At the start of my last treatment (4th of 12), I really thought we had things dialed in. Sure, things have gotten progressively harder but I genuinely thought that I’d had my last surprise… so naive… so pathalogically optimistic. My Timmy’s Roll Up The Rim said “Please Try Again”. This turned out to be strangely foretelling as I was literally trying it AGAIN about an hour later.
The treatment began how it always had. My parents and I arrived at the scheduled time to the Cancer Care building near the Health Sciences Center. We checked in, sat on the vinyl Lay-Z-Boy and got an IV in my forearm. The nurses always compliment me on my veins, I blush, and these ones ALWAYS hit the vein on the first try. They start me on a saline solution for 15 minutes or so to get my fluids up, then they bring out the chemotherapy drugs.
2 nurses always bring the drugs together. One spells out my name and double checks my birthday while the other is confirming against the doctors rec., then they read out the name and quantity of each drug while the other nurse has her eyes glued to her forms. Every time this happens, I can’t help but think about what unfortunate event must have lead to this extra precaution.
A nurse injects the first drug of four with a syringe over 15 minutes. This one is the worst because it looks like the juice that’s leftover in a jar a maraschino cherries. Watching this artificial looking red fluid trickling into my veins is really unnerving.
The next drug is also injected with a syringe, but this one’s clear… so for some reason it doesn’t bother me as much. Then the Third and Fourth are dripped in through the IV, one after another, over the course of 3 hours or so.
Half way through my last bag I started to feel a little bit of a chill. Little did I know, this was the first sign that my body was about to go into complete shock.
That little chill got worse and I started shivering. Before long I felt like I was 16 again, at an alpine ski race at the top of a hill in -45 degree weather, wearing one of those skimpy little downhill suits.
I was shivering uncontrollably to the point where it almost felt like a seizure. My mom kept on stacking warm blankets over my body and around my head in an attempt to help my body warm up. But what happens when your body’s core temperature drops? Automatically you have to pee, right!? It takes a lot of energy for your body to try and keep fluid warm, so the reflex is to get rid of it.
Yes… I find myself in ANOTHER peeing dilemma.
Have you ever been in bed or in a sleeping bag, already kind of cold, then you have to pee? You start bartering with yourself. Maybe it will pass… maybe I’ll fall back asleep… Hah, yeah right.
So imagine this feeling, except infinitely worse because every muscle in your body is constantly contracting and relaxing 1000 Hertz. It’s like if you had to pee, and there is a classroom of 6 year olds punching you in your lower abdomen.
The Nurse asked “Is there any way you can wait 15-30 minutes for the medication to kick in”
We peel off a stack of 10-15 hospital blankets (which is the equivalent of about 3 normal blankets), unplug the IV tower and slowly wheel it into the bathroom. No surprise, being in the middle of a full-body medical reaction, I couldn’t go into the bathroom alone, so my Dad came in with me.
For him, it probably didn’t seem like that long ago he was standing over me and encouraging me to pee… for me it felt pretty foreign.
So, we got that done, slowly walked back to my Lay-Z-Boy and sat back down. That’s when I felt the Timmy’s offering to let me “Try it Again”. As it turns out, waiting 15-30 minutes for the medication to kick in was probably the better option.
I’ll fast forward the next two hours or so; but I will say that the worst (and somehow the best) feeling of this entire process has been seeing my parents looking down on me, tears streaming down their face, and knowing that they would switch places with me in an instant if they could. I couldn’t imagine going through this alone, and I am so lucky that I don’t have to.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. I genuinely believe that It’s harder to watch someone fight cancer than it is to do it yourself.
Eventually the drugs started to kick in, my wife left work early to come join in the standing and crying, and I made it home feeling like I’d just been hit by a train.
The next day the heavy artillery arrived from London Ontario, Amanda’s Mom Lillian. She was like one of those old school Wall Street investors talking on 15 phones at once, except the phones were frying pans, and profits were meals in our freezer.
Then the rest of Amanda’s family arrived for 5 of my “good days”, we had a lot of fun, tonnes of laughs, and a welcome distraction from what’s up next.
Now that the nurses know that my body may go into shock if we go through the same routine as last time, they are going to be giving me a steroid along with my medications. This will ensure that what I went through last treatment won’t happen again.
Now it’s fair to say that I’ve had my last surprise… right?
So it goes.