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(America reference)

Mad Joe in the ChemoDrome 07/26/08:

Thursday was another day in the Chemo Palace. The ChemoDrome. Began eventfully enough, as there were many youngsters in the joint, probably because of summer vacation, and let us hope that is the reason.

I was, of course, cuffed and carted. Mama Bear has decided that I am not responsible for myself, and so she comes home from work to assure that I make it to the Palace on time. If only she were on time 🙂 But that is another story for another time :).

She DOES come home, and she DOES make sure I am ready. I am not incompetent, by the way. I can drive just fine, and I have all of my faculties, as they say (depending on who you ask). I am not trying to avoid treatment. I am, I guess, ignoring it.

But I have explained that to everyone, including OncoMan and my wife and all of you who read this. I am not quitting. This chemo seems sort of additional, if that’s the right word, sort of an afterthought, so that I am not motivated to participate. I’ve brought this up before, so I wil leave it alone.

But there I was Thursday, allowing them to take my blood again after waiting for an hour (Wife: Do you have somewhere else to be? Me: Yeah, home.)

And then into the waiting room for OncoMan and then a meeting with OncoMan where we discussed potentially infected thumb caused by thorn poke (he called it a finger, of all things, so that we, neither wife nor I, knew what the he** he was talking about at first), my drop foot, and then, of course, my Decadron dose.

I won all of the battles I needed to win.

And I am telling you, this cancer thing IS the latest fad! I went into the Chemo Room and it was packed. I headed for my favorite chair in the corner and was told the resident of that chair was in the bathroom (reminded me of elementary school of course: that seat’s saved!). And so I found the next to last seat available, way up near the front (again reminding me of grade school: who wants to sit that close to the teacher?). Next to me was a guy doing that blood bag thing, which really bums me out, for some reason. I’m just saying. And he was snoring. I do not need that.

Especially since I think he was faking it!

I would do that too, by the way, to avoid talking to a new cancer neighbor. Good for him. As soon as he needed something, he was wide awake, so I’m sure he was faking it. But that’s okay. I didn’t need to talk to him either. Fact is, I didn’t even need to sit next to him other than the fact that cancer is now the next big thing and the Chemo Palace was rocking.

I would not even be reporting this one, except for a couple or three interesting incidents.

First, a beautiful elderly black lady across from me started saying beep beep beep when her bag ran dry and noone noticed, and everyone in the room laughed, and the nurses even had a blast with it, one of them coming over and pretending to hook her up with about a three pound bag of saline and saying she was going to trip it on at about 3cc’s per hour or some such and the lady would be there until midnight at least. Everyone laughed. Hope and humor. Seems corny, but lit up the room, trust me.

I think, from listening to conversatons, that that lovely black lady comes in every day and is about done now (with chemo, not life, for sure), and all I can do is marvel at her dignity mixed in with that humor. I sometimes wish my humor had some dignity to it, but then think, well, you can’t have everything.

I was sitting there waiting for someone to stick me and put some poison in me and not wanting it enough to actually attract attention to myself.

Then there was the kid next to me, college-aged, I would guess, judging from his clothing, which was emblazoned with emblems from a college that happens to be my own college’s archrival. I left him alone, I did. He looked ill, in fact, sleeping through his chemo, his mom sitting next to him, caring for him with her silence which is as loud as it gets really.

He woke up eventually, at the end, as Chemo Lady was removing his stuff, and he was bellicose, if you will, a polite way of saying he was a selfish a**hole, and even his mom was embarrassed by his words and actions, but we all know that when you are in that place, it is hard for others to understand, and so I said something about us being side by side, from opposite sides of the state, if you will, and everyone laughed but him (and he IS from the snobby school, so go figure) and I ignored that owing to his condition and tried again, and he was just rude.

But you know. It is easier to have cancer at my age than it is at his, so I excuse him, as if he needs that. I feel for him, and hope that he overcomes whatever it is that brings him in there. I hope that his mom does not have to suffer any more than she already is and has. I hope that her son does not die on her.

Secretly (until now) I hope that he grows up enough to realize what his mom is going through for him. That he gets beyond himself. I hope that for his sake more than for his mom, frankly. If he is dying, and I do not know that, but if he is, it will be sad if he dies without knowing what his mom has done for him, simply by being there in that chair next to him while he sleeps, simply by excusing his behavior when he wakes.

Another salute to caregivers, I guess.

He ignored me, by the way, appeared to ignore the nurse, appeared to ignore his mom. Whatever this was, it was not his fault, he had nothing to do with it, and he was in the middle of one huge pity party. I’m just saying. While his mom made amends and cleaned up his mess and all of those things you do in Chemo Room, he was already out the door: not his problem.

I DO understand, but it can be frustrating, because I feel for his mom as well, maybe more so.

Meanwhile, two seats down, a guy is turning nearly purple, and it is probably only because the place is clearing out that a nurse has the time and space to sit across from him and notice that he is blowing a major gasket.

Excitement. It is not a lie to say that eventually my wife, who earlier said You will have nothing to write about today, said, Oh now you can write a book huh?

The old fellow had a reaction, either to his earlier Erbitux, or to the Carboplatin he was taking at the moment. Cheers to the nurses, for they were right on top of it (not sure they would have been if the place had still been packed…I’m TELLING YOU this cancer thing is really taking on a life of its own…. everyone is doing it!)

Me (yes, this IS my page), I’m really feeling some pain in my hand for some reason, and not saying anything to anyone, just rubbing it a lot and thinking it must have something to do with the stick.

Two Seats Down is in trouble. He has a trach, for what that is worth, and his red is becoming purple. They remove the Carboplatin and replace it with Decadron, lucky dude, and call for the doc, and soon enough my very own OncoMan is there.

He looks at what the nurses have done, suggests one or two things, says he will be back, and leaves. No wonder he gets the big bucks.

Suddenly there are four or five nurses around Two Seats Down, and they are staring at him like he is a hit and run victim, and then they snap out of it and are trying to make him laugh (without causing him to die from COPD or something, I’m sure). And he laughs. And his wife laughs. It’s all good. Hope and humor.

What I learned is that you can be allergic to something three or four times AFTER your first go with it. I learned that Carbo can restrict air passages, and that Decadron (which they gave him when they took the Carbo bag out) can alleviate that. I learned that nurses will do anything to help you feel better, including encouraging you to blow junk out of your trache if necessary, and even going so far as to using huge Q-tips to clean up in there for you.

I learned that my chemo nurse wears huge pink panties, which really doesn’t matter, because she was stellar when Two Seats Down went down, and I learned that once she knew I had a sense of humor, she didn’t hate me and want me to die any more.

Okay, maybe I’m sensitive.

I discovered that ChurchLady doesn’t come in every Thursday, which was a minor disappointment, as I wanted to provide a report on her well-being.

And I am really glad that Two Seats Down was laughing at the end of it all. Breathing well. Color coming back. And laughing.

He is the man.