Monday, February 11, 2008

Fix Me (Part II of IV)

Read this first: Fix Me (Part I of IV)

I watched Training Day the night before treatment began. It was easy to forget that I would soon be getting inhumane doses of chemotherapy and radiation, “ten times more toxic than for your previous cancer,” one doctor said. I had my own room with a treadmill, adjustable bed, large chair with a footrest, TV, my PlayStation 2 and DVDs up the wazoo. I had pretty girls looking over me from their desk just outside my room. In every facet except one, I was in heaven. And that one facet was terrible, horrible, intolerable, and fortunately only one week long because it would’ve killed me if it was much longer.

The conditioning regimen temporarily left me unable to taste. My saliva no longer resembled a liquid—my spit stuck to my puke buckets like caulk. I wouldn’t be surprised if it hardened. I went days eating only ice chips, and weeks with several Ritz crackers. I expelled bodily fluids so violently that I had trouble getting back into bed. I Three minutes of light walking on the treadmill left me barely able to breathe, and it took five minutes of resting before my heart rate dropped below 100 beats per minute.

I nearly accepted the offer to be wheeled down to my radiation session, though I declined. I’d rather crawl on my hands and knees. By the fourth radiation session my nurses knew I would never take the seat and stopped ordering the wheelchair valet.

I was chilled to my core for weeks, despite double-layered sweats and cocooning under six blankets. I was isolated from the world and rarely glimpsed or spoke to another patient, so we kept tabs on each other through our nurses. I was "friends" with two of them.

One younger teenage boy lived in an adjacent room. I heard and felt his vomits. We often had the same ailments, almost at the same time. When I was readmitted just two days after my first hospital discharge, I wanted the same room, but it was occupied. My old next-door neighbor had been both discharged and readmitted slightly before me, for the exact same condition. In a sick way I found that hilarious.

A much younger boy's primary nurse, Racecar, told him all about me. His Transplant Day gift from the hospital was a remote control Hummer. Once he was allowed to walk in the halls he drove it around. Racecar said he walked down the hall outside my room just in case he could see me through the window. I don’t know why he looked up to me, but I wanted to continue exuding that quality, whatever it was. I hope I still do.

I know that one of my friends died.

Keep reading: Fix Me (Part III of IV)


Mary Witzl said...

I haven't been through what you've been through in that I haven't (God forbid) had a life-threatening illness, but your 3rd paragraph brought back my first pregnancy all too graphically. Line for line, I've lived that. True, all that was going through my veins at the time was blood and hormones, but I'm betting I could have matched you for puking.

The wheelchair thing too -- I know how that feels. I had chickenpox when I lived in Japan and developed bad complications. An ambulance was finally sent to collect me, and I had a nice little argument with the ambulance drivers who were determined to practice their stretcher skills. I finally won.