Cancer: an introverts special kind of hell
Another week, another chemo. Almost passed out having my IV put in (if you read last week’s post you will know how much I love, love, love needles.) They gave me some lidocaine goo to put on my arm for next week, but not sure how that helps with the anxiety.
But anyway. Yeah, cancer sucks, having cancer as an extreme introvert sucks even more. I know no one expects me to be “on” all the time, but my brain says I need to be. A friendly greeting for the covid screening lady and the receptionist at the lab. Chatter with the nurse who takes my blood and puts in the IV. Up to the fourth floor, another receptionist and then a chat with the nurses assistant who takes my vitals and asks me if I have any pain. Have you fallen in the last week? Do you worry about falling? I’m guessing she doesn’t mean the constant anxiety of tripping over my own two feet and falling flat on my face in some public setting.
Then on to the weekly nurse or doctor’s visit (yesterday was the first time I’ve seen my oncologist since treatment started, kind of weird, but I like my regular nurse too.) Same questions the NA asked. But then we get to talk about leg cramps and chest pain and poop. Does anyone feel comfortable talking about poop? Do you call it poop? And still I feel like I need to be in a “good mood.” I need to be pleasant even though I spent a good chunk of the weekend feeling like my digestive system was trying to kill me and the nerves in my legs are just firing off at random.
Onwards, up to the fifth floor, another receptionist. He’s sweet and funny and wears a huge crystal necklace on a chain. On every floor they offer you a bottle of water or a tiny can of apple juice. Very rarely do I take one and this week was the first time I asked for a can of ginger ale during infusion. I hate asking for stuff, I will bring in a twenty pound bag of snacks to avoid asking for cheese and crackers.
In the infusion room the questions start again. And they take your vitals all over, even though it’s been less than an hour since they took them the first time. It has become a bit of a game to see how much my blood pressure changes in that hour. I’ve never understood how as someone with shoulders up to their ears anxiety can pull a near perfect score every single time. Small wins.
Can I get you anything the nurse’s assistant asks? No, I’m good thanks. (Okay, I do ask for an extra pillow, to put under my arm, since I can’t bend it much when the infusion starts.)
Then the infusion nurse comes in, asks me to spell my name, asks my birthday, goes over my vitals and what meds I’m getting today. How are you feeling? How did you feel after last week? I heard you had some dizziness? Then we wait for the pharmacy to deliver my toxic cocktail.
Can I get you anything?
After chemo, I get in the car and drive to a different hospital for proton therapy. Radiation is definitely taking a bigger toll on my body but I kind of enjoy the people there more. The woman who works the front desk is lovely and her day job is related to my day job, so we have lots to talk about. The radiation tech girls are funny and hilarious and I guess that’s good, since they have to see my boobs every night. They ask how I’m doing and then we chatter about other things completely unrelated to cancer. The radiation nurses I see on Thursdays are fabulous, in every sense of the word (like hand in the air fab-u-lous.)
But, oh my god. I swear by the end of the night I am more exhausted from having to talk to people all day than I am from treatment or from having cancer. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about the big C. I just don’t want to talk, at all.
On the positive side, I am halfway through. And although it is starting to kick my ass, I am still functioning, still doing stuff. I see so many people in the waiting areas and hear folks talking in the next infusion bay over and realize I am doing really well. Even my hair is still fully attached.