Chemotherapy. The very word sounds lethal, conjuring up painful visions of cancer patients suffering through nausea, and hair and weight loss in their fight for survival.
The only treatment known for MGUS, the blood disorder I've been diagnosed with, is chemo. But the good news is that it's a "chemo-lite" called Rituxan. No nausea. No hair loss. The only long-term casualty is my immune system, which will be seriously compromised for at least one year. This means I'll need to avoid air travel, crowds, bubonic plagues, things like that.
So there I sat in the chemo ward as the nurse prepped me about what to expect and things I should do. I may experience flu-like symptoms for a day or two after each treatment. Okeefine. I should drink at least 32 ounces of water to help flush out my system. No problemo. Oh, and speaking of flushing:
"Be sure to flush your toilet twice for the next 48 hours," she told me. "This stuff is bad for your pipes."
Pipes? PIPES? What about my pipes? If she saw the look of horror on my face, she ignored it as she inserted the IV tube and exited stage left. The slow drip had begun.
And it was fine for the first four hours. When my best friend, Pam, learned I was planning on doing the treatment alone, she took the day off work and insisted on accompanying me. Yeah, she's that kind of friend. I hadn't wanted to bother anyone, but found myself grateful for her company. We were discussing diets, men, work, fashion, flipping through store catalogues and stuff like that. We might have been enjoying a conversation over an espresso at Starbucks, if not for that bag dripping the toxic sludge into my arm. Then the nurse came by.
"Just 15 minutes left," she chirped. "You're doing great." Hey, I was!
Her words were still floating through the air when I felt a back ache developing. Probably from sitting in the recliner-type chair for so long, I figured. So I stood up and stretched, and noticed the ache was extending down my legs and up my torso. Then I started to shiver, first a little, then a lot.
Ruh roh, Scooby Doo. Something wasn't right.
Can you get the nurse? " I asked Pam and sat back down. Suddenly my entire body started shaking uncontrollably, like Lindsey Lohan in front of a judge. When a nurse tried taking my temperature, she couldn't find one. Another took my blood pressure, which had dropped to 80/50. I started worrying I might see that infamous "bright light" as a flock of nurses rushed to my side. They heaped heated blankets on me, yanked out the IV and began flushing my veins with a saline solution to cleanse the chemo while pumping me with drugs to counteract the reaction.
Me? I semi-conked out.
And when I awoke a short while later, all was dippity-do-dah-dandy. The shaking had stopped, my temperature was normal, and the chemo was resumed to completion. Almost six hours later, I was done.
Until the next round, that is. Every Friday for three more weeks. It'll be fine. Really.
Let's just hope I can say the same for my toilet.