A Day In The Life

Just recently someone asked me what it was like receiving chemotherapy. My mind immediately went to a particular day that my daughter, Maria, attended with me. The following was our interactions:

It's hard to stay positive all the time

Since my diagnosis, I have tried to change my attitude and emotions to reflect that unless it is health-related, it doesn't even bother me. I thought I was doing really well keeping positive thoughts and comments front and center, but apparently this is not the case. Do I pity myself? Am I angry? Am I sad? I really can't figure it out. It seems that some days are worse than others.

A simple statement really upset me and I kept asking myself -- "Am I really?" My daughter had spent 5 days with me immediately following my last cycle of chemo and she said for the first few days I was quite grumpy. She saw it coming on rather quickly yesterday. I didn't even realize it. I have since been paying close attention to how I feel before and after each treatment.

Chemo makes me anxious and scared

It seems for a day or two before treatment I am scared. I don't know what I'm scared about. I've been on the same treatment for over three years and nothing has changed. I admit I can't stand going there and walking in that building. It upsets my stomach the minute my foot steps in the front door. I am very anxious and stressed. I always take a sewing craft to keep my head down because I cannot deal with looking at others getting the same treatment as me.

I see people of all ages, races, and ethnicity. It breaks my heart to see these people laying in their chairs and it is apparent they have no energy. I am not like that prior to treatment so I also try to pick a chair in a corner where my view is not facing other patients.

Some days the view is different than others. The blanket warmer is a great view behind the girls. There is such a variety of people there -- from elderly to young children. All hooked up to the toxic chemicals, most with no hair, most looking exhausted and worn down.

My treatment routine

My routine of each treatment is:

  1. Hook up my port -- take blood.
  2. See the doctor and make sure blood levels are acceptable to receive medications.
  3. Receive 3 different IV bags of nausea/side effect medicines.
  4. Receive 2 different IV bags of actual chemotherapy medications.

Obviously, it is nothing outrageous. Simply time consuming. Waiting for blood levels. Waiting for pharmacy to send the drug to the infusion center. Then just sitting and sitting.

When my nerves get the better of me

The nurses dress up in what I call "HAZMAT" attire -- big coverings, special gloves, masks -- everything to make sure the drug the are putting into MY body doesn't touch them.

Now I know that these medications are extremely dangerous but it's not very relaxing or comforting to see the HAZMAT crew coming over to give you medicine that is supposed to make you better. I always joke with the nurses as they are coming over in their gear. The protocol before hooking up the IV is to ask me my name and birth date. If I am feeling chipper I always answer that my name is Angelina Jolie.

Anyway, this was the point that Maria commented to me about getting irritable. I knew the HAZMAT time unnerved me but I had no idea that was when I became irritable. It makes sense when you think about it.

Life after chemo treatment...

Now that treatment is over, I get to go home. The first few hours are non-eventful but usually, during the evening I feel that unwanted fatigue setting in. I will usually go to bed early and sleep all night and most of the next day. After that, I feel okay.

Until about a week later. Then blisters begin to form all over my hands and they itch horribly. This lasts for about 5 days. It is worse on the palms of my hands but the blisters do form on my fingers as well. For my palms, I have tried numerous creams and the one that seems to help healing the best is Aquaphor ointment. It is the consistency of vaseline so I have to cover my hands. I cut an ace bandage in half. After putting on the ointment extremely thick, I place a gauze pad over it. Then wrap the ace bandage around my palms. I leave it on for an hour or two and then remove it for several hours, then repeat.

The things we do to survive an average day.

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Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.

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