A friend of mine is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments. A few minutes ago, I read the post on his Caring Bridge page which his wife just posted. Though the side-effects are leaving him feeling very tired, he's doing well and his numbers look good.
Reading her post reminded me of when I was having chemo treatments. The side-effects vary depending on which drugs are being used. Not all chemotherapy is alike. The drugs and the administering of those drugs vary depending on the type of cancer you have. Hair-loss is the side-effect people think of the most but not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. My father-in-law had oral chemo. He took pills. I on the other hand had infusions which could take four to six hours after I had seen my doctor, had blood drawn, got lab results and was approved to once again have another treatment.
I could access the results of my bloodwork online. When I compared them to what my pre-chemo numbers were, I could defintely see that chemo made my numbers go wacko. In fact, shortly after I started chemo, I had an athma attack late one night. I have cold-induced asthma which is severe but I use an inhaler when needed. I had not needed to use my inhaler in a long time and sure enough, it was expired. Why do these things always happen at 10:00 p.m. at night?
Normally, I would have waited until morning because like I said, it's not severe. However, due to my weakened condition, my husband called and I was ordered to go to the ER at the nearest hospital where we could get the prescription for my inhaler filled. I would live to regret that decision.
I got my list of medications which included my chemo drugs which I'd had about five days before. Then my husband drove me to the ER and helped me fill out the forms. I hadn't started losing my hair yet so I didn't exactly look like a typical chemo patient... yet. This was why on the forms AND face-to-face, we made it very clear that I'd had a chemo infusion just five days before. My husband also gave them my oncologist's card so he could be called. That never happened.
After waiting for nearly two hours, I finally saw someone. I informed the nurse that blood cannot be drawn from my left arm (I've had lymph nodes removed on that side). I also informed her that I was a chemo patient and I had a port from which blood can be drawn. The problem is, you have to be trained to do a blood draw from a port.
They couldn't get a blood draw from my veins. That wasn't surprising. Chemo drugs are tough on veins. I had to wait for them to find someone who could do it from my port. More waiting.
Suddenly, things started to get rather exciting really fast. You see, my labs had come back. The doctor took one look at the numbers and...
Now I kept reminding them that I'd had chemo a few days before and all I needed was a refill for my inhaler. That's it. Nope. They needed to run all sorts of tests and do a scan to try to figure out what was going on. Now you have to remember that by now it was about 2:00 a.m. Both my husband and I had been through a lot that week, we were both exhausted and well... these people were the experts. I do remember once again though, asking if they had tried to reach my oncologist. They gave me some vague answer.
About 6:00 a.m., the doctor came in with some good news. There was nothing wrong with me. Well... that is, my reading were completely normal for someone who was a chemo patient. My prescription for a new inhaler was filled and they sent me on my way.
A little over a week later, when I saw my oncologist, he pulled up my file, laughed and said, "I see you've been busy. If they would have just simply called me I could have told them you were fine other than the fact that you needed to get a new inhaler."
As the weeks went by, terrible things happened to my immune system. My hair fell out, my nails got funny, and there was a strange green tinge to my skin. I had to shoot saline up my nose to keep it moist and clean. I cried "funny" tears and everything tasted like metal. If the average person had lab work that looked like mine, they would have thrown them into the hospital immediately and frantically tried out what the problem was as well as what the solution was.
It would have all been rather scary except for one thing. There was a man who was following my progress very closely. In his words, he was causing all of these things to happen but he was carefully monitoring me. He would be able to tell if he needed to make any adjustments to my treatments or if he needed to stop them all together to give me a rest so I could get stronger. A cancer patient places a lot of trust in their oncologist. If they can't do that, then they need to find a different oncologist, one whom they can trust with their life.
There are times in our lives, when we may feel like a "chemo-patient". We feel like we have endured more than we can bear. Things do not seem to be working right. We're tired and it seems like "bad" things are happening to us and we wonder why God is allowing these things to happen.
This is when we must remember, no matter how crazy things get, God is at the helm. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it. He knows exactly what we can endure and when we can't, He knows exactly how to help us.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlesister/471983383