Once I got over the hump of my first 3 protocol chemotherapy treatments, it was time for the weekly targeted drug infusions to begin. I had a lot of time to think and observe during my days in my treatment chair and I began to wonder if I was going to live or die by the toxic mix of drugs being pumped in my body every week.
One drug I received was called the Red Devil. Fascinating name right? If you are taking chemotherapy it’s not good to know that one of your drugs is named after the devil! The day I received this drug, I was hooked up to my IV ready to get my normal infusions. I remember two nurses coming over to me, one in kind of like a hazmat suit holding a huge plastic syringe filled with a pretty red liquid. I thought the nurses were playing a joke but it was no joke, it was one of my drugs for the day. They began to tell me how the drug was going to be delivered. The lady in the hazmat suit would inject the medicine into my IV for an hour while the other would watch me closely to make sure I did not go into cardiac arrest or have an allergic reaction. I was also told that no one was allowed to touch me or use a toilet seat I used for 24 hours and my urine would be a bright red color for several days. How was this drug going to help me if it was that toxic? I just wanted to leave and wakeup from this nightmare that now consumed my life. There was nothing I could do, I had to trust what they were giving me was going to help – I had to get the drug. As the infusion started, I sat anxiously and watched the nurses faces to make sure I did not see any signs of panic. Luckily I passed with flying colors and I tolerated the drug without any problems.
As much as the thought of this drug or any chemotherapy drug scared the life out of me, the reality was that these drugs were working and do work for others. A quarter of the way through my treatments, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with excrutiating pain in my cancer-affected breast. I was terrified that cancer was winning but as it turned out, I was the one winning.
The next day when I went into treatment, I told my oncologist about the pain. When she did her exam, she gave me the good news that the tumor was dying which was the reason for the pain. My huge tumor was dissolving, it used to be hard as a rock but now it was soft and mushy. The drugs as harsh as they were, they were attacking the cancer cells and killing them. It gave me hope and the strength to get back in my infusion chair everyday and keep the drugs pumping into my body.
It’s not just the physical part of the battle you have to win, it’s also the mental part. Being in a cancer center everyday with 15 cancer patients in the same room getting treatment can crush your mental state. It is depressing, scary, and heartbreaking seeing others not winning the battle. I remember a newbie sat in a chair next to me for her first treatment. She looked like a very tough person on the outside, one that could probably knock me out cold with one punch. She had not come to terms with her diagnosis and was very angry about the whole situation. When the nurses came to begin the IV process, she flipped out to a point she was going to rip out her IV and refuse treatments. I wanted to reach out to her and help her and tell her everything was going to be okay but I realized I couldn’t because she was not in a state to welcome help. Watching her desperation made me understand how important the mental attitude can influence the outcome of any hardship you go through in life.
There was a framed poem called Footprints in the Sand on the wall next to my chair that I would read everyday. As I looked away from her situation, I read it again and it had more meaning to me that day. It is now placed in every bag we send out to our Blessed Bag recipients. Having faith in God and knowing he was carrying me during my journey kept me positive. There were days it was really hard because you get beat down constantly but winning was always my end game – I was never going to accept defeat.