Maybe I lived with blinders on but when someone had cancer when I was young, it was a word I associated with death. I had many aunts/uncles, & loved ones before me that I knew succumbed to the disease but I was not aware of the survivors and what it entailed to fight it. When you are diagnosed, you become a member of a secret cancer society as I call it. No one knows what you are going through except those members of this society. We are all part of a club, kind of kept in secrecy, housed in a cancer center for long months battling our hearts out. Then when we do survive and thrive again, we are told to go on with our normal lives, like nothing happened.
It was day one of my chemo treatment and it was time to meet some members. I got up in the morning and packed my bag. This is where the seed for our Blessed Bags was born. The contents for my initial bag was for me to keep occupied and comforted. I packed cards (my husband and I loved to play Gin), snacks, and anything I could find that would help me during the 3 hour infusion time. It was a scary morning, the fear of the unknown was happening and it was very hard to stay positive.
As I walked into my cancer treatment room at AGH, my new world began. I never knew how chemo worked and seeing all these patients sitting in leather lounge chairs, hooked up to bags of medication, looking sickly and pale opened my eyes to the reality of cancer. As I took my chair, I anxiously awaited my turn for the nurse to insert my IV and begin the process. I did not have the port yet, so one of my worse fears was about to happen, an IV needle inserted into my vein. As she begun to insert the needle, my heart started racing, darkness surrounded me and yep, big sissy I am, I passed out cold! I awoke with nurses and my husband fanatically trying to awaken me, tears streaming down my face. Not such a warrior just yet, just beginning to earn my battle scars!
Once I was comfortable the infusions started. I did not know that they give you 1/2 a bag of Benadryl before the chemo drugs are administered. This is to help with any allergic reaction to any of the drugs. Great news for me, I was immediately asleep, bad news for my husband who had to sit in a wooden chair for 2 hours before I awoke. Once I was awake I looked around to observe what was going on around me – some were pros and some were newbies like me. Some were very sick, some seemed healthy and in good spirits. Some had friends/family with them, then there were the ones that had no one. This broke my heart, you really need to have a support person with you because you are dealing with a range of emotions and the reality of what is happening will drive you nuts.
I have such a great appreciation for nurses, they are such angels during your battle. It amazed me how they go to work everyday in an environment so grim but they always kept on the bright side to keep us comfortable. I honor my AGH team and everytime I visit I make sure to hug them because I wouldn’t have made it without them.
As I walked out and said good bye to my new society members and prepared for the effects of the drugs, I looked back and smiled knowing these people were my new friends. They would help me to defeat this beast inside me and I was not so scared anymore. I post the picture to the left because this was two days after my first chemo on New Year’s Eve 2010. Surprisingly I had no side affects yet and was feeling pretty good at this point. I had just cut my long hair in preparation for the 14th day after my first chemo, losing my hair. Something so dear to me and identified me as a human was about to leave me and change me into someone I could not bear to look at in the mirror, an alien – the new Jessica…