Learning Curve.

Posted on August 5, 2014


IMG_3140Week one will always be remembered as my indoctrination into the depths of cancer treatment side effects. It seemed hourly that Cassie and I were analyzing and re-analyzing every aspect of my living.

The daily radiation treatments quickly became routine, one additional errand I had to accomplish each morning. I’d first check in at the oncology front desk– little more than a ‘how ya doin’ today?’ –as the staff and I quickly moved to a first name basis. Then head through the VIP door to the abnormally un-hospital-esque and welcoming radiation therapy waiting room. Always prompt, the techs would greet me and we’d head back to the radiation cave.

It’s amazing how fast this once alien process becomes normal. It was only a couple weeks ago, I had zero knowledge of anything in this realm. Heck, I only recently learned the rectal cancer ribbon color is dark blue (we were all kind of hoping it was brown, right? No such luck).

The cumulative nature of radiation suggests that this portion of my current treatments weren’t the cause of my current illness. I have ‘week 3’ mentally circled on my calendar, as I’m informed that’s the time when my under-butt and #2’s will play fisticuffs with the rest of my body.

Meanwhile, my manpurse and I have come to an agreement with each other. I carry around a small canvas bag I purchased in the Philippines to hold my camera while Cassie and I navigated the country. Now it stays by my side day and night, holding my chemo drugs and pump. I’ve come to hate the quiet wrrrrzzzzztttt sound it makes every couple minutes as it forces more poison into my heart. Just as almonds may forever make me queasy after vomiting them up last week, this sound became indelibly associated with unending nausea.

Caution?!! That can't be good.

Caution?!! That can’t be good.


It typically came in waves of 1-3 hours in duration. I’d be in the midst of designing report covers or a newsletter, a wave would hit me and my world had to stop. The fetal position on the couch was the only hint at relief. Cass and I would quickly analyze everything that led up to this… are you too hungry? Are you too full? Did you drink enough? of what? What did you eat last? When? Were you sitting up too long? Every nauseated stare into my trusty blue bucket was a chance to figure out what we could do to avoid this happening again.

But it happened… and happened… I had nuggets of food stashed all over the house, even next to my bed so I could eat something at night to avoid waking up empty and behind the eight-ball. I thought I was supposed to feel this way, I was on chemotherapy after all, but this was rough. Finally I told my treatment team about this game and they hooked me up with a stronger batch of anti-nausea pills. A little life lesson not to tough things out…

When I opened up the small white box of pills, no lie, I witnessed a beam of sunshine burst out, illuminating the adult diapers stacked against the store walls. Then a dozen white doves flew to their newfound freedom and unicorns emerged, galloping down the row of laxatives. Perhaps an apology is overdue to Three Bears Pharmacy for cleaning up the unicorn glitter I left behind. If you don’t think magic is real, than you never took Zofran while on chemotherapy. I’m tempted to say it was almost blissful being somewhat myself again.

By Friday I was feeling alright, a huge improvement from earlier in the week. My chemo unplugging was uneventful, as was my radiation, and I was set loose to get after the weekend.

117 (7)This particular weekend happened to be the Butte 100 mountain bike race. In other words, the culmination of a hundreds of hours of my work over the last year. I prepped the group that I likely wouldn’t be able to make it up on race day and they should plan on me not being there. But it’s amazing how you feel when every cell of your body is no longer being attacked. The race was executed beautifully, thanks to so many people that help out and I made it to the course to photograph the racers and announce the podium ceremony. A small window in an otherwise tough week.

As strange as it sounds, when Monday of week two came around, I was excited to get to the hospital. I felt more informed and much better armed against the puke-inducing side effects of where I find myself.

I even felt well enough to take my chemotherapy for a bike ride to my Tuesday radiation appointment.

Gosh, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write…



Posted in: Cancer