Saturday, June 15, 2013

SPLASH (Treatment #1)

Well, the time has come to take action and actually jump feet first into treatment.  Kind of like Louie Anderson on Splash (you know, celebrities trying to kill themselves on high dives).  When all 400 some odd pounds hit the water off the 30ft platform, he made quite a splash for sure.  It wasn’t pretty and he didn’t get style points, but he came up from the water with a victorious smile knowing he conquered his fears.   And when I finally come back up after treatment, it also may not be pretty, but I too will have a victorious smile knowing I conquered cancer.

So, today was quite a doozie (is that even a word?).  It started with blood work in the morning.  Based on the amount of blood they drew from my uncooperative vein, I would think they were feeding an entire vampire colony (Team Edward, anyone?).  OK, maybe not, but there were more than normal with extras for research.  That’s right, I’m the perfect research specimen.  Who knew?  That’s what’s amazing about MD Anderson.  It’s a research hospital and I’m participating in a couple different research studies.  My cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, is so rare (approx. 1200 cases per year) that anything I can do to help further their knowledge is my privilege and duty as I see it.

Anyways, after blood work, we headed to an appointment with my chemo doctor.  Most of my doctors are very sweet and kind.  Not that Dr. G (whose name is being withheld for obvious reasons) isn’t kind, but she’s just more clinical.  She informed us of all the side effects of chemo.  For those of you not familiar with this lovely drug, let me list them for you:  nausea (obvious), vomiting (again, obvious), hearing issues which could be permanent (not so obvious), numbness/tingling in hands and feet (really?), low white blood count (cool), kidney issues (awesome), fever, fatigue and early onset menopause/hot flashes.  She did point out at my age that’s highly likely (she didn’t win too many brownie points with me over that comment J)  So, who’s ready for some chemo after that?  After dropping that lovely bombshell on me, we started talking about my nerve medication and pain.  I told her that maybe I’ll be so sick after chemo that I won’t even feel the pain.  She laughed at that.  Funny.

So, after that we headed to the dreaded chemotherapy department.  I checked in and was given a pager.  I had to think for a second, was I at the hospital or Cheesecake Factory?  How I wish it was the latter!  Oh, what I’d give for a piece of carrot cake cheesecake right now!

After an hour wait (maybe we were at Cheesecake Factory) they called me in and did the usual blood pressure, pulse and dreaded weigh in.  The nurse told me I’d be in Pod A Room 17.  I felt like a kid going to school for the first time, lost and alone trying to find my classroom.  I told him this was my first time, and that I didn’t know where that was.  He replies, “Oh, a newbie, I’ll take you there.  And newbies always get two warm blankets.”  Well I feel special now.  I had always heard from people and seen on TV shows that usually chemo is administered in one big room, with lots of recliners and different people getting treatment (anyone see Parenthood?).  But he led me to my own private room, with an adjustable bed, recliner and TV all to myself.  Sweet, this is living!

My IV was started and the nausea premedications were being administered for almost an hour.  Then it was time for the chemo treatment to begin.  As soon as it entered my body I felt a warmth in my veins.  I immediately thought, ‘I’m toxic’ like Britney Spears.  Anyways, I prayed to the Lord and asked that he protect me and heal me.  Maybe the warmth I felt in my veins was actually the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of the warmth of his presence in my life.

I made it through the chemo without any issues.  I felt fine and used the time to write my last two blogs.  After two hours of chemo, I was free to leave.  But don’t get too happy for me yet.  I then had to run straight to the Proton Radiation Center for my radiation treatments.  Again, I told you I was jumping feet first.  At radiation, I was reunited with my mold and mask, still unimpressed with their aesthetics.  I laid down on the stainless steel table with my head in the mold.  They snapped the mesh mask into place over my face, and I felt like I had to hold my breath, even though it had holes in it.  Maybe it was just the feeling of being confined and covered, and very claustrophobic at first.  Luckily, they informed we it was OK to breathe (hopefully I would have figured that out J).  The mask was a little tighter than when they made it (no, I didn’t get fatter, the mask just continues to shrink for a week after being made).  They took an xray to make sure I was positioned correctly.   They readjusted me, which unnerved me just slightly.  Finally we were ready to go.  I kept my eyes closed, but could see the lights from the beams that would ever so precisely destroy the tumor.  I felt like I was in some science fiction movie caught between two battling universes.  Anyways, I spend a lot of time praying during these treatments.  They spin me around on the table a few times and do the treatments at three different angles.  I feel nothing.  Then, after about 30 minutes, I’m done.

By the time we made it back to the apartment, I was exhausted.  Eleven hours at the hospital, two new treatments filling my body with toxins and radiation was all enough to physically and emotionally drain me.  I was able to eat a small meal prepared by my mother in law.  That night, however, I couldn’t sleep.  I had the worst headache I could imagine.  My eyeball felt like it was going to pop out of my head (does anyone remember those stress toys you squeeze and the eyeball pops out?).  Not even the pain meds could touch it.  I feared the road ahead…would it feel like this every day?  Luckily it wouldn’t.  A body can only take so much in one day.  But, on day one, I jumped in, made quite a splash and survived.  Only 32 more treatments to go!


  1. Keeping you in prayer as you travel this road
    A promise from God
    "I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand"

  2. You sound very brave my friend. I will continue to pray for your strength and comfort. I will pray for God's perfect Grace to be with you through each moment. May you constantly feel His Presence carrying you along this road. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  3. Cathleen I'm so sorry for the pain! Stay strong and keep writing. Love and prayers surround you. xoxoxo

  4. Love to you! YES, please keep writing! Love and prayers, Claire

  5. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
    —2 Thessalonians 3:16
    This is my prayer for you today Cathleen.

    Charley S.

  6. Stay strong, dear friend! Your faith is strong and confident - just like you! I love you!! hugs, terry

  7. Catching up on your blogs - stay strong! Your faith is amazing...and your courage is inspiring.
    Love, Lauren