Powerports, Chemo and Bambi, Oh My!

One of these things is not like the other… Asher had a good chuckle when he discovered this visual reminder of my “chemo brain.”

I spent most of last week wobbly and confused. For some reason I generally refused to give in to my fatigue and nausea and just lie down. Mom always said I was too nosy for my own good and, as usual, she’s right.

Motherhood makes it hard to let go. When you have three kids and a husband all doing different things at different times and the phone is ringing, well, what do you do? Even though your family has told you to go relax, you get up and answer the phone, and trundle into the kitchen to wash some dishes, and wander around vacantly with half an armload of laundry, and eventually find yourself at the grocery store quietly retching because you looked at the bloody ground beef. While there, you try not to touch anyone or anything because you have almost ZERO immunity and have been warned that a single infection will land you in the hospital. This is also why all of a sudden you practically bathe in hand sanitizer, a chemical soup you haughtily bypassed up until very recently in favour of natural soap.

Yes, you green-cleaned your home for years, but now? You are at the grocery store and bleach and lestoil are the first items on your list.

There is a lot to get used to when you start chemo.

There was a trip to Corner Brook for the insertion of a power port. Asher joking that powerport sounds like a tiny speedboat. We were both thinking about our carefree rides on the lake last summer. We didn’t say it. A stop at the gas station by the Springdale exit, the bathroom break, the wisps of fear clouding my vision, a weak smile for the attendant. Sitting in the parking lot of the hospital. Asher on a work call. Me, breathing deep.

The powerport is a portacath – a device implanted in the chest which allows the nurses to access a central line. They can then give chemo without burning up and collapsing the other veins in the body.

I knew I would be awake for the procedure. I wanted to be asleep.

Three burning needles in the chest. Insert the port, access the vena cava with a little tube, suture everything closed. Through it, I spoke with the nurses and doctor about healthcare, their jobs, my job, the experiences of cancer patients, the meaning of life. Their kindness like a blanket as my arms shook. The need to be social overcoming the mushrooming desire to yell “stop.”

We went out for lunch after. On the way into the restaurant I fell up the stairs and startled a workman. He ran over, looking concerned. “It’s ok,” I chirped, “I just had a procedure. See?” Childishly proud of my bandages, I stroked them like a new pet.

Asher whisked me into the restaurant, where I made a concerted effort to be more dignified.

Mom and I enjoy a glass of wine on her deck. Note those lovely bandages 🙂

Then, two days later, my first chemo day. My chest was sore from the port insertion. Early morning blood tests, examination by a doctor, lots of prep to do. The cancer center was peaceful and welcoming. The doctor and nurses were friendly and helpful. My mom was with me.

I should’ve sailed through it… but when the chemo drugs were hooked up to my port I panicked. All of the bags of drugs were marked with “hazard” warnings. The nurses handling the bags were clothed in protective garb. I was certain my throat was closing over – that I was having a huge allergic reaction to this poison.

The nurses flew into action and got my breathing under control. Mom smoothed my forehead. I was amazed how calm people could be when I was so obviously on the verge of dying.

A few minutes later I was happily colouring a Bambi picture, Mom and I laughing as she fanned herself dramatically, imitating me in freak-out mode. My friend Krista was texting, telling me to listen to Bobcaygeon.

Crisis averted.

So, I’m in the second week of my first cycle of chemo now, and I’m still learning. I have 12 rounds to complete, which should take 6 months if all goes well. I’m not knowledgeable enough yet to give tips or advice to anyone else about to embark on this experience. I’m keeping track of everything in my journal so that later on I may be able to do so.

I’ve been thinking about responsibility, and trying to be mindful about how I navigate this challenge. Every now and then I find myself sitting on the edge of the tub thinking, “How did this happen?” and the truth is, I’ll never know. No one knows.

But this problem is mine to manage, for better or for worse.

Bambi learned that tragedy was as much a part of his forest world as joy and beauty. We all must learn and grow and grieve and rejoice within the confines of the imperfect nature of our lives. The hardest trials make us the strongest. I keep my Bambi picture on my writing desk now as a reminder of that.

Whether I asked for it, whether I want it or not – for the next six months, chemo is my teacher.

I call it “Bambi, an Interesting Swarm of Grasshoppers, and the Great Prince of the Forest.”

26 thoughts on “Powerports, Chemo and Bambi, Oh My!

  1. Hi Janine. I am in awe of your blogs. I love how you show the true fear, uncertainties, laughter, and all the other feelings that come with this medical condition and the treatment. My mom had a very similar reaction to her first chemo treatment 23 years ago. She could not get past the “poison” going in her body. I am happy you got through it. When I face challenges (nothing has been in comparison to yours) I no longer ask “why my?”. I now ask “why not me?”. I read this in an interview Arther Ashe had about his AIDS diagnosis. It has helped me put things into perspective during a crisis. Keep the faith. Take time for you and you alone. Cry. Scream. Life’s not fair. Make the most of your situation and smile. As you finish one round of chemo that’s one more down. You got this girl. Fight the monster. Slay the dragon.

    Vicki

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Vicki, for sharing these thoughts and your mom’s experience with chemo. You are right to ask “why not me?” It does put things in perspective – it could be anyone. I am so glad you are enjoying my blog, and thankful to you for taking the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Even though I wish that the pain that you’re going through was not the origin of your writing, I love seeing each new piece show up in my mailbox. There’s so much truth, wisdom, and inspiration in what you write. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I say again: Janine, you are amazing. You’re not sugar-coating your experiences but yet love and hope soak every word. Keep on with the cathartic writing. You have a whole community sending good vibes, love and prayers your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You have done it again: captured a super stressful period in your life with grace, humour, and honesty. Your mantra of balance in all things, and ability to take the bad with the good, is certainly a lesson for us all. Life will hand us roses or brickbats, and we need to learn to successfully handle the latter while appreciating the former. (The picture of the bagel in the dishwasher reminded me of the time a few years ago when I was visiting, and put your car keys in the Cheetos bag-and I didn’t have chemobrain to blame!) Chemotherapy can be a strict- dare I say harsh- teacher: fortunately, you are surrounded by loved ones, and now a network of blog followers, to offer support! Some lucky…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Janine, my dear, you’ve got this! I think of you often. I’m so glad your mom goes to the clinic with you. The staff there is outstanding however it’s nice to have the love of family, I think.
    Linda Kelland

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So beautifully captured….I look forward to your posts. They are real, honest, whimsical, and give me a sense of musician like lyrics each time I read! You will help many with your stories I am certain of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My first chemo was the worst, I think it was the fear of the unknown. I stayed positive and so will you.i rang the Bell of Hope to celebrate my 5 yr suvival on May 29/19.I wish u all the best on your remaining chemo. God Bless

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It is a true sign of strength and selflessness to share your story with others. You probably do not realise how many people will gain perspective and support from you. Being sick and a mother is a struggle in letting go. It isn’t easy to let your family take care of you when you have, for the most part, been the one in charge. You are their heart and soul; healthy, ill and everything in between. Now let them take care of you. Today your story gave me some clarity that I needed as a mom. Thank you. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanne, thank you so much for this thoughtful and supportive comment! It is so true that us moms don’t or can’t let go, often when we really need to. You’re right! I do need to let them take care of me more… and we all need to have faith that our families can do this with grace. It makes us all better.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it’s absolutely amazing that you are sharing your personal journey with us Janine.

    Such a beautiful soul, you are an inspiration to so many.

    I saw this quote the other day and I immediately thought of you:

    “You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

    Thinking of you,

    Lisette S.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, thank you so much, Lisette. I question why I am sharing this sometimes, but I feel I need to share it, and if it helps even one person, I will be happy. So I really appreciate you reaching out to me. It makes me feel confident in my decision to share 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Awesome! Love the honesty. You mix humor and raw painful emotion very effectively. People will learn from your writing. thanks for generously sharing this difficult experience. I believe this blog will be publication worthy if you want that to happen at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Bethanie! Glad you are enjoying the blog. Funny how difficult parts of life often have so many humorous moments… and in Newfoundland it is definitely a part of our culture to laugh at ourselves, mortality, etc. I do hope to publish a book eventually. I appreciate your thoughts 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Janine—

    I stopped by to thank you for liking my post “Wanna Hear About My Colonoscopy?” with some sense of your mission based on the titles WordPress provided.

    I read through these posts—and I fell in love: with your spirit, your personality, your optimism, gutsiness, and your lovely, captivating writing style. I’m a total stranger, but I feel as though I know you well and care about you and your family deeply. How do you manage all that in a few hundred words?

    So I’m now a dedicated cheerleader on Team Janine—here to follow through and encourage you on this journey as you return to good health and resume your normal life.

    Cheers!
    Annie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Annie, Thank you so much for brightening my day as I sit here hooked up for my third round of chemo😊.
      I am so happy to have you on “Team Janine!” I am going to be reading through your blog posts as well – I was so appreciative when I found the excellent article you wrote on getting a colonoscopy. You are raising awareness and that is so important💗

      Liked by 1 person

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