Last Tuesday I was scheduled to have my seventh infusion that ended up not happening. The routine morning blood work revealed that my white blood cell count was at the lowest threshold for treatment. This is normal and to be expected when undergoing chemotherapy.
After the Doctor’s check-up, my parents and I proceeded to the lower level where treatments are administered. As I was getting situated I already had an uneasy feeling about how the treatment would go. I repeated the same mantras in my head about this being where I am meant to be in the moment – there was nothing to worry about! I kept my eyes closed and tried to maintain composure with these repetitive thoughts.
To make matters more fun, my veins did not seem to be cooperating this time around. It was difficult for the nurse to put in my IV, which was pretty painful. Not fun! I was also under the weather with a bad cold which felt worse than it should have been since I already had a weakened immune system. So even though I felt pretty crummy, I was able to continue with the infusion since I did not have a fever.
Once I was finally hooked up, the nurse proceeded with the first pre-med drug – Benadryl. Per usual, the Benadryl goes in with a searing burning sensation that you can simultaneously taste in the back of your mouth. It is miserably bitter and metallic. It’s literally the opposite of a chocolate hot fudge sundae.
Combine that I was already out of it, fatigued, and feeling weak, the burn and taste put me over the edge – literally. I quickly leaned over the chair and puked in my little blue vomit bag. Until now, I’ve collected so many of them that my room looks like an Art Deco gallery.
Besides the horrible allergic reaction I had during my very first infusion, this infusion also ended up being stopped right before it started. It was a little frustrating considering we made the whole trip out and went through the necessary procedures. Now my infusion is this upcoming Tuesday right before Purim.
Some weeks are good and some weeks suck. Last week felt like it sucked. Since my treatment got pushed back a week that offsets the weeks I thought I was and wasn’t having treatment. Not that it makes much of a difference at this stage; it just highlights the unpredictability of these procedures. For example, after my sixth infusion the doctors told me that I didn’t need to take antibiotics for the first time post-infusion because my white blood cell count went up. However, the next day I came down with a sinus infection. Go figure! I got over it, but infections are precisely what we try to avoid.
I thank G-d everyday that I already received the great updates on my PET scan that the cancer is getting beat by the chemo. I’m also thrilled that I’ve made it so far in my recovery since surgery. Everything is moving forward. What is a little challenging at this point though is that I sometimes don’t feel like I recognize myself when I look in the mirror. In addition to the hair loss, being a little out of shape, and that I’m in severe need of some sun; my eyebrows and eyelashes are thinning out too. Come to think of it, my mustache stopped growing also.
While things looks a little different on the outside, I find strength and encouragement that I’ve been growing spiritually on the inside. In a way I’ve been playing catch-up. I often tell myself that when I’m fully healed G-d willing and the side effects wear off; I don’t want to feel like I only spent six months physically beating cancer. It’s only been half way through treatments and I already feel like a different person.
In a situation like this, I think it is more important to focus less on what I look like and more on what I want to feel like. This is just another lesson, one in both self-esteem and self-confidence, that cancer is teaching me. So, when my hair grows back new, I want to make sure that my outlook on life feels just as fresh.