Today Means Yesterday

There. Got that out of the way, first things first. It’s almost one in the morning on Thursday, but all of the proceeding tale happened on Wednesday. Because of that and the fact that I haven’t been to sleep yet, today is still a part of yesterday to me and will be referred to as today. Or vice versa. Go it? Good. Explain it to me tomorrow. Today. Whatever.

So today I had treatment number 4 or, in the medical parlance, treatment 2B. And even as tired as I am right now, a Shakespeare quote at this point seems really lame. Feel free to mumble it to yourself if you feel otherwise. I’ll wait.

This was my first treatment where I didn’t see the doc beforehand. Just show up, get some blood drawn, then across the hall and into the infusion room. Or, in my case, into the infusion, then told that I have to get bloodwork, go to the main office by way of the outside of the building, get blood drawn, then back to the infusion room.

In the main waiting room, I sat down in a chair and my right shoe squeaked. Now, I’m used to my shoes squeaking at odd and usually embarrassing times. This, however, was not one of those squeaks. These are the rubber-sole-on-wet-carpet and oh-my-god-why-is-the-carpet-wet-in-a-doctor’s-waiting-room squeak. Fortunately, i did some QA work on the carpet and discovered that the squeak appeared to be related to my right shoe rather than the carpet underneath said shoe. Those who want the full Squeaky Shoe Test Plan can either email me or wait for the book.

The infusion room is set up sort of like an auditorium. Perhaps a theater in the round. I hadn’t thought that on previous visits, but did during this one.

Let’s see. Picture a big open room. Put a big box in the middle. Put another big box on one side of that box, but leave the rest relatively open. Place comfy chairs (I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition) in a semi-circle/L-shape around two of the remaining walls. It’s kind of like group therapy (or so I would imagine. Ahem.) but in a group where everyone smiles awkwardly and only talks amongst themselves occasionally while nurses flit between them all like hummingbirds.

We go into the infusion room and I spot my chair. You see, the chairs are pretty much first-come, first-serve. As far as I can tell, the nurses figure out who they’re taking care of for the day and just figure out where that person is sitting this time.

I have to say, I’m rather proud of myself for not asking the nurses where their other patients are so I can be closer to them and thus save the nurses some walking time. Granted, I really like all of the nurses there and would like to help out, but I have cancer, you see. It teaches you to change the order of your thinking. There’s

1) Me.
2) Other people with cancer. Something about having the C makes you want to help out the newbies.
3) The people who help me.
4) Everyone else.

Not that having the cancer turns you into an evil selfish person or the like. It just makes you sit up and think “This next six months is ‘me’ time.” Or if you’re like me, “This next five months is ‘me’ time,” simply because it took me a month to get used to the idea. Another month and I’ll really start believing it, then a third and I’ll become an annoying reality show celebrity. I even had my first shot at fame today.

I’m still trying to decide what part of me made me pick The Chair. Or should I say, The Chair with the Remote Lying on the Armrest. I’ve basically come to the conclusion that it’s one of those Frosted Mini-Wheats types of things. The Geek in me sees a new sort of technology lying about going unused, while the Man side of me sees an unclaimed remote control.

Whichever side made me pick the chair, the Geek had control as soon as my butt settled in. “Let’s see… two arrows, one pointing down the length of the attached cord… must be ‘down’… another pointing in the opposite… must be up… might be down all the way, so test up… Oooooo…”

You know those infomercial chairs they sell that help the olds get up from watching Fox News and playing Canasta? Bada bing. And in forest green pleather, no less. I am so styling.

My fun was short-lived, for I forgot to take the situation into full consideration. Chances are an old had been in this chair before me. Possibly one who needed an assist.

Ooooh, that one’s going to eat at my brain now, ’cause I think that was part of the infomercial chair’s name. Chair Assist? Ready Lift? Readee-Lift? Garden Weasel?

So it would appear that I was the youngest of the day to use the chair and the further thought out possibility was the correct one. No matter though, ’cause what’s the fun part in any amusement park ride? Clacking to the top of the hill? Clacking up the ten story platform? Clacking up another hill? Taking off in an airplane and flying around with a sweaty surfer dude strapped to your back? On second thought, don’t answer that one, and yes, I’m quite sure parachuting tandem instructor people are require to carry a roll of quarters in their pocket. For emergencies or something.

So is it the long waits, the clacking and the uncomfortable bulges people pay for? No! It’s the down part! And here I am in the roller coaster that was already three quarters of the way up that first hill. Sweeeeet. Down we go!

The Geek part of me is loving the moving chair part, the Kid in me is loving the ride, the Man in me is wondering why the TV is still on the same station even though I’m pushing this button, and all of them are stunned by the loud crashing noise.

Here’s a tip. When you buy your infomercial chair (Ready Assist? Chair Lift? Which one do you set and forget?), be sure and read the instructions. No, actually if you wouldn’t mind, scan them and send me a copy. What we’re looking for is the section that says:

Before raising and/or lowering your Ronco Craftmatic Soloflex Assist, please be sure the immediate area is free from water glasses, small animals, feet, AND IV POLES.

Yes, we’re looking for that last part, because there’s nothing quite like the sound of a fully extended (thankfully) empty IV pole crashing onto a linoleum floor in what amounts to a room with the acoustics of a warehouse.

Have you noticed how the older types don’t go for the loud noises? I have. I’ve also noticed that they tend to stare at the source of these types of noises. For a long time.

To top it off, I have to go through the past two weeks of side effects with my nurse. All of the attention on the noisemaker, who is sitting a few heads higher than everyone else because at this point the Geek and the Kid have run away screaming and the Man is eating a donut that his new wife has brought to the green pleather throne.

Here’s another look you get when you’re thirty-four and have cancer. The “Oh, but he looks so young…” look. Add to that, being a newly married thirty-four year old patient going through chemo with his happy bride by his side at the treatments. The pity’s never spoken out loud, but if you look around the room it envelopes you like a blanket. A wool blanket. Heavy wool. That’s wet. Under a pile of bricks.

Now, it may just be me being paranoid about other people reacting to my condition and it may be that I often seem to be the youngest patient there by half. Or a third. Two-thirds? I just think of how I think of all the kids having to go through what I’m going through and much, much worse than what I’m going through. While I’d hope it wouldn’t be showing on my face or through my actions, my brain would be on a constant loop wondering why it was happening to someone so young, with their life ahead of them and their new bride sitting by their… Oh wait, that’s me again. So I’m projecting. Still, I’m sure at least someone around there has had the thought, so I feel justified in my paranoia.

You know what gets you almost as much attention as almost destroying a couple of pieces of medical equipment? I mean, that’s just the grand entrance. If you want to hold the crowd, you need a new side effect.

Let’s see if I can get the timeline right. We got married on a Saturday. Drove to Portsmouth, RI on Sunday. Came back to Hartford on Wednesday for a chemo treatment, stayed overnight to get Neulasta on Thursday, then drove back to Portsmouth. Friday, my ring finger’s itching a little. Saturday, we pack up and drive home as my finger itches more. Sunday I take to ring off to take a gander. I know have a ring under my ring, but this ring is made of blisters and peeling skin rather than white gold. Ring on, finger looks normal. Ring off, fingerskin armageddon. Did they douse these rings in holy water and not tell me?

So Sunday I take the ring off. I leave it off for a couple of days. Once my finger starts to look vaguely normal, I give the ring a good washing and put it back on. So far, no ill effects. My guess is that I either washed off whatever the ringmaker might’ve used to polish the ring (since it more or less went from the box straight to my finger) or the aforementioned holy water got washed down the drain.

I discuss it with my nurse who comes up with another possibility. She had similar problems with rings in the past being too tight and not letting the air circulate under it. We may have a winner. My previous wedding band was white gold and I had no problems. Of course, I was quite a bit bonier then and my knuckles were bigger than the metacarpal (I went to x-ray school just so I could use the big words and probably get them wrong later in life) so my ring would just spin all around. Now, I’m a little… less bony. In fact, since the chemo started, I’ve gained 16 pounds back. And here I thought I had found a new diet plan.

So up until our new diagnosis, I had a full room of surreptitious listeners. Most of them lost interest after that, only looking back upon hearing that we were showing around some wedding photos so the could give the obligatory “so young, so sad, such-a-nice-couple” looks our way. Of course, I know deep down that they’d all be pissed if they knew how well I’ve been responding to the chemo so far. I feel like I have to look a little bit sicker and move a little bit slower when I’m in there, just so I don’t get pointed out as a faker or something.

No faking tonight, though. The tired thing is happening faster an stronger with each treatment. My thinking is, it’s getting more concentrated. The early one’s were bad, but not quite as bad, but spread out over a few days. Then the side effects get worse and sooner, but over a briefer time. The way I feel tonight, I’ll probably feel like I can run a marathon tomorrow.

I could literally feel the energy seeping from my body today. Luckily
I could, because it was my three minute warning to get upstairs to the chemo nest and hunker down for the crash.

And what a crash it was. I was at the computer for awhile and decided it was time to go to bed. I was feeling relatively good, because I was basically sitting in one place and clicking on websites. Turns out, websurfing is a much different physical activity than trying to stand up from a chair. It actually took Barb and I both to get me out of the chair and over to the bed. Holy frickin’ moly.

So if it was so tough to get away from the computer, how did I get back? God, you people must be annoying at the movies – always looking for the little plot holes. I’ll tell you this about the cancer and the chemo. No matter how weak you get, your bladder doesn’t care. It has things to do and will remind you of its things to do until you drag your chemo’ed ass out of bed and let it do them.

Then your brain starts to think “I’m up anyway. I might as well check VH1’s site to see who this Janice Dickinson freak is, since I don’t watch America’s Top Model.” I was disappointed that it didn’t mention if she was related to Angie Dickinson (since you could picture Angie as Janice if you performed some really horrid plastic surgery on Angie. This freak was a supermodel?), though surprised to discover that Bronson Pinchot graduated from Yale Drama School. What a world.

So your brain then realizes that you haven’t posted in awhile and commands you to type until your hands are shells of their former selves as it tries to figure out how to get this lumber slab of meat formerly known as my body out of the chair and back to bed. But then, a miracle happens. After over an hour of typing, backspacing and retyping, your bladder starts getting all business-like again.

And awaaaay we go…