My day started like any other day. I woke up, put on a pot of coffee where I stand and wait the three minutes (benefits to owning a Bunn Coffee Maker) for it to finish. Some mornings, like this morning, it is the longest three minutes of my life. I grabbed a cup, took Annie, our yellow lab out of her crate and went to the back patio. I sipped my coffee with my cell phone in hand texting mom. We text a lot in the mornings. The texts are filled will reports of how nights went, how much or little sleep we each had, updates on each other's dogs and of course, a few Michael jokes.
This morning Michael was in a good mood but we knew he would not be pleased as he would not be joining us this time for the trip to MD Anderson.
Once the children were rushed out the door after slightly intensified morning bickering (all three had flu shots yesterday which did not make for the best of moods) I rushed to get ready. In a matter of a few minutes I was out the door to my mom's to pick up her and dad to go to the hospital. Mom's port was already covered with EMLA cream - my dad can make a damn good nurse at times.
We arrived at 10am. We went to the second floor at first only to find we were in the wrong place and had to go to the fifth floor. A quick elevator ride and we were in the right place. My mom was a bit tearful which in turn made me tearful. Dad was anxious but doing his best to put on the calm, game face to be strong for both mom and me. We were taken to a room with beautiful wood (looking) floors. The nurse that met us was both cheerful and informative. The amount of compassion this woman possessed in her body would have made St. Jude proud. Couple that with intelligence and charm and she was the epitome of a registered nurse. She was the kind of nurse I can only hope to be some day. She spoke to mom about what she would be doing. First removing the EMLA cream, cleaning the port site and then using a longer needle than what may be used in the future (because of current swelling from the surgical incision that is still healing). She explained that there is a "freezing" spray that is often used but she has heard mixed reviews of how well it works - so suggested mom try it with just the EMLA cream this time and if it is too painful we could go for using the freezing spray next time. The cream had been on for well over an hour and had done its wonderful work in numbing the site.
The lovely nurse skillfully placed a needle and catheter in the port. Upon the needle stick my mom winced for a moment, raised her foot in the air in pain and then it was over. She said it felt very much like getting a shot or having an IV and that the anticipation was far worse than the actual event. Once connected, there was no pain at the site. Next the nurse drew some blood from the port, added a bit of saline, provided detail down to the little caps they placed on the tubing being full of alcohol to prevent infection and promote the utmost cleanliness, etc. Once blood was drawn she took us to the chemo room.
The chemo room had a wall of windows. We met another nurse who was busy tending to three other patients. My mom took her seat and the nurse came over to speak to us about what would be taking place. First, labs on the blood that was just drawn to measure her white blood cell counts. She explained that for this time the anticipation is that they will, of course, be in normal ranges. However, next time the counts will be done and must fall into a certain range otherwise chemo may be placed on hold. It would take about an hour to get the results back and then they would start her pre-chemo cocktail. This of course has meds to prevent nausea. Those run for about 30 minutes and then the first of two bags would be hung. The first bag was a medication that she advised may cause some heavy side effects and to let her know as soon as mom felt the least bit sick or different.
With a bit of anxiety as it started we sat and waited. I read a book. Dad ran to get us all some coffee. Mom watched some tv and then read a magazine. Nothing really happened. A cookie lady came around with fresh baked chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. Mom and I had a cookie and sipped coffee. Then they gave her a boxed lunch. Still nothing. Oh thank goodness, NOTHING!
She had a small hot flash in the middle but that was really the extent while the first bag of chemo ran through the port into her body. It took about an hour.
Soon it was time to hang the second bag. It would also take an hour to run. Again, mom had very mild side effects. With this one the inside of her nose burned like she needed to sneeze but couldn't. She felt some slight congestion, but that was it.
Soon we were back in the car and on the way home. We stopped at CVS to grab a few last minute things and then that was that. We got back to her house around 3pm. My kids were getting off the school bus as we pulled up. Dad took mom in and got her settled, she was still feeling ok. I ran to the store with the family. We grabbed groceries for both houses so there would be plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, lean proteins and snackies. I had planned on fixing some chicken and rice for dinner but time slipped away so we all settled for some fresh deli roast beef (or turkey) subs made at home.
With chemo it's extremely important that mom only eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are cleaned and prepared in her kitchen. Nick dropped me off at mom's house and he took the kids and our groceries to our house once we unloaded what needed to stay at mom's.
I cleaned fresh lemons, limes and oranges for pitchers of water. I scrubbed them with antibacterial soap first, to make sure any germs living on the exterior of the fruit would not be passed into it with each slice. Mom and I joked about how I was bathing the watermelon in her sink. Soon her refrigerator was stocked with some easy to grab, healthy foods.
I left her feeling well. I can't even begin to express the amount of gratitude for everyone that has been checking in on my mom. Today really wasn't the day we anticipated. I know she isn't out of the woods yet for chemo illness but we are so, so very thankful that she didn't have any sickness today following her first treatment. We can only hope the poison which has been infused into her body will continue to show mercy on her body and they will all be this good.
Unfortunately, I do think this honeymoon will come to an end and anticipate a call in the middle of the night or in the morning that she is ill. When that happens (I'd love to say "if" but I don't think it's realistic to think she will go through chemotherapy without sickness - but it MAY happen - we'll see) anyway, when it happens we will cross that bridge.
She is one strong lady. I'm so very lucky to have her as my mom.