One down, Seven to go (Or, why I have a new appreciation for a mild sedative.)

Anxiety was at an all-time high yesterday, I will be the first to admit. Lots of tears, lots of yoga breathing and self-talk. None of it was working. Like not at all. Tears during breakfast out at restaurant, tears in the car, just could not pull it together at all. The fear of the unknown can render one completely powerless and unable to deal positively with situations for which we need to be strong. My sister and mom were absolutely rock solid: perhaps messages like this one helped?

Funny is big in my family. Sedatives, for the record, are not. This was just a friendly reminder that everyone else in the room needed to be calm for me. Much appreciated.

Funny is big in my family. Sedatives, for the record, are not. This was just a friendly reminder that everyone else in the room needed to be calm for me. Much appreciated.

I finally caved and took a very small dose of a mild sedative. Not something I do often, but let me just say that after several days of high anxiety taking over my life, I was profoundly relieved to be able to come down off the ledge and deal with what was coming. And, after all of the intense sleepless nights, the irrational fear that almost had me booking a flight to Anywhere-But-Here, this experience was completely manageable. I think it would have been really helpful for me to see a play-by-play prior to going in. Here’s my version.

Firstly, let me start by explaining what happened to my diet over the four days prior to Chemo #1. I am not a huge meat- eater. Certainly not a red meat-eater. I usually have red meat about once a month or so. So, ordering steak for dinner on Friday night, having a burger on Sunday afternoon and another one Monday with my Dad on the day before chemo (this may become a tradition) and then following it up with a STEAK for breakfast the day of chemo was highly unusual for me. I don’t know if my body was telling me to get strong, and I’m certain it will be different for everyone, but all the kale and spinach in my fridge has been coldly ignored by this carnivore. So far, it seems to be working.

I brought mints and candies with me to chemo – which have become ‘chemocandies’ in my head now. I happen to be one of those people who immediately taste anything injected into my body – saline, tin, red devil, you name it. Some do, some don’t, of course. I do. I probably went through about 30 of those little mints during the two hours that I was there. I would highly recommend these ones.

Sour works best, apparently. Totally masked the taste of everything they injected.

Sour works best, apparently. Totally masked the taste of everything they injected.

I would also highly recommend warm feet, and company. But I also saw many people there looking very solitary with curtains drawn, and still others who slept through the entire thing. It is a very personal journey.

Another talisman - my friend had these made for me specifically for chemo - told the woman who made them my story, and she created them especially for me. I love them.

Another talisman – my friend had these made for me specifically for chemo – told the woman who made them my story, and she created them especially for me. I love them.

I went in expecting the absolute worst, and so everything I have experienced since has truly been a lovely surprise.

To start, I got two separate bags of anti-nauseant medication. I had also taken one in advance. It seems to have worked for me, and so I highly recommend taking whatever they recommend. They’ve done this a few times, right?

Red devil, red because, well, it is red, as will be your urine for a little bit after this treat..

Red devil, red because, well, it is red, as will be your urine for a little bit after this treat..

Then comes the ‘red devil’. This is pretty intimidating stuff. Can burn your skin inside and out, and requires all sorts of precautions on the nurses’ parts and means that family has to kind of ‘step aside’ for a moment or two. It apparently feels quite cold when it first enters your system – but my nurse put a warm towel over my PICC line and I felt fine. They inject this part manually, so that they can have control over how fast it enters your system and how you’re feeling. Again, I felt fine. (Crazy??) Once two tubes of this are put into your system, they hook you up to a drip for an hour that contains another chemo medication and you sit and rest. I actually drowsed off for a bit. Bell dings, and you’re free to go home.

I find that looking away and disappearing into myself is really, really helpful. Almost as helpful as warm blankets.

I find that looking away and disappearing into myself is really, really helpful. Almost as helpful as warm blankets.

I am now 24 hours plus past, and although I know I am likely to crash and be intensely tired and need to sleep, I think I’m managing the nausea part quite fine. I liken it to being pregnant. My stomach is very…specific… about what it wants and what it doesn’t. I smelled my mother’s coffee this morning and announced “And…i’m off coffee!” I have had toast twice today and will likely have it again tonight. I may get crazy and put some avocado and cheese on it. I’m not going to say I’m ravenous. But what I can say is that I have been up all day, have been functioning all day, and, more than I have for the past, well, ever, I feel like I can get through this next phase. That red devil is knocking out cancer cells as I type, and I’m sipping tea and blogging. Not so bad. And that PICC line I freaked out about is going to be a total pain in my a$$ for the next 16 weeks. But I sure loved having it yesterday. With all that anxiety the last thing I needed was to be poked and prodded again. It really did make the chemo treatment simple.

The lessons for me are these. Sometimes we need a little help getting to where we need to be. The fear of the unknown is the worst part of almost all difficult things we have to do in our lives. Once we know what we’re dealing with, just about anything is manageable.

I’m looking forward to having some time off before the next treatment. I know my body needs some time to heal before I can do this again. But for Round 2, I will be better rested. I will be less fearful. Maybe I won’t need the help getting to where I need to be. Maybe I will. I’m okay with either.  I will come armed with what I know I will need: my family, my mints, and my moccasins. Visitors welcome. Warning: I will likely be hairless by then. All talismans will remain present.

It seems silly, but a collection of random, meaningful objects has been of great solace to me. The tiny turtle around my neck is a 'wish necklace', and it will fall off one day of its own accord. The meaning is that all of this is temporary. I wear it always.

It seems silly, but a collection of random, meaningful objects has been of great solace to me. The tiny turtle around my neck is a ‘wish necklace’, and it will fall off one day of its own accord. The meaning is that all of this is temporary. I wear it always.

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10 thoughts on “One down, Seven to go (Or, why I have a new appreciation for a mild sedative.)

  1. It is strangely comforting to follow your journey and ‘share’ what you are experiencing. It amazes me how you are always able to so eloquently able to put the enter process into perspective. I can totally see the blog of your fight being a helpful guide to others that will have to travel a similar path. Your words are both comforting and uplifting. My/our thoughts are always with you!!! Bring it on ‘red devil’, do your best and kill cancer cells at an exponential rate!!!!

  2. Thank you for writing all of this Tanya……because it is helping me deal with something that is ‘bigger than me’ as well……( just a side note- that radiation symbol….- always makes me think of the ‘minions’ from ‘Despicable Me’…..not sure why…..but a hell of a lot less threatening)

  3. Tanya, you amaze me.

    I too feel comforted by your words on this ‘unknown journey’ that you are on.

    I’m not sure that you know the power of your writing. Your capacity to reach within your soul and share with us your most inner fears and feelings, humbles us. Your sense of humour, which has shone through this all, makes us laugh through the tears which are streaming down our cheeks as we read your words. Your sense of reality and giving us the facts, educate us.

    I felt this profound sadness when I first learned that you had cancer. I felt sad that you have had to endure such anxiety, pain and loss…. yet you bounce back with a sense of reality and clarity that have always defined how you deal with things…. it’s all very Tanya ~ facts, process, plan, action……. then assess results to make plan better.

    At every step of this journey, it amazes me at how strong and positive you have been. I’m so glad that this first treatment is over. Like you said, the unknown is what keeps you awake at night. Now you know how you fare through it and how to prepare for it. Facts, process, plan, action. Just keep doing what you are doing, it seems to work for you.

    You are an inspiration.

    Hugs, hugs and more hugs,
    Barb

  4. We went through chemo with my Dad and the best part was how our family pulled together with humour and love to make each minute count, supporting each other in whatever angst and joy we experienced, reliving moments we had shared in the past, shedding ourselves of any unfinished business and realizing all the blessings we have each day sharing with honesty and love….it sounds like you have a wonderful support of family and friends and your honesty in your blog is exceptional…enjoy your journey and we wish you health, hope and strength throughout. xoxo

  5. I loved the text about sprinkling lorazepam!! It sounds like you did great with your first chemo. I remember how scary it was for me leading up to the first one. The unknown is oftentimes scarier than anything else. Now you know just how strong you are and you know that you can do this!

  6. Tanya, Sarah and I are reading your blog from BC and just want to say that we love you! Your strength is incredible and to manage to be a great writer on top of that is just … WoW. Hugs and love from across the country (for now.)

  7. Tanya:
    I came across a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, and was fearful for what I thought may be happening to you. Sadly…my thoughts were right.
    I don’t even know what to offer you, other than to say that your accounts of your journey are very much in line with the person I remember you to be back in high school (not that we were chums, but you get what I mean). I have no doubt that you will kick cancer’s ass and do it in the coolest way possible.
    I thought i’d share with you a quick (and I think very silly) story of a memory I have of you from way-back-when: you were a senior, I was a junior at “The Old” St.Ignatius H.S. You were, as I mentioned before, cool, hip, funky and all-around fun kinda gal. One day, word got out: “Psst! You hear that Tanya Gouthro has mono?!” “Oh no! That sucks!” and we carried on as we did. A week later, you reappeared as if out of the blue, And.Looked.Incredible. The talk went something like “Omigod! Have you seen Tanya? She’s back! Holy crap she looks awesome. (I hear she lost 10 lbs. ‘cuz of the mono). Shit. I f—en need to get mono!”
    I don’t know why I thought to share that with you just now, but I hope it makes you laugh. I hope that you continue to share your experiences with us, as you never know the power that your words hold. I wish you nothing but strength and courage and more importantly, peace. Please pass on my hellos to Monique, and know that I’ll be sending positive thoughts your way…
    Anna (DeZan) Sampson

  8. Hi! I saw you left a comment on my blog which obviously led me to your page. Are you triple negative? If you are on taxol or taxotere, a BIG tip is to soak your nails and toe in cold ice water during infusion of that med, prevents nail changs or lifting. I started mine my second treatment and so far so good! Good luck!

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