Mom is on the 2nd cycle of the current chemo, and two out of three treatments of this cycle are behind us. There is one more treatment this Friday, July 13th and then a break for a couple of weeks. Last Friday’s appointment went quite smoothly. Sasha has gone to every chemo treatment so far and this was the first appointment I went to and got to see what happens “on the inside”. It was a gorgeously sunny day and dad, mom and I drove there together. On the way we prayed that mom would get a good nurse this week. Not all nurses have the same level of compassion and kindness and it makes such a difference when mom gets someone good. With dad driving, it also means door to door service which is great! It being a beautiful sunny day seemed to make everything just a little nicer, even the hope that the side effects would be better this week than last.
When you enter the Surrey BCCA lobby, you check in at the front counter and then sit down and wait to be called inside by the nurse assigned to you that day. The area inside, also known as the “chemo room”, is actually quite a large space and has different nooks and spaces they refer to as pods which have 3-4 lazyboy type of seats. The nurse settles you in and conducts a short interview with some standard questions about the past week, side effects, appetite, constipation, pain and pain management etc. We also talked a bit about strategies for maintaining weight, as mom has lost a significant amount of weight since February. Our understanding is that the nurse also has access to the blood tests from the day before and these are also reviewed by Dr. O.
Before the chemotherapy can begin, the port where the IV is inserted needs to get flushed and the poke itself is always painful and causes mom anxiety. Our nurse on Friday was super, she was both friendly and professional, and just seemed very comfortable and assuring in what she was doing. She gave mom an ice pack and even her poking mom was done swiftly and kindly. Each patient can bring in only one person with them and we are given a chair to sit next to mom’s more comfy seat. It was a bustling place on a Friday afternoon and I found it interesting to see various other people and their loved ones, each with their own story and own cancer journey – some sleeping, others chatting, some reading, others praying. Dad and I switched out about half way through so he could hang out with mom while I caught a little vitamin D outside!
As I mentioned before, we have been noticing a general pattern that mom doesn’t feel so great for 2-3 days after treatment, and usually starts to feel stronger after that. This general pattern though is not consistent enough to be able to make plans ahead of time. For example, after the June 29th treatment, it was that evening and the next two days when mom was in quite a bit of pain, had the shivers, was very weak, no appetite etc. This past treatment was different – mom seemed stronger and ok after the treatment and although she slept quite a bit on Saturday, she felt a lot better than the week before, even to the point that we went for a walk that evening. However, the days that have followed since have been generally painful, uncomfortable with digestion and just overall feeling worse than the week before. Sometimes it is just so hard to know what would help to make things better – symptoms and side-effects aren’t cookie cutter, so there isn’t one answer that fits all. Currently, mom takes regular hydro-morph medications as her base for pain management, however a significant side effect of these can be constipation which needs to be managed and monitored closely. Sometimes the pain that mom feels is not easily identified (as in what is causing it) so knowing what steps to take to ease the pain, isn’t a simple feat. We learn by trial and error, by calling the home-care nurse, but contacting the doctor on call, going to the ER or even consulting each other etc. but even that doesn’t always translate to knowing what to do in the future, since the next day the pain, symptoms and circumstances may be totally different.
I do want to say though that on Tuesday evening things felt almost the same as before mom got sick, even just for an hour or two. Maria and her kids were over at mom and dad’s, as used to be the routine. Mom and Maria cooked some “palacinky” for the kids, which again used to be the routine meal the kids just love at mom and dad’s. Mom seemed to feel better and we were all able to sit down at the table together. It felt so nice to just have that sense of normalcy even if for a short time. It serves as a reminder that there can be more times like this ahead! Tonight, Sasha, mom and I ventured out for a short walk to Rocky Point. It was a beautiful evening and we had ice cream, and enjoyed the ocean air, music and energy of people all around. Getting fresh air and a little bit of sun felt healing and good for the soul. And so while the pain and discomfort that mom is experiencing these days can be debilitating at times, we manage to squeeze in small unplanned activities whenever possible. Tonight’s walk opened up our lungs, gave us a change of scenery and provided us with the opportunity to be grateful for the gift of another day.