On January 12, I walked into the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, took the elevator to the second floor, and followed the signs around the hallway to the infusion area. I was anxious about starting chemo, but also ready to get going so I could get it over and done with. I have worn my trademark cowboy boots to every appointment (we’re kicking cancer to the curb, y’all). I learned to wear a button-up shirt so that my port could be easily accessed. I have learned how to apply lidocaine properly (three times as much as I did that first week, an hour and a half before my appointment time, with plastic wrap to cover it), so that the giant needle in my chest doesn’t hurt quite as badly.
I’ve lost my hair, and some of my fingernails are starting to come off. I’ve learned to manage various physical side effects from leg pain to nausea to going off coffee for the first eight weeks. (Can you even imagine? Coffee smelled exactly like a skunk. Thank goodness that passed!) I use a pill box to keep my medicines straight on the days when I have chemo fog. I’ve gained several pounds from inactivity and all the goodies people have brought us.
But this week, on April 20, I walked out of my last chemo treatment. The particular chemo drugs that I have taken kept me there for about five hours every two weeks. And let me tell you, if it weren’t for the absolutely exceptional nursing staff at our cancer center, it would have been a miserable four months.
Every single person who works in the infusion area has been kind, encouraging, cheerful, helpful, and just generally fun to be around. We talk a little about our kids, our church, and mostly food. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a bunch that enjoys food just as much as I do!
They move quickly, they deal with people who are angry about their illness and lash out, they keep track of multiple patients with various drug regimens, and they do it all with a smile. They don’t have an easy job – they stare in the face of cancer every day, all day long. But they keep fighting because they love what they do and they care about their patients.
So, thanks ladies. Thanks for being good at what you do, thanks for always being cheerful, thanks for making this a little more bearable. And I hope that they only place I ever see you in the future is Walmart.