June 17, 2011
Opening day for my chemo summer felt like a win – I didn’t notice any physical side effects from the Rituxan. The coach’s locker room speech after the game was tough to listen to. It was taxing on the mind, thinking about all the drugs I have to take in order to get through this. As soon as my mind starts to wander, the coach smacks his hands together and tells me to get back on the bus. We got an early game tomorrow.
We headed back to the office the next morning. We were short a few players: only Erica and I went for today’s trip. I started the day with some breakfast – a real veteran move. Followed up with a 100 mg of most offensive pills in the game, the “P” in “R-CHOP”, prednisone. It’s like scientists found a way to concentrate the bitter taste of orange juice after brushing your teeth and stuffed it into a pill. The taste instantly sticks to your tongue and leaves a nasty residue that doesn’t wash off. The taste of these pills would make Jager a refreshing pallet cleanser.
Jojo came and got me from the waiting room. I took the same seat in the corner. She had to start me on a fluid bag before my first serving of chemo cocktail. I then realized we never talked about what to do about my future brood. Erica and I don’t have any kids, but our mothers are dying for us to we would love to in the near future. We just found out two days ago I would be starting chemo and we overlooked some minor details. Like, can we have kids after chemo? Do I need to freeze my little swimmers before the chemo drowns them?
I asked Jojo. Her head tilted back and her eyes widened. “Yeah, you should do that,” she tells us in a bit of shock. Probably something we should have taken care of before my arm was hooked up to an IV, seconds away from starting on my first chemo bag. We started to panic, but luckily for us, there just so happened to be a fertility clinic conveniently located down the hall. Coincidence?
This clinic was our only hope. We didn’t exactly have time to read Yelp reviews of nearby sperm banks. The fate of our children’s lives rested on the clinic accepting deposits today.
I finished up on the fluid bag while Erica talked to the fertility clinic. Jojo needed us to hurry so we could finish the chemo today, since it was Friday. It was go time…again! Speed up the camera and turn on the Yakety Sax. Erica ran down the hall to the fertility clinic to see if they can take me in right now. She got the info and ran back down the hall to give me the low down. The doctor wasn’t in and the person who normally does the consultations was out too, but they would be happy to take our money help us. I still had a bunch of questions: do they take insurance? How much does it cost? Do I “go” by myself and if so, what kind of “visual aids” do they provide? Erica clicked out her Heelys and strolled back down the hall to ask, while Jojo bandaged my arm up. Poor Erica was running back and forth between the offices like Cleo McDowell trying to stall the king in his living room. If only there was some sort of mobile device that allowed us to talk to each other instead doing all of this running.
With my arm bandaged up, we paced down the hall to the fertility clinic in a panic rush. Shaking our heads at each other, thinking, “Why can’t anything go smoothly?” Inside the clinic, the waiting room walls were decorated with pictures of happy families and their healthy babies. I noticed a picture of the doctor with Phil Donahue – this place looks legit. The receptionist at the clinic had me fill out a stack of paperwork. Erica texted away, updating the team on the day’s turn of events. I finished filling out, signing and initialing every page of their forms. If only there was a machine that could enter all my personal info onto every page before they printed it out. The only person who could check insurance was out of the office today. I don’t think this was a coincidence. However, they were able to charge our credit card without any problem. All joking aside, we were grateful they were able to accommodate. Not for the sake of our future children! No, we just didn’t want to hear it from our nagging mothers. A nurse came back to get me. I turned back to Erica in the waiting room and invited her to help me. With her eyes glued to her iPhone, she just shook her head and gave me a firm, “no.”
Thirty seconds later I was back in the chemo barstool to start my treatment. The whole episode was ridiculous. Today has been like participating in some crazy triathalon: Run + Shoot + Chemo. What the hell? Now that I saved my future generations, it was time for Man vs. Food: Chemo Cocktail Challenge.
Bartender Jojo grabbed the shaker and started making my cocktail. First she poured the liquor, a clear chemo, Cyclophosphamide. She told me I have to let her know if it starts to hurt my veins, because this stuff can collapse them. Better make that a double, Jojo! After that bag, she Tom Cruise-flipped a liqueur over her head and caught it behind her back. This was some red drank, Doxorubicin Hydrochloride. Awesome, I get the red girly chemo? Pinkies up!
I didn’t mind the first bag of the clear stuff, but there’s some weird psychological thing that happens when you see this red drug being siphoned into you. They couldn’t make it a calming color…like, clear?! You just feel gross seeing that red stuff go down. Immediately after I finished the bag, my body started changing. I became an enraged, giant red monster. I ran through the wall of the office next to us, screaming, “oh yeah!” Jojo was expecting this to happen so she gave me my next drink, Vincristine Sulfate. It was a shot, literally. It’s a small dosage syringe that she hooked up to the IV. I soon returned to my normal, pasty self. I was all finished with my first chemo cocktail. I think we’ll call it, “CHO-Mama.” I don’t recommend it. I can’t say that it was all that bad – I was told it could turn my pee red. I’ve never had the red light saber. I jumped right out of the chair and headed to the bathroom as The Imperial March played on.
Since my journey started, we’ve been on the ups and downs, and twists and turns of this crazy rollercoaster. Today may have been the wildest: Erica running back and forth between the offices, me having to perform under pressure (in a cup!) and then rushing back to my first chemo. It was crazy.
Physically I felt ok after this treatment, but there’s no escaping the ill thoughts of these chemicals running through my body. I completed my first R-CHOP, but this is just the beginning. I still have all my homework pills to take. I have to take Allupurinol for thirty days. When Rituxan breaks down tumor cells, it creates toxins. These toxins just absorb into the body, which can lead to kidney failure. Allopurinol helps prevent that. I have two types of anti-nausea medicines to help with the side effects of chemo. Then the bitter, rotten cherry on top of all this is four more days of prednisone. I will have to take 100mg of prednisone for five days after every treatment. I’m gonna have to get over that taste or get creative. Not only does it taste awful, but also it comes with many side effects. Aside from allowing me to crush fastballs over the fence, this steroid can give me indigestion, constipation and insomnia. Not to worry, I have pills for that, too.