Quick thoughts before infusion 2

We’re soon off to see the wizard, leaving for the infusion center in about an hour.

I’m not as scared this time, but I’m not sure which I prefer: ignorance or experience. I know it will be long. The cold cap will hurt. My stomach won’t stop doing back flips for a week. I’ll alternate being plugged up with its opposite. My brain will be fuzzy. My body’s reaction to chemo will make me temporarily virtuous, deaf to the siren calls of coffee and wine.

This whole process feels less dramatic this time. Yet it’s daunting that, counting today, I have to go through this five more times. What does that mean when you get used to chemo?

Over breakfast just now, I groan as I spoon 10 scoops of glutamine into a glass of orange juice. Glutamine helps with protein synthesis and is supposed to promote healing. Body builders pound the stuff. The docs think it may help ward off “neuropathy” — burning or tingling in my hands and feet, though they’re careful to say that this is anecdotal, not proved by a scientific, clinical trial. It worked last time. Or to be more accurate: I didn’t suffer neuropathy last time. Whether that’s because of the glutamine or due to stupid luck, I don’t know. Glutamine turns the expensive Odwalla OJ the color of a creamsicle. It goes down like citrusy grit. As the last gulp goes down, I shudder over dramatically and husband Pete says, “It could be so much worse, sweetie.”

“I know that!” I snap. Then, more gently, “Please don’t give me a lecture.”

He’s right: It could be so much worse. I could have chemo every week. I could have so many more side effects. If I had a certain type of leukemia, I might have to take Gleevec, a targeted drug, for the rest of my life. If I had another type of leukemia, I might need a bone marrow transplant, a horrific process that makes your bones ache from the inside out and changes the shape of your eyeballs and brings you to brink of death for a chance at life. There’s no end to up when it comes to money, or suffering.

But this is my little drama today. It’s my poison party and I’ll cry if I want to. Well, not really. I cried a little last night, but mostly because of the realization that this is becoming routine.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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8 Responses to Quick thoughts before infusion 2

  1. Heather, Thanks for your honesty and bravery. And your great perspective, as I sit here with a pile of bills and insurance information to dredge through for my elderly mom’s eldercare. How lucky am I to deal with such mind numbing mundane stuff. At some point, when I will face breast cancer or something akin to it, I will reread your blogs.

    • leftbreast says:

      Susan, dealing with an aging parent is a true crisis. So don’t feel that you’re not right to be overwhelmed by it. And hopefully, you’ll NEVER face something like breast cancer.

  2. Tio says:

    Hang tough, girl. You’re in our prayers and our hearts.

  3. Sarah Goodyear says:

    Thinking of you, my dear. And next time, I’ll be there to help.

  4. Lynn says:

    Heather, I’d keep up with the glutamine. It helped me and I didn’t hear about it until my 5th infusion. For me, the neuropathy was cummulative. After the 4th round, it interfered with walking and my last round was adjusted. I enjoy your writing. Good luck

    PEI Canada

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