a person receiving chemo through a port

First Chemo Memory

I am ready. I grab my bag, stuffed full of books, warm socks, lip balm, nausea pops, good luck charms, and a blanket as I sit in the passenger seat, my heart flutters. I have heard it is painful. I have heard it makes you sicker. I am scared my hair will fall out. I didn't shave my head but cut it dramatically to prepare for the impending loss.

When I exit the elevator, the plaque on the door reads, "Infusion Room." It sounds like a spa treatment; I stifle a laugh. The nurse checks my weight so the toxic medicine can be meticulously measured. She shows me to my "suite," which is a hospital lounge chair with another seat next to it. The nurses begin to bring the bags of liquid labeled bio-hazard.

The first appointment begins

First, they flush my port-a-cath with saline. It pricks the skin, but I rubbed the numbing medicine on it and sealed it with Press n' Seal, so it is just a pinch. The nurse asks my name and birthdate and checks it off on the chart. The steroids come first. They will help me rally for a few days when the medicine wears me out, but when the steroids wear off, the fatigue will hit like a ton of bricks.

The nausea medicine comes next. It drips from the bag down through the line and into my port. I wore a shirt that is open at the chest for easy access to it. Here I don't feel self-conscious about my biopsy scar across my neck and the mass of irritated flesh housing the port.

The nurse asks my name and birth date again. I realize it's time for the next medicine. The nurse begins to put on a hazmat suit. The yellow plastic rustles as she drapes it over her scrubs. The plastic gloves snap into place. The nurse explains the potential side effects of the toxic medicine now coursing into my veins. It feels warm, but my hands feel cold. I grab the prayer blanket my mother's friends knitted for me. The blue and green threads woven softly together, calm my nerves.

Time begins to creep

The so-called red devil is next. The red liquid flows into me quietly, while a sharp pain in the back soon follows. Each bag empties into my veins laboriously.

The ice chips help soothe the cottonmouth, but I have no appetite for more. Even the ginger ale tastes strange on my tongue. The sores begin to form in the delicate tissue of my cheeks.

Time creeps for hours. I did some crosswords and puzzles, I chatted nervously, but I am too tired now. I can't focus on reading or words; my head feels like it's swimming.

Finally, the last drop drips, and I am flushed clean. The port is tender and sore. Nausea comes in waves, but I manage to hold it in, for now. I did it, the first chemotherapy treatment done. My mind and body spent, but I am gratefully surviving.

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