Exactly eleven days ago, I had my first cycle of chemo. I sat in a leather recliner for four hours at the Hubert Humphrey Cancer Center while a power port infusion tube protruded smartly from the perfectly accommodating neckline of the perfectly accommodating business sweater I had chosen to wear. I felt OK. I laughed, I joked, I marveled at my accommodations which included wireless internet for my iPad – an extremely thoughtful early birthday gift from an extremely dear friend-- television, free movies and free cookies. (Yes. Free cookies. Score.)
Anyway, during those four hours I was lucky to have a good friend at my side who was the perfect chemo companion. Although we had never really been through the experience of chemo, either together or individually, we hit a very nice balance between talk and silence, cheering and just being, normalcy and realizing that this was anything but a normal day.
Time passed rather quickly. As each oncology nurse came by to administer another bag of something or other, my friend and I would just nod and recite our new mantra: “One bag at a time”. That is how my life is being measured now: one bag at a time.
The days after Cycle One remind me of the days when I used to run long distances. Every footstep is a confirmation that you're either doing great or it's time to walk a bit; time for a water break, or time to try to take your mind off the pounding your body is taking by talking to the person slogging along next to you. You have miles where you feel fresh, miles where you slog through based on sheer force of will, and miles where you suddenly get a second wind and you know you will reach the finish line. But you never quit. You just keep trying to push through so you can say "I finished". The only difference with chemo is that you have to keep doing this same race over the course of twenty weeks and they have free cookies at the water stops.
As of eleven days ago, I am no longer a chemo-newbie. The acute symptoms and acute fear of those first few days have been logged on my chemo odometer and I’m ready for the next cycle. These are the sweet days of chemo because I am feeling good. Which is to say that I can almost pretend I’m not going through this and life is temporarily back to normal. And strangely, I am happy.
In three days, I go back to the chair, the ice chips and the free cookies and another cycle of hoping that I will get myself back again soon.