Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Field Trip To The Chemotherapy Treatment Room

Well, it has been a while since I wrote. I have been trying to think of something positive to share or some new exciting adventure in the Joppa house, but truth is the past week has been pretty lame. I feel like I am becoming boring. Nothing new to talk about except perhaps how Khloe Kardashian may be the only “K” sister with an actual heartbeat/pulse/brain. Oy vey!

The day after Thanksgiving this headache that I had been fighting returned and it kept me down for the day… and the following 2 days. Last Monday I had my first treatment of Taxol. I had been rather anxious about that treatment because they told me to plan to be there about 4 hours to be observed and that I would be laying on “the bed.” Well, I have seen people lying on “the bed” and they tend to look like they are dying (or at least wish they were dying). Anyways, the treatment actually went well and as an added bonus there was Benadryl in the drip so I actually got myself a pretty nice nap and it kicked the headache. Monday night my headache was back and it continued to get worse. I hid out for two days lying under the covers hiding from the world, as the narcotics were not working. On Thursday night, I spiked a fever, so off to the hospital we went. In case you are wondering, chemo patients get 1st class treatment in the ER! We were ushered into a quarantine office and given a room within minutes. Totally got bumped in front of a Sheriff and guy in handcuffs… that felt cool. They ran a CT scan that revealed a completely clogged sinus cavity. The doctor admitted me to the hospital and given private quarantined room. They hooked me up to a drip of antibiotics for the infection, an assortment of other drugs and saline to help get me hydrated. Apparently, a common sinus infection can send my entire body into a septic state that could result in serious issues with organ shut down, etc. My oncologist wanted me out of the germy hospital as soon as I was feeling better so we got home Friday night. I had a couple days to recover and to start feeling better and now,  (like right now… I’m blogging in real time) I’m back in the chemo infusion room getting treatment 6 of 16.

So… join me as I take you on a field trip in the chemotherapy treatment room as I try to sum up what it’s like in here.

When you walk into the chemotherapy room there are 8 comfy recliners, accompanied by 8 not so comfy straight back chairs for support people, circled up in a sort of beauty shop round. Every station has a drip system by the chair, there are various other medical supplies, and machines scattered throughout the room.

Without question I am close to 40 years younger than any of the other patients in here today. I am wearing a knit cap that was given to me by a friend and covered with a beautiful pink flowery quilt that was donated to the Bunko fundraiser and my friend who won it gave it to me as a special treatment blanket. I came earlier this morning to get my blood drawn (all blood cells looking great) and line placed in the port and the nurse started my saline drip just a few minutes ago. Eric is sitting here next to me doing some work on the computer while I write.

Across from me is a friendly old gal (at least 70 yrs old) that I have seen every time I have been here. She is wearing a fabulous snowman Christmas sweater that I am sure she has worn proudly since 1985. She just made a joke about needing to see a nurse because the medicine they gave her tasted like she is eating a balloon. A few weeks ago, Eric sat with her and taught her how to use the iPad that her daughter had bought her. She was excited to see Eric and greeted us when we walked in… clearly she was happy to see her personal tech geek. It has been interesting to see her transformation over the past months from spunky to tired and putting on a happy face. She is now on oxygen.

Next to her, a woman (I guess abut 70) is sleeping while getting her chemo while her daughter is eating soup. She is wearing one fabulous faux fur hat.

Round the circle is an older gentleman (maybe 80) who is watching something on his iPad while his daughter plays on her iPhone. They just finished eating KFC. He is actually getting a blood transfusion… which makes me want to gag when I see the jam-like thick redness so I won’t be looking at him today.

There is 1 last man in the room that is also sleeping and looks like he is trying to escape life. He was here earlier when I did the blood draw so he’s going on over 4 hours.

The rest of the chairs are empty but they will all fill up at 1pm once the lunch break is over. The comfy chairs are being prepped for their new visitors.

It’s pretty quiet in here today, just the sound of the clicking drip machines. I think all of us have been getting treatments for a while so the novelty has worn off. There is usually at least 1 naive happy patient spreading cheer unaware of the approaching effects of their treatment. I like those people; they give a good vibe… maybe next week. The nurse just started my Taxol (and Benadryl) drip and I am already getting drowsy.

My nails are starting to turn grey/black. I noticed the grey color in my toenails the other day and as I type, I see that both of my thumbs are changing color too. It’s strange to know ahead of time what an expected side effects will be and then to actually see the expected effect appear.

The lady with the snowman sweater is now on the phone with her daughter talking about a trip that apparently they have planned for spending Christmas in Hawaii. She is telling her daughter that this is her last treatment and she will have 3 weeks to get strong enough to go. Clearly, her daughter does not think she should make the trip. Now they are talking about cancellation fees. Sweater lady says she will rest at the condo and nobody will need to worry… that she will be fine. Can I vote on this? Let grandma go to Hawaii – this trip is her motivation and hope. Or maybe they could ALL cancel the trip and stay home with grandma for Christmas. I have never seen Spunky here with a daughter or any children. I wonder if this woman was here watching her mom get injected with poison and gag down her meds if she would be a little more apt to play the wishful thinking game and give her hope and something to live for. Worst-case scenario would it be that bad if she died watching a Hawaiian sunset… she’s an old gal with a Christmas wish.  I do not think I would like her daughter.

Sorry took a little rest. Three new patients have entered the room. My drip is nearly finished. Once the machine starts beeping, we will be out of here. All they have to do is remove the line from my port and I’ll be free.
Got home and at took a short nap. The kids were making playful sounds downstairs so I went down to hang out. Eric took Nathan out on a daddy/son date to get my Christmas gift and I was able to spend the night with my sweet Leah. She just oozes with joy and gentleness. So far, I am feeling fine and ate a decent dinner. The boys got home and after he wound down, I tucked Nathan into bed. All is quiet and my tea taste great.

And that my friends is what today looked like. 


  1. I loved this tour--thanks. End-of-life care is such a trending topic right now. I love the perspective that end-of-life care should include *doing as much as you can*, not just lasting as long as you can.

  2. Thanks Matt. Check out this article, it's really got me thinking. I might write something on it later... still processing it. http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/11/30/how-doctors-die/read/nexus/

  3. Kelly,
    This blog was simply wonderful. I love how you view each person there and gave such a great description. I am with you on Grandma...let her go to Hawaii and I don't think I would like her daughter much either. I think so often we get caught up in what we think should happen that we don't live life to the fullest. It is sad that we as humans often have to go through an experience like this to realize life is meant to be enjoyed and to glorify the one who gives life. Continuing to pray for the Joppas Much love.

  4. Hi Kelly! Thanks for sharing this entry with us. I've always wondered what it's like in there. You are a lovely and vivid writer. I'm so sorry for what you are going through, but you are amazingly strong and have the right attitude. Keep hanging tough! You can do this. Love your blog -- keep on writing, and talking and sharing with us...and reaching out for help. Take care...and I'll keep praying for the Joppas!
    Hugs from Denmark!

  5. Kelly! Thank you for sharing your journey with us! I love reading your posts and getting updates from you even though we are multiple miles away in Atlanta. I am not going to let that stop me from keeping up with you! (: Keep being your strong self, you are an inspiration to so many people!
    Love you!
    Autumn (:

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