In The Third Person

She feels like she’s looking through a kaleidoscope, only no turn of the wheel ends up on a pretty picture.  No flowers.  No butterflies.  No vistas resembling a peacock’s plume.

“We can’t give you the easier chemo,” her oncologist says as tears stream down her face.

“Why am I finding this out now?  Why did you tell me you were going to do what’s kinder on my health?” she asks incredulously.

“All of that changed the moment we received your HER2 results.  Your cancer is too aggressive to be treated any other way.”

“Give a girl a heads up next time so I could have had some time to prepare!  [Pause.]  So, I’m definitely losing my hair?” she inquires in the midst of her sobs.

Her oncologist nods.  She asks for a few minutes to herself to call her ex-boyfriend from Philadelphia.  She listens to his words of wisdom, realizing that there’s no reason to prolong the inevitable.  Given the lab results, this is the normal protocol.

As she walks into the “Infusion Center,” one nurse comments:

You have the most beautiful hair.

“Fuck,” she replies.

The treatment itself isn’t as bad as she had expected.  Thanks to the mediport, she barely feels the eight IV bags that give her fluids, chemotherapy, herceptin and antibiotics.  She tells the nurses about her propensity for nausea and vomiting and is assured that the current medicines are much better than they used to be.

“Most people just get nauseous with chemo these days.  You probably won’t even throw up,” her nurse informs her.

“Wow! That would be great!”

She goes home and has a light dinner before watching Love Actually with one of her friends.  For a few minutes, she actually thinks to herself that this might not be that bad.

Morning brings exhaustion, which is to be expected.  But then, she can’t stomach sips of water or ginger ale.  Hours later, she ends up on the phone crying to the doctor’s office, while lying on the Oriental rug in the fetal position.

It feels like she’s starring in her own Lifetime movie.

Her friend brings her to the Infusion Center.  Two hours of fluids and anti-nausea meds do the trick, and she heads home with a smile on her face and a little of her appetite back.  Her man comes over that evening and says words so sweet that she wonders if they might actually make it through this together.

He wakes her up with warm kisses on her face, telling her that she will always be sexy to him.  When she sends him on his way to work, she hopes that the worse is behind her.

But, alas, that’s not the case.

That evening requires her to go to the Emergency Room for more fluids and anti-nausea medications.

And then, the following day, she returns to the Infusion Center for more IVs.  She may be new to the world of chemo, but she is a savvy enough patient to realize that three consecutive days of IV therapy after treatment are not the norm.  Only at that time does the Head Nurse mention that she might need to be admitted to the hospital during treatment.

In her dehydrated haze, she forgets to ask:

This time or next time?

But, she’ll remember before she goes to get her second round of chemo in October.  You can bet on that.  She will do whatever she can to ensure that this Lifetime movie does not turn into a miniseries.

She reminds herself that she is one of the lucky ones.

She is blessed.

This was caught early.

She won’t lose her hair for another week or two.

The next year is just one year in a lifetime of years.

Moment-by-moment, she will get through this.

She sobs.  For right at this moment, there is nothing else she feels like doing.

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