On Tuesday I completed my sixth round of chemo. Though I still get pretty rattled before every session, I am getting better. For sure session six was way better than session five, which marked the midpoint of my chemo treatments. As with many breast cancer patients on similar regimes, at session five they switched me from the colorful Adriamycin and Cytoxan cocktail to Taxol. I guess they think after four rounds, it’s time to jolt your poor body once again. Just when a person begins to figure out one regime they totally confuse your system again. As much as I despised watching the “red devil” (Adriamycin) being slowly injected into my system with its intrusively bright cherry-red color, at least I had figured out how my body reacted to it after four treatments. Starting Taxol I once again felt vulnerable not knowing what to expect.
My chemo nurse for session five was Kathryn, a young looking tall brunette. “I must give you a test infusion first to be sure you are not allergic to the Taxol,” she explained calmly. “Actually it’s not the Taxol that causes the allergic reaction, but the solution it’s mixed with,” she went on to clarify as if it made any difference!
During the test infusion my husband David sat next to me looking worried. We both sat there wondering if I would be one of the unlucky ones to be allergic. After all, my luck hasn’t been that good lately. Unimaginable worst case scenarios streamed through my mind. Would I break out in a horrible rash? (I have been experiencing pretty intense flushing after all) Would I become incredibly nauseous or lightheaded? Would I be unable to breathe, have irregular heart palpitations or worse yet heart failure?
Of course, I wasn’t allergic to the test and the actual dosage to be administered over three hours began. I sat and read my new book about a family living with a history of ovarian cancer. Yeah, I know. You might wonder why I want to read about cancer if I am living it, but for whatever reason I guess I do! I sat and wondered once again how I got to this place, sitting in a chemo room. I couldn’t believe I was getting Taxol. Just like Mother. I tried not to think about that. I tried not to remember. I kept reading and thinking. Reading and thinking. Finally, the reading won out as the story on the pages pulled me in. Periodically I glanced up and noticed other patients leaving, but still I sat. Taxol must be given at a slow pace. Finally our time was up, I was unhooked and David and I walked out the door “on our own power” as he always half- jokingly reminds me, breathing a sigh of relief once again.
Session six this week was considerably less stressful although just as lengthy. However, I couldn’t help myself from wondering if anyone ever had an allergic reaction during the second infusion! No one appeared too worried about that possibility though, so I guess it doesn’t happen. At least this week I am more prepared for the achiness in my legs, the tingling in my fingers and toes, the sleepless nights and unexpected tears caused by steroids expiring from my body. Thinking about all of this makes me realize how miraculously my body seems to adjust to the unknown as it unfolds. I am resilient and I am grateful for that! When has your body proven its resiliency to you? (cancer related or not)