Thursday, February 09, 2006

February 8, 2006 - Chemo 2

Claire and I arrive at Dr. Lerner’s office at 9:30 a.m. for my second chemo treatment. She sits in on my discussion with the doctor, then leaves me in the chemo nurses’ capable hands for the rest of the day.

The nurses have some difficulty getting the IV needle into my porta-cath, because it’s deeper under the skin than most people’s. After an abortive attempt, they have to try again with a “large needle.” (I’ll have to remember to ask for that next time, so as not to have to go through this trial-and-error process again.) Even so, the pain is about as bad as a hypodermic injection - worse than my routine blood tests (for which they use such a fine needle I can hardly feel it), but still very manageable.

Early in my treatment, I have a wonderful, unexpected visit from Don, our friend who's an NHL survivor and who received his chemo treatments from the same medical group. He stays for 15 minutes or so, and it does help to make the time go faster.

Once the drugs start flowing, I immediately start to feel drowsy. They tell me the intravenous Benadryl is responsible for that. It’s the familiar over-the-counter antihistamine, but in a massive dose – this to minimize the body’s reaction to the Rituxan. I set out some books on the table by the lounge chair, but never open them. Once the Benadryl starts flowing, the drowsiness makes it too hard to concentrate. Instead, I watch TV.

After my first experience three weeks ago, I learned that each of the TVs in the little private rooms they use for chemo infusions has a built-in VCR. So, I’ve come prepared this time with a couple of videos. One of the films I watch is an old favorite of ours, a little South African film called The Gods Must Be Crazy. It’s a wacky and touching comedy about a Bushman (aborigine) from the Kalahari Desert in Africa, who happens to see a Coke bottle fall from the sky, dropped by the pilot of a passing airplane. He doesn’t know where it came from, so when he sees it plop down in the sand near his feet, he assumes it’s a gift from the gods. These people are so remote – subsistence hunter-gatherers – that they have no idea what this thing is. They find it a useful tool for all sorts of purposes. Eventually, the man who found it realizes that the members of their little band are fighting over the Coke bottle so much that he concludes it must be evil. He resolves to go on a long journey to drop it off the edge of the earth, so the gods can have the pesky thing back.

On the way, he encounters civilization, which for him is not a good thing. Through a series of misadventures, he ends up under the care of a rather inept, Crocodile Dundee-type biologist and his native sidekick, and is able to offer his superior stalking and tracking skills to help them rescue some schoolchildren who’ve been kidnapped by some revolutionary guerrilla fighters. There’s a subplot about the shy biologist having a crush on the children’s schoolteacher, and the bushman is able to help with that situation, too. He walks off, at the end, to return to his people. The last we see of him, the cash reward money he has earned is blowing away in the wind - for of what use are these little scraps of paper in his world?

Anyway, it was an interesting experience watching this film, while hooked up to machinery to receive some of the highest of high-tech medicines. Western medicine is certainly effective, but it’s fantastically expensive. I’m grateful to have medical insurance to pick up at least some of the cost. There are still people in the world who live off the land, as the Kalahari bushmen do, and undoubtedly have their own disease remedies. I wonder if cancer is even an issue, in their world?

Claire stops by again around 5:00, and sits with me until I’ve received the last drop. We return home, and I pick at the delicious meat loaf dinner one of our church members brought. I sit on the couch for a while as the now-familiar queasiness and headache intensify, before going to bed.

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