I have officially entered full-fledged cancer patient territory with the start of chemotherapy yesterday. It was a long day of paperwork, vitals, blood work (that part a blessed non-event with the PICC line in), asking questions, answering questions, trying to figure out what comes next, and WAITING.
The drugs themselves finally came up from the pharmacy at around 3:00. My whole regimen is the ABVD combo, but for now they are leaving out the B since it can be hard on the pulmonary system and they don’t want to add stress on that front while I am pregnant. Two of the remaining meds are dosed into my PICC line manually since they are supposed to enter at a certain rate, one in about a minute, one between five and ten minutes. The third goes through the IV pump and takes about 90 minutes. The whole thing took two hours and was basically me…sitting there. Which I knew would be the case, but it was a contrast to the drama of getting sent over, checked in, processed, etc., the day before.
Something that happened that I did not expect and would probably not have requested at that exact time was that someone came by to offer Communion. Just after the nurse started the 10-minute push for the first med. So just as the battle for my body is really beginning, I was able to join with another believer to pray, reaffirm my faith, and receive the Eucharist. It was beyond powerful, with physical life and physical death, spiritual life and spiritual death, all entering the fray together. I can’t articulate much more than that, but it was a moment that I will carry with me for a very long time.
I had a lovely breakfast for dinner–no nausea thanks to the anti-emetics and steroids–and then things got interesting. I have been having regularly frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions for a couple of months now, and often in the evening I’ll have them a few times an hour for a few hours. Last night I noticed them at around 6:30, and started timing them at 6:55. Turns out they were coming every five minutes. Uh-HUH. I was scheduled for a non-stress-test (20-30 minutes with monitor on for baby’s heart rate and my contraction activity) as a follow-up to the chemo, so they came in soon after that and hooked me up. A couple hours later contractions were coming every TWO minutes, although still very mild and with no signs of imminent delivery. The decision was made to transfer me to the perinatal floor for continued monitoring overnight, since the OB factor was clearly more interesting (medically speaking) than the oncology factor. The move didn’t happen for a while, and then I was still contracting, getting checked on, getting up to go to the bathroom (did I mention that IV fluids were set at a liter in two hours since dehydration can be a contraction factor, and I’d already been a frequent visitor?) until finally at 1:30 they decided contractions had spaced out enough to take me off the monitors and let me, you know, sleep. Excellent.
Four hours later it was time for vitals checks, followed by an offer of coffee or tea from room service AT 5:45 IN THE MORNING! Guess who is not a morning person? Hoping I can head that off at the pass when I’m here post-delivery. Did some email for a while and went back to sleep for another hour. When I woke up (contraction-free!) again, the morning routine got going: vitals, blood work, ordering breakfast, consultations.
And the results? I am going home today! OB is happy, oncology is happy, cardiology is happy, and WE are happy! Right now I am waiting for follow-ups to be scheduled and, I assume, all of the paperwork to be printed and signed. Lunch is on the way, Chris and Mom and one or both boys will be here mid-afternoon to pick me up, a meal is on the way from a friend…and the new normal begins. Gloria in excelsis Deo!