Just One Day of Chemo …

 In Aging, Autobiography, Connecting, Facing Reality

I have a good imagination, but I never could have imagined this day. My “little” sister Anita is sitting in a chemo infusion lab getting the 9th treatment of a prescribed 16. I had never heard of her cancer: Light Chain Multiple Myeloma. Her 65th birthday brought a 3-day early, unwanted gift – this diagnosis.

They tell her it is treatable, but that it will not go away. As her older sister, I feel I should protect her, but I can’t keep this from her.

It’s all pretty complex, as most things in life are. I watch as they poke a line into her newly placed port. First, a squirt of something supposedly numbing. It works for her, thankfully. She declares the prick is not painful. Hurrah. One more fear assuaged.

And that’s what this is all about – fear of mostly the unknown, the unfamiliar, the unwanted. Fear of the big C. Worry at the potential prognosis. Concern that all will go as well as possible. No hitches. Troubling thoughts of the future.

She talks with the wife of another MM patient who is a few weeks ahead in his treatment. They discuss options for when they will have to travel to Dallas for the stem cell replacement that follows the chemo. The driving expenses, hotels, eating out is devastating to most budgets. The Cancer Society offers some help with a gas card and help with housing. Anita learns from her chemo buddy’s wife of a very inexpensive place available for cancer patients. Welcome information.

The line is flushed and a 5-second hit of a cancer treatment drug is pushed through the port line. When I see the nurse don the purple gloves, I recognize she is now handling the heavy-duty chemicals that will take four hours to go into my sister’s system. This is to strengthen the bones.

As Anita sits in her recliner, she greets various staff as they pass by, sharing with and receiving updates from her fellow travelers. A nurse passes who reportedly does not administer the quick numbing before the poke to connect up through the port. Anita banters with him, assuring him he needs to administer it as it helped her. He laughs and counters with his experience with his patients being a more mixed review. They laugh.

This clinic supplies the patients and their family and friends attending them with lunches of sandwiches, chips and drinks. Today is also “Brownie Day,” which most happily choose to eat.

And now the work of the day begins. Sitting, relaxing, allowing the chemo to course her veins. Anita’s husband Jay passes her the iPad she uses for games and reading. As she says, “To pass the time away.” Most of the patients in the 28-chair clinic have been already hooked up.

There is an occasional twitter as a new patient is getting started, but the post-lunch room grows quiet.



———–Update May 15, 2018———–

It has now been almost seven years since my sister’s diagnosis.

She has had a lot of success with her treatment over these years, but the intensity of this disease is like the day I wrote about times several thousand. Anita and Jay continue to coax a life out of what is left to them from the effects of this deadly illness. They remain vigilant as they submit to whatever the doctors recommend at each new turn in the path. Hope truly springs eternal.

– Shari



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  • Patricia Levy Andrews

    Lord bless Anita and her family, and bless you in your support of her.
    May the Holy One, blessed be He, strengthen and deliver. May His name be blessed and glorified forever and ever, amen!

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