podcast that analyzes the great NBC show Parenthood. Last season one of the main characters, Christina, battled through breast cancer. The first scene of Christina and her husband entering into the chemo treatment area was just like my experience. It was so surreal to live it. You enter into a large room with smaller rooms adjacent. There are two full rows of large chairs that look actually rather comfortable. There is a large flat screen television facing the chairs. The tv is of course tuned to Andy Griffith episodes, which play throughout my visit. It is amazing how this image of walking into this room is burned into my brain. I remember seeing only a few patients in the room, each in their own chair. Some have bags packed with coffee mugs, logic games, magazines, blankets, etc. Some are just there watching Andy. It is sad, depressing, and yet it is beautiful all at the same time. These aren’t just people sitting around watching a utopia television show. These are fighters working to get back to their Mayberry. Now I am one of those fighters too. We are led to a side room where a nurse begins to guide us through the distribution of chemicals that will be sent through my bloodstreams. I need to take a moment and say that the nurses are fantastic. They are kind and thoughtful and are most of all understanding. When you are going through something so unique to those around you it is of supreme importance that there be someone who understands. These nurses understand, because they see it everyday.
Now for the “treatment.” Apparently from what I am told I am receiving the normal regimen of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They call it ABVD. Each letter stands for a different chemical: A – Adriamycin, B – Bleomycin, V – Vinblastine, and D – Dacarbazine or DTIC. Each comes with their own list of side effects. Adriamycin looks like cherry kool-aid and is known as the “red devil.” This is mainly due to the intense nausea that occurs after treatment. Also the “red devil” is given in a shot form into your chemo port, but the shot is huge. Seriously it looks like Bugs Bunny is giving you a shot. It took probably 15 minutes to get all the red liquid into me. Now I should back up because before I received the red devil, I received two anti-nausea medicines. These came out a few years ago and greatly reduce the red devil’s punch. It is at this time that I thank God for medical research. 15 years ago when my dad went through this same stuff he didn’t have the anti-nausea medicine and his first treatment wasn’t through a port, but through his arm. Wow am I thankful for medical research and advancement. I truly am blessed to live in a place where I can afford to get treatment and the treatment is quality. The next two meds are shot into me pretty quickly and the last one is given through a drip in my IV for about an hour. During all this time we are given counsel on all the side effects. One thing I know is that I will feel bad and I will probably lose my hair. Really the worry about the side effects is almost as bad as the side effects themselves. So by the time we are done, we have spent almost 5 hours at the clinic. I am starving and I have all these new chemical friends swimming around in my blood. So we hightail it to get a burger and fries and we are back home within thirty minutes.
I wrote this post for those that really have no idea about chemotherapy. I didn’t until now. I did learn two things from the experience though as previously mentioned above:
1. Medicine is incredible and I thank God for the wisdom he has given to those that practice it.
2. We all want to be in Mayberry, one day we will be, and there is no cancer allowed.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
“In the world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace
That where I am, there you may also be.” – Rich Mullins