* Note: This blog is part of a series called Even In The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death.
I followed my oncologist out the door. I glanced down at myself and looked at the needle and clamped tubing sticking out of my chest. I shook my head and made a crack about looking like I was an alien from another planet. I sighed and adjusted my pink baseball cap on my head. I was not looking forward to what lay ahead but when I finished it would mean I had one less treatment to go.
After getting pumped full of various drugs and saline, it was time for the real fun to begin. I watched as my chemo nurse snapped on some rubber gloves before picking up what looked like two bags of red Kool-Aid. It was anything but Kool-Aid!
Adriamycin, one of my chemo drugs is "lovingly" referred to by it's recipients as "The Red Devil". Unlike other chemo drugs, this drug is not administered via an IV drip. It is "pushed in" meaning a chemo nurse stood behind me and slowly fed the drug into my port by hand. There is a reason for that. This powerful drug is so toxic that it requires a great deal of attention and care. If something went wrong, it could seriously burn my skin and any other tissue it came in contact with.
This highly toxic drug attacks your immune system and targets areas with fast growing cells, including your hair, nails, skin, the lining of your nose, your stomach, etc. Nowadays, they are pretty much able to control the nausea it produces with anti-nausea drugs such as Zofran and Ativan... most of the time. Still, it is rightfully nicknamed, The Red Devil.
I had four infusions of this drug along with another drug called Cytoxan. Then I had four infusions of another drug called Taxol. That drug is generally easier for most people however, it produces adverse effects to the nervous system in about 20% of the population. I was lucky enough to be one of the 20%. I was fortunate in that this drug has been known to cripple patients. While my feet can be painful at times, I am able to walk and I escaped with only patches of neuropathy in my feet.
Chemo does not just affect a patient physically. It has a profound psychological effect as well. Most people will experience a great deal of anxiety prior to chemo which increases over time. Many people cannot bear to eat or even look at a type of food they may have consumed during chemo. A lot of breast cancer survivors cannot drink anything red. Many people get physically sick when they see their oncologist... even years later. The human mind is a powerful thing and when you are confronted by anything which pertained to cancer treatment, your fight or flight mechanism kicks in, screaming at you to fight and run!
Chemo is a very terrifying thing. Anyone who says it is not has not been through chemo. In addition to not feeling well, you feel extremely weak and vulnerable and this is combined with fear. Will it shrink the tumor? Will cancer come back? Will I have to do this again? These are questions a cancer survivor lives with... for the rest of their life.
During those dark chemo days and in the days since when fear has try to come at me, I take comfort in words such as this:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (NIV)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
When you're walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death or anywhere else for that, we need to remember that we do not walk alone. Jesus walks beside us every step of the way and with our hand clasped within His... He makes us brave.
Sister K, your records of all the happenings to a cancer patient sound really frightening. I can now imagine and understand their apprehensions, their reluctance and their fear before going through them. You are so brave to go through them, just as many who have gone before you and have survived all the pains and much mental suffering to tell others about such agonising moments.
Thanks for sharing that others may understand these sufferings of the victims.
From Hwa Silverpen