This is the second post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.
I am writing my way through this journey not for anyone’s pity. I do not do support groups or patient forums. Writing is my therapy as it always has been toward wellness in mind, body, and spirit. Read this at your own risk. It will be my only disclaimer.
Today’s Reality: Chemo
The days leading up to my first dose of chemotherapy were appointments with Nurse Kathy would explain over the course of an hour the when, why, and how of chemotherapy treatment. I had met my oncologist, Dr. B the next day in which we reviewed Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, my labs, and the chemotherapy she had prescribed.
Chemo’s first week
I began chemotherapy treatment a week ago today. I would like to say that as I looked at that white pill in the palm of my hand that I prayed an eloquent prayer filled with elegant words of gratitude for all the medical research that went into making this drug available to me in combating leukemia. I confess I took God for granted as I leaned on that bathroom vanity writhing with pain in my bones that felt like dried timber and joints of hot coal. I wish I could say that my words were inspiring. They were not. All I could mutter in the early morning darkness of Thursday, October 8th was, “You better work, motherfucker.”
The first day was filled with extreme fatigue and dizziness fused with bone and joint pain. The following three days, I battled a tremendous headache as though I had the severest sinus infection of my life. My face and lower jaw ached so badly it felt as though my teeth were going to pop like a bag of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn. I barely could move my jaws making the cartilage in my ears hurt. At night, I wore a wet warm compress over my hurting eyes for even the slightest pain relief. When I explained this to my nurse case manager, Laura, she had not heard of these side effects and prescribed acetaminophen to minimize the pain.
The next two days were met with continuing fatigue and a new pain in my little toe on my right foot. When I was dressing to go to the ER on the day of my diagnosis which I thought would be appendicitis, I stubbed my little toe while trying to find my shoes in my bedroom. My toe had turned bright shades of purple and blue for days afterward but now it was bright pink. I thought it had healed as it did not hurt this badly until after starting chemotherapy.
I saw Nurse Practitioner, Lisa for this week’s oncology visit. We reviewed my labs and the side effects from my chemotherapy. As she was examining me, I told her how I thought I had appendicitis and how a highly animated young doctor had given me the news. I am a literary-type, not a science-type. I had no clue where or what the spleen does and that mine had grown to the size of a miniature football.
I laughed, “I must tell you though a couple of stories about my visit to the ER that day.”
I recounted how Dr. Mike had swept into the room and told me I had leukemia. I laughed, “I could tell by how animated he was that he was inexperienced at breaking the news that I had cancer.”
She laughed. “I knew exactly who you were talking about, Sheri. He has been a doctor for a while, but he is what is called a ‘fellow’ meaning that he is training in the specialty of oncology.”
“Hey, everyone is new at some point in their career,” I said. “No worries.”
I went on to share the story with her about Dr. B and how I knew I wanted her to be my oncologist. During the bone biopsy procedure, Dr. B was assisting Dr. Mike and it was though they were kneading my left hip like a big lump of white bread dough for an awful long time as they were trying to puncture the hip bone to extract bone marrow and fluid. As I was curled up in the fetal position hanging on to the bedrail with dear life, this petite little woman, Dr. B came over and bent down to look in my face and said so sweetly, “You know everyone’s anatomy is a little different. And moving around all that tissue sometimes we cannot get to where we need to be. We are going to try it one more time here and if we cannot get a good enough sample, we will schedule another bone biopsy with the radiologist on Monday. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes,” I had squeaked.
Lisa and I laughed as I shared these stories with her. I told her that my husband and I giggled about Dr. B’s sweet explanation later that evening in my hospital room because realistically I knew she was just trying to tell me I had a fat ass!
She said, “You know, Sheri, most people would be upset about their diagnosis experience. You are a laid-back person. I do not believe I have ever laughed when meeting an oncology patient for the first time. You must be the care-taker.”
The room suddenly became quiet.
“Lisa,” I asked, “I cannot change the fact that I have cancer, can I?”
She shook her head no.
“Cancer may want to change my body,” I said, “but I refuse to let it change my mind and my spirit. Because if I allow cancer that power, then cancer wins.”
Now about that little toe. “No x-ray needed. I can tell it is broken,” she said. For the love of scotch! What next??
No Tears, No Fear, God is Here!
I will not lie to you and tell you I have not shed tears. The tears are not from the bone and joint pain, nor are they from the side effects of chemotherapy. The tears flow when God is holding me up in that extreme fatigue every morning to swallow that chemo pill.
But do you know how I really know God is here?
The tears I have shed have come when my son comes up behind me to whisper in my ear ‘I love you’ when he is doing something to make my life easier.
The tears spillover uncontrollably when I receive thoughtful gifts at my doorstep or by mail, a thoughtful card from my son’s girlfriend, texts and private messages offering to deliver meals, drive me to doctor appointments, virtual hugs, and countless daily prayers.
The tears flow when my husband does almost everything to help me just be me – living in the moment of today’s reality.
God is here working through all the wonderful people in my life. And I say a prayer of gratitude for each one of them including that white chemo pill.
The Blogging Owl
This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as, a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!
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