Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chemo Day 12

For the last treatment there had to be a bit of excitement. My port didn't work again. I had to have blood drawn from my arm. They ran out of the normal needle gauge size. One of my four drugs was pulled from my regimen. We set off the patient alert alarm throughout the center and we forgot a bottle opener. But all in all, the final chemo session was as fun as a chemo session can be - if that makes any sense.

Both my mom and Craig were there with me for this momentous occasion. God willing, the last time I will ever have to sit in the chemo recliner. In fact, I don't know that I'll ever look at faux leather recliners the same ever again. I think they'll always remind me of long hours spent with my feet up waiting for the drugs to drip.

I think all three of us were a little bit loopy with excitement - so ready to celebrate that this routine was over, but also careful that not everyone in the cancer center was celebrating, knowing that for some, that day may have been just the beginning of their journey and I could only hope that it'd be as successful as mine. But we managed to celebrate on the sly, sort of.

I brought in Funfetti cupcakes for my life-saving team and made them all pose for pictures with me, much to their chagrin, I think. It's probably not a request that comes often, but I never want to forget the faces of the people that saved my life and made this hell a hell of a lot easier to bear.

We had an emotional meeting with Dr. Dailey. I got myself a little paclemped trying to thank him for all that he has done to keep me sane and healthy. We talked about next steps and follow-ups and scans - though that's all a little surreal. Because I have had a
persistent cough throughout much of these past few months and had just come off the bad cold I had been fighting, Dr. Dailey thought it best to omit the Bleomycin from my last chemo treatment. So instead, I got a three-liquor cocktail: AVD for my send-off. This is because of the concerns of pulmonary toxicity that can arise from the harsh drug. Its effects could leave me with long-term lung damage. He said he was 5% concerned that the bleo could have negative long-term effects and 0% concerned that omitting it would have any negative outcome on the effectiveness of my treatment course. I was sold. Plus, that shaved a half-hour off of the process!

Luckily, the three of us secured a private room as I think we would have been a bit too rowdy for the common areas. My wonderful nurse Diane came in to "poke my port" one last time.

"Ready. Pinch," she said. The usual routine. It hurt a bit but the needle was in.

"We're out of the small needles so I had to give you a 19-gauger," she said.

"Glad you told me that afterward," I replied. Very smart woman she is.

Big needle or not, my port was not coughing up any blood again. Drawing blood is a necessity of the process and my port just wasn't putting out. That meant a stick in the arm - sigh. For all I went through with fighting to get the port it was a bit frustrating that I'd still have to get stuck, but I was just grateful that it was working well enough to take in the drugs. I can't wait to get that sucker out of my body.

So my buddy Denise came in to do the dirty work. She gave me a stress ball to squeeze and left me with a Sharpie-drawn smiley face on my gauze strip which made me laugh like a doofy little kid. As I've said throughout this, it's the little things like that that really make all the difference. For the rest of the time as the chemo started flowing my smile was as wide as the one on my arm.

Craig, my mom and I talked and joked and reminisced a bit about the crazy ride it's been. Then suddenly this strange beeping noise starts eminating through the center. No one is sure what it is. Then Craig realizes he'd been leaning on the "Pull For Help" button. Apparently no one has ever pulled it because no one knew what the sound was for a good few minutes. Then all came rushing in and had a good laugh over it - Diane saying that was the most fun she had had all day.

We pulled over a table and played Scrabble SLAM - a new favorite game. Especially good for the chemo brained as it only deals with four-letter words - nothing too fancy. We threw out cards and yelled out words as Jack Johnson played in the background and the time passed. I sucked on my ice cubes during the push drugs and snacked on healthy treats to keep my nausea down.

I had just a few ounces left in the Decarbazine bag but could not hold my bladder any longer. I was so afraid that the "end-of-bag alarm" would ding while I was in the bathroom and I wouldn't get to celebrate with everyone. It was a race to the finish, but I made it back to my chemo room to hear those final beautiful, mechanical notes.

At that, it was time to pop the sparkling apple cider that we had brought. But
who knew it would be a pop top? Craig tried desperately to pry it open to no avail. Then once again, Diane to the rescue with a bottle opener from the back room --- for the tough days.

We cheerzed as Diane removed the needle from my port one last time and I was flooded with a rush of freedom. Thank God Almighty, Free at last!

I got all unhooked, said my goodbyes, and left without tears headed for a delicious post-chemo Bertuccis lunch. I don't think it all will hit me until a few months from now when the dust settles and the smoke clears and I can really look back and realize what happened to me and to every
one around me.

Until then, I'm just focused on getting better. That means more Neupogen shots. More scans. More bloodwork. A port removal surgery. I'll be working on piecing myself back together one step at a time.


  1. Karin, sitting here reading this I have Huge tears of Joy running down my cheeks! This is a day to remember the rest of your Long,Long Life. I know you will Celebrate it every year.
    Live Strong, Lynn :)

  2. Ditto the tears. YEA!!!!!!!!

  3. (two words:)


  4. Yay! Couldn't be happier for you!

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  6. Mazel tov!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wooo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hugs and tears and more hugs! -kim, jeremy, leah, and tiffy, lizzie 9of course)

  7. Hi Karin!!

    Go get'em girl! What a great attitude you have!

    I wanted to let you know about an interesting cancer blog a group of cancer patients have been working on.

    A fellow tongue cancer patient was sent home to die. There was nothing more that can be done. Cancer survivors ask him life altering questions.

    Please read:

    Peace B