Friday, September 4, 2009

Under pressure

"Nat, as a registered nurse, I just want to warn you about something. It's not so much the chemotherapy or the radiation therapy, but I'm worried about the retail therapy. If you have overextended credit it could lead to some vomiting, or you might have a burning sensation in your wallet. You might want to watch that!"

This was the message I received from my Uncle Steve after I got back to my apartment and he's not far from the truth! Good thing I only need 4 treatments or I'd be broke.

On August 20 I was scheduled for my first chemotherapy treatment. My mom picked me up at 7:30 so we could be at the cancer centre for 8:00. I was nervous but nothing too crazy. I more wanted to just get things started so they'd be over sooner than anything else. However, my eye had been twitching for the past 2 or 3 weeks and I'd had stronger-than-usual headaches, so I knew all was not well. The first thing they did was hook me up to a blood pressure cuff. One of the chemo drugs they would give me (docetaxel) can increase blood pressure, so my readings needed to be taken every 15 minutes while it's being administered.

"Hmm...that's pretty high," said the nurse. "You're probably nervous, aren't you? I'll give you a sedative." She gave me a tiny white pill to slip under my tongue and started the pre-chemo anti-nausea drip. She only had to poke me twice before she got the IV in.

Of course, when people are poking me and tutting over blood pressure, it does nothing at all to help. My mom was being all alarmed over how high it was and the nurse kept saying she'd let me sit for 10 more minutes to see if it would come down. People (ie, mothers) freaking the hell right out and saying things like stroke and heart attack is not an effective way of calming someone down. (To be fair, my numbers were ridiculous. Like, 165/110 kind of ridiculous.)

Think calming thoughts

They gave me 2 doses of the sedative but all it made me want to do is slip into a pulse-racingly high-thumping sleep. In addition to blood presure problems, apparently my white blood cell count was lowish as well, so after about 45 minutes of resting and waiting, they decided to send me home. They told me to go to my family doctor to get something for my high blood pressure. I know what - how about not having to go through chemo? I'd say that's an almost immediate guarantee to bring me back to normal!

My mom and I went to my doctor and I was set up with some samples to try to bring my blood pressure down. And then we went shopping.

Treatment #1 was rescheduled for September 1. (By the way, that's a mere 4 months after first finding out I had cancer. Does that seem fast to you? It seems fast to me.)

I tried not to be anxious about the day as it approached. I was on blood pressure medication but it only seemed to help at home. As soon as I would go to the oncologist or my family doctor for a check, my numbers would be high again. My doctor assured me that as long as it was managed at home, I should be fine. I just happen to have a sensitive system that magnifies any sort of outside influence.

Again, my mom picked me up and we went to the cancer centre. Again, they hooked me up to the stupid blood pressure cuff and jabbed me with a needle to hook up my IV. Again, my numbers were high and they gave me the small, white pill as a sedative. This time, though, my numbers came down enough to convince them to go ahead with the chemo drugs. I sat in the armchair for four and a half hours, successfully manipulating my chords and drips to the bathroom once. My mom read me the paper and we played sudoku. I dozed. The drugs dripped.

And then I was done! Free! To go shopping!

Purchases after the aborted chemo treatment:
  • 4 head scarves (why not be bald AND fashionable?)
  • Bottle of Angel by Thierry Mugler (which was totally worth it and I can't stop smelling myself when I wear it)
  • A fabulous purple purse (who doesn't need a purple purse?)
  • A brown purse (it was cheap and cute)
  • A big bottle of pomegranate juice (complete with powerful antioxidants)


Purchases after the actual chemo treatment:
  • A Booster Juice (Sonic Soy, the best one there is)
  • Pair of black leather sandals (comfortable for walking)
  • Pair of black leather sandals (dressier and not really good for walking)
  • A white purse (it was on sale and I didn't get that colour last time!)

I'm not sure what I'm going to buy myself next time, but I'll be sure to think of some delightful items I couldn't possibly live without. Hey, if I'm going to suffer through this light-headedness, grogginess, and surprisingly orange diarrhea (just for fun, do an internet search on that last one), I'm going to do it smelling and looking fabulous. And shopping brings down blood pressure, I'm just sure of it!

The yellow survivor's shirts at the 2009 Relay For Life


  1. Is it weird that I want to smell you?

    I'm glad that things are going so well!

  2. I'm happy to hear that it went so well. That you even wanted to go shopping afterwards is incredible.

  3. We're hearing a lot about the Canadian health care system lately here in the States. Am I to understand that the hospital doesn't send you away from every chemo treatment with some spending money, specifically for this retail therapy you speak of?

    Anyway...I didn't see any music on your lists of things purchased, so perhaps I can whip something up in my copious free time.

  4. Savia - it's totally normal that you want to smell me. I get that a lot.

    Schmutzie - I've heard from several people that the day of chemo is the day the feel the best in the whole first week. So far that's been the case for me, too.

    EJP - Oh, but you should see the nifty parting gifts they gave me! Prochlorperazine, ranitidine, and dexamethasone (oh my!). All for free! And music therapy is ALWAYS appreciated!

  5. Next shopping trip should include a cozy shawl, some fun boots and me!