Almost Paradise

All the way through my eight chemotherapy sessions I kept a vision in my mind of going to Maui. The thought of ocean waves, warm sun, sandy beaches and drinks with paper umbrellas provided me with a dream to cling to during rough patches.

I had no idea that chemotherapy would be so tough. The actual infusions took several hours. I had two different types of drugs, four sessions for each. The first four treatments, the AC portion were brutal. While you are sitting for the infusion, which means drugs pour in to you intravenously, you don’t feel anything. You can eat and drink, doze and listen to music. I had a mix of rock music and favorite tunes on my I phone and brought snacks and lunch. The first half hour were anti-nausea drugs. Chemo is given these days unlike years past with a great deal of effort to not letting the patient experience the severe vomiting. The anti-nausea medicine administered by IV lasts for several days. I also had an arsenal of anti- nausea medicines to take orally at home if needed.

After the administration of the anti- nausea medicines, the nurse came over with the bag containing the AC portion. This drug is known as the “red death” because it turns your urine pink, but more than that you can feel like death warmed over when you are recuperating from it. There is a very strict protocol about administering the chemo drugs. Two nurses have to sign off on it and before any drug was given they asked me my name and birthdate and scanned my wristband with my patient number. Giving the wrong drug could be a very serious error.

The drug was hooked up and it slowly dripped in. I had to get up from my reclining chair several times to go to the bathroom as I was taking in lots of fluids. I dragged along the pole with the bags hanging from them. The room where I was given the chemo had three other patients in different corners who are receiving their chemo cocktails. Sometimes we chatted a bit or not. There were people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. I was especially touched by the young women who have to deal with this cruel disease. My husband brought me to every chemo session but I sent him away to have lunch or take a walk. The space was small and I didn’t want him to have to sit there.
After the session we would go home often hitting the afternoon Bay Bridge traffic. I rested quietly in the car a bit shaky but feeling all right. The tidal wave that washed over my body hit later in the evening or the second day. It is difficult to describe how one feels but is overall crappy. I didn’t get out of bed too much the next day or hung out on the family room sofa. I watched lots of mindless TV and tried to eat but everything tasted strange. Overall , chemotherapy which kills the fast growing cancer cells wreaks havoc with one’s body in many ways.

Some of my side effects were rather severe, passing out, a three week long canker sore and the list goes on. I wound up in the hospital emergency room three times and had to stay two times. I managed to pick up pneumonia. It is not uncommon to get a secondary infection as one’s white cells are compromised. The second phase of the chemo was a different drug which thankfully was not as difficult as the first four .
I would keep a dream in my mind….Ah…Maui…just hang in, get through the chemo and before radiation starts I had permission to get on a plane. We booked a package that included airfare, a rental car and five nights at the luxurious Hyatt Regency. I upgraded to an ocean front room because I wanted to wake up to sounds of the ocean. I started thinking about my clothes trying on my summer shorts, pulling out sundresses and checking out my bathing suits. Ironically I had lost almost fifteen pounds so everything fit well. I don’t recommend the chemo diet to anyone!

I even ordered a couple of new bathing suits and a new cover-up on line. We did do one thing we normally don’t do which was take out insurance. This would cover the portion of the trip that would not refunded if we had to cancel. We were concerned about the rampant flu which was hitting so many.

I finished my chemo and was slowly getting my strength back, starting to exercise and returning to somewhat of a normal life. Then I picked up a virus one week before we were supposed to leave. It was not severe but just tricky enough to give me a fever that spiked every evening. I went to my doctor who said it was not the full blown flu, and I could wait several days to see how I felt and decide about Maui. It only took me one day to decide I would not be ready to get on a plane which was a wise decision. The “little” virus hung on for ten days, and I kept spiking a fever. The last place I wanted to be sick was in a hotel room.

So there went my Maui dreams. I put my clothes back and tucked away my new bathing suit. My husband confessed he did not think we would make it on this trip. He was not disappointed. Friends kept saying that I must be so sad, however surprisingly I was not. After one has soldiered through surgery and chemotherapy and the whole ordeal of a cancer diagnosis, not going to Maui is just not that big of a deal. I still had my pipe dreams when I needed to relax. We eventually made it there when the time was right.

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