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Friday, April 1, 2011

Chemo: Day 1

Here are some things I love about the Sequoia Regional Cancer Center:

I love my Patient Account Coordinator, Maria. She has been my one true advocate in the insurance/bureaucracy mess. Her role is making sure each patient has the insurance coverage they need to receive treatment, which clearly involves many hours on the phone hounding insurance companies and government agencies until she reaches that goal.
Maria is superb at her job. I love her take-no-shit attitude, her clunky necklaces, her fake nails, her high heeled boots, her sassy haircut and the patience and kindness she has for my family's many questions.

I also now love my Chemo Nurse, Anna. The first thing I noticed about her was her hands. I'd just gotten settled into my standard-issue chemo recliner, and she came over to check my veins. She started chatting and kind of petting my arm, and I was instantly struck by the quality of her touch. It was so calming and lovely, and her hands were cool against my warm skin, incredibly soft and silky smooth. Every time she touched my arm, even just to wipe off some old IV-tape residue, I felt a little wave of cool, clean comfort go over me. She must have one hell of a moisturizing regimen, I thought at first. Now, after some space and reflection, I'm pretty sure it's not Anna's hand lotion that put me so at ease. You just can't bottle that kind of magic.

The third thing I love about the SRCC, if I may call it that, is the space itself. (Far more aesthetically pleasing than the patient rooms in the 3 South wing of Kaweah Delta Hospital.) The honey-colored wooden ceilings give the place a touch of a lodge-y feel, and even give the florescent lights a bit of a warm glow. Big windows let in lots of natural light, and provide a view of a courtyard filled with actual foliage! (Will try to get a picture next time). Big points for atmosphere, SRCC. Well done.

I'd awoken this morning feeling pretty agitated. Have been having really obvious bad dreams, like the one where I'm on some kind of train/rollercoaster, and it's going really fast in the dark and I can't see the tracks ahead of me. It twists and turns and goes upside-down, but because it's so dark I can't see the tracks and brace myself for any of it. Then we slow down outside the tunnel, and I see a happy Beach Boardwalk scene, with so many of my friends smiling on the sidelines, and I'm waving to them and trying to get off to go see them, but of course I can't, and then the train picks up again and I'm back in the dark, holding on for dear life.
I mean, come on. Can dreams be cliche?

Anyway, I felt in need of some kind of centering exercise before the big First Treatment, so Annie and I dragged some old sofa cushions into the backyard and sat in the morning sun.
Even though I'm still on the bunny slope of a Meditation Practice, my intention for this morning was very clear. I know there have been so many people thinking of me and praying for me, sending their positive energy and good vibes across so many miles. What I wanted to do this morning was receive it. And so I did. I just put my little mental antenna into the air, opened the signal, and let all those prayers and thoughts and vibes pour straight into my heart. From there I could feel them disseminating to other places in my body, building up my strength and courage. It was a tremendously positive experience I will try to repeat as often as I possibly can.

Thanks to all the love I tucked in this morning, my first chemo treatment was a breeze. (It is, however, supposed to get more taxing and toxic cumulatively, so rounds 4, 5 and 6 will not likely be easy. Anyway, I'll take every good day that I can for now.) Anna was very thorough as she talked me through all my questions—think I'll do that Q&A in the next post—and explained the treatment I'd be receiving.

Watching the chemical juices drip from the hangy bag into my arm, I couldn't help but think about the person I was just a little over a month ago. Manager of a herbal medicine shop and aspiring herbalist, I'd eat three bulbs of raw garlic before I'd even think about taking an antibiotic. I conquered bronchitis in a week this winter with a strong decoction of goldenseal, pleurisy root, elecampane, marshmallow and slippery elm. I turned up my nose at Tylenol. I shunned Robitussin. I made poultices. I was just about as far off the pharmaceutical track as a person could get, and had no intention of ever turning back.

And now, one month later, I have been prescribed Prednisone, Alloperinol, Vicodin, Compazine, Ativan and Yaz. Intravenously, I have received Rituxan, Emend, Aloxi, Decadron, Zantac, Neulasta, Vincristine, Cytoxan and Adriamycin. I have taken them all willingly—enthusiastically, even—because I believe they are going to save my life.

(This is my view from my computer as I type this. She's a different kind of lifesaver.)


  1. Beautifully written.
    You are beautiful.
    Thought of you often throughout the day.
    Was aiming for your antennae.


  2. Glad your receiver is working properly.
    Visalia gal? Hope you can sort through the dusty prayers and good wishes coming your way from Bakersfield. You do know that it's the dirt up in the air that makes us so tough - right?

  3. We thought of you all day, asked each other as we alternately ( compulsively ?) logged on , " Is there a new post?" If there was a way for Google Earth to chart positive energy waves , the vortex was clearly SRCC.

  4. I was thinking about you all day. Your morning meditation exercise sounds beautiful. I've been among the masses on the east coast sending all the positive energy i can. Love to you and Annie.

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