Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Start your engines

I know it sounds fucked to say "I finally started chemo!", but "I finally started chemo!"

The last go round four years ago I started a mere week after I was diagnosed, so having to wait several weeks this time feels like I'm scheduling a sought-after facialist or waiting for a great jacket to go on sale. I get that I've been waiting for tests and scans and consultations, and it's truly amazing how quickly I've been pushed to the front of the line (do 90-year olds with cancer get the same queue-jumping rights?), but enough already.

The final step was last Friday when I had an echocardiogram and saw a cardiologist for the first time ever. If I believed in the heavens, they indeed opened up above Dr. M's head that day. Not only did he tell me my heart was fine and that even if I experience some damage while on Herceptin, that it would likely just be a matter of stopping for a few weeks and then starting up again, he gave me something pretty rare in the traditional medical system: empowerment.

The beautiful thing about specialists is that they've generally been around awhile and have developed opinions about things. I happen to love opinions, and Dr. M was full of them. He described in minutiae the ins and outs of my Mugga scan, what it was looking for, why it might have turned out a less than stellar result, and why the echocardiogram (which is like an ultrasound on your heart) tells him everything he needs to know about heart performance without all the pesky radiation exposure.

"You CAN say no to the Mugga, you know," he stated. I get that I always have options, but he went through exactly why and how to say no, outlining what prolonged and repeated radiation exposure does to humans and how we're so casual about it these days. Most importantly, he told me he'd back me up 100% with any doctor who wanted to turn me into Karen Silkwood.

I wept a little on that examination table.

With my heart passing inspection, my first chemo was scheduled for Monday afternoon at 2:30. While I was waiting 90 minutes yesterday to get blood drawn in a last-minute pre-chemo check, my oncologist called me.

"Your heart is fine," she said. Uh, yeah, bitch.

"And Dr. M and I agreed that you would get an echocardiogram every three months." No mention of the quarterly Mugga, which is standard practice in cancer world. I didn't even have to put up a fight. I may now be in love with Dr. M.

Don't get me wrong, I love my oncologist and her robot ways, but her incessant bad cop routine drags on a girl's ass. And I know it's ridonculously childish, but I've taken to giving the finger to her house when I drive by (which is every day, because she lives on my fucking street, yo!). Small pleasures.

I arrived at the chemo wing yesterday expecting a 3.5 hour extravaganza and had all my classic sickie food ready at home.

When I checked in, though, the receptionist told me I'd be getting my first round over two days - last-minute change. Dr. A wanted to see how I reacted to the brand new drug (Pertuzumab) before she combined it with the other two drugs (Taxol and Herceptin).

It was hoppin' in that chemo joint - oldies congregating all over the place, so I had to wait, and was getting anxious about the anti-nausea drug I had taken "30 minutes before chemo", wondering if it would wear off by the time I got poked.

It was an hour before the needle was in me and another two hours before I was out of there.

I'd like to think of myself as a friendly gal, but who am I kidding? I hated being wedged between old people in various stages of their treatment, snoring, complaining, confused, chatty.

I swear if I'm ever President of Cancer, I'll design a chemo ward for 40-year old women where the nurses are mute and look like Don Draper or Ralph Fiennes (in his English Patient Days - before he got all burned up) or Colin Firth (not from the English Patient Days, cuz he was pathetic in that movie - more like recent times in all his 50-year old glory) and there would be Ramones playing (I wanna be your boyfriend) with maybe a little Kate Bush thrown in so we can get a little weepy for a moment and don't hurt our necks from bobbing too much over Johnny's guitar riffs. There would be foot rubbing at regular intervals, and maybe a league (gaggle?) of gay best friends to play with our hair, and carts and carts of David's Tea and Mast Brothers chocolate. Do I have your vote?

I decided to keep the line in my arm, because it was a great one, but it sucked sleeping with it and having a bath this morning instead of a shower. It was also harder to give the finger to Dr. A. Such is life.

No apparent side effects from the Pertuzamab, so dominating one out of three so far. I have a consultation with a new surgeon today and then back to chemo at 12:30 where I'll spend another 3.5 hours getting pumped full of toxic craziness. But we're underway now, folks. A mere 25 more rounds to go...


  1. Dear Madam President, speaking for all the "older ladies" in the voting group, I would request some different music ... maybe Elvis or Sandra Dee? All the other stuff is fine, because I like Don Draper (as long as he is behaving himself ... NOT). Good too hear there are no side effects so far ... but no gardening today ... okay?

  2. You had me at President! I'll vote for anything you put on the table.