Every other week I have a date with a leather lazy boy chair. I get there early, just after dropping my kids off at school. Coffee in hand, I make my way into this small cancer center near my home. I've been going here for years and yet, in some ways, I never get used to it.
I am at the cancer center to get my medicine. Using the port in my right arm I get the drugs that are part of my maintenance routine. I actually went through all of my initial treatment without a port, but after a couple of years of trying to find a vein at least monthly I had one put in. It’s a great thing, my port. My only wish is that everyone was trained to access it. As for my drugs there is Zometa, Faslodex, and Herceptin. On a day that I get it all I am there for more than 3 hours.
Most people don’t even know about my other life. The life of a patient. It isn’t something that comes up in conversation. And if it does, well, no one really wants to hear that I still use drugs to stay well. For people who have never dealt with cancer, being hooked up to an IV sounds like someone who is still pretty sick.
I don’t really fit in at the cancer center either. I mean the nurses there are great, and they know me quite well. Aside from them though, most everyone is much older than me. "They have lived long lives," I can’t help but think as I look around. They wonder about me too, I know. Wonder what a young(er) woman with a full head of hair is getting in her clear liquid.
I play the patient role well. I show up in sweats, with my port covered in EMLA and a band-aid. I recline my chair and kick off my shoes. I take my premeds and wait for the pharmacy to bring the good stuff. Sometimes I even say yes to the offer of a warm blanket. It is easy to be weak here. There are people to wait on me when I can barely take care of myself. This certainly doesn’t inspire me to take on the world.
Once I am hooked up, I recline my chair and wait. Sometimes I talk with the nurses or read a little. On occasion I even blog. Most days I end up falling asleep, the Benadryl getting the best of me. I wake to the loud beeping announcement signaling no more fluid.
I don’t really care for myself as a patient. It brings about neediness and laziness which I must overcome. I leave grateful for the medicine, but contemplating how it all makes me feel. Over time I have realized I feel much better when I have eaten well and gone for a run, rather than hung out at the cancer center. I guess those are the days that I don’t have to be a patient. I think I can understand why people don’t want to know about my secret life.
ABOUT HEATHER JOSE:
Diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at 26, Heather Jose chose to fight the cancer head on putting together a plan to battle cancer on a daily basis. Nine years later Heather is healthy and using her experiences to reach healthcare providers and patients about how much their actions and words can impact success.
Heather is the author of “Letters to Sydney: Every Day I am Killing Cancer” and a contributing writer for the Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine. Heather also blogs at www.GoBeyondTreatment.com and www.Mlive.com/health. Jose lives in Michigan with her husband, children, and pets.
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