The first slap

The first slap
This photo was taken the day after I was diagnosed, and it is my first bitch slap at cancer. I'm the one with the icepack symbolically placed on my boob. My teammates changed our team's uniform to pink at the last minute, and I came off the soccer field that night with one goal and a whole lot of love. Several of these women are my close friends, but they are all warriors, and they all helped me set the tone for this fight.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Going with the flow

I'm sitting here in the chemo suite this Wednesday morning, port accessed and awaiting my pre-meds: Zofran, dexamethazone, Ativan, Aloxi, and Emmend. Quite a cocktail, and those aren't even the chemotherapies (Adriamycin and Cytoxan). A few minutes ago, my friend Cathrine emailed me the following image, which I love:

Note that the red beverage matches the red drug Adriamycin. I love this because it illustrates both humor (an absolutely essential component of treatment) and confidence in the power of the drugs. But it also conveys the potential celebratory aspect of chemo. I say "potential" because I doubt that many think of the infusion of highly toxic chemicals into the body, and the accompanying nasty side effects, as cause for celebration. However, I do believe there are things to celebrate in this process. The obvious things, which those who are adept at seeing the silver lining in such experiences may note, include the knowledge that treatment is working, and that every infusion amounts to a fairly significant bitch slap against the disease, as well as the continued joy in all aspects of life outside of Cancerville. But it is also worth celebrating the resiliency of the human body and mind as they undergo chemotherapy.

Two weeks ago, one of the nurses in the chemo suite advised me to "go with the flow" with respect to the exhaustion and the body's need to sleep, and that was excellent advice. This is also the case with the mental fuzziness, or chemo-brain, that accompanies this course of treatment. I have no need to fight these side effects. Although there is a teeny part of me that worries about the work I am not getting done, my body needs the sleep, and sleep is an extraordinary restorative process. It is, counter-intuitively, a beautiful thing to witness from the inside out what my body does to heal itself; to remain as healthy and functional as possible in the face of toxicity. Now I'm not "going with the flow" with the nausea as much. Instead, I am doing what I can to counteract it through both medication and diet. And yet, nausea too is a sign of my body's automatic processes of managing the assault of chemotherapy. It is not fun, and it is not pretty; it is in fact rather shitty. But when we view that as the response of an otherwise healthy body, it can also be viewed as a sign of resiliency and strength.

Emotional resiliency is tougher to achieve, but I am finding that recognizing and embracing the ability of my body to manage the physical side effects helps me shift my frame to one that is more psychologically manageable. Drugs help, too, no doubt about it. So in some ways, going with the flow with respect to the emotional and psychological toll of this means embracing the fact that getting the help of anti-anxiety medicines and occasional sedatives is not a sign of weakness, but rather can indicate strength. (See my post on strength and grace.)

In addition to my body's automatic responses that indicate resiliency, I am celebrating a very good second week post-infusion. I was able to eat regularly, and actually exercised a few times, albeit lightly. What gifts! These are things to celebrate. And now, as I wrap up this post, the Ativan is taking effect, and I am beginning to fade into loopy-land. I will be going with this flow with humor, confidence, and as celebratory a tone as I can muster.

Cheers, Y'All!


  1. Lara, I had the privilege of sitting with you during today's treatment and your pre-treatment medical appointment. All my positive impressions have been reinforced. Dr. MGP is great and the infusion center is a very professional, high quality operation with a fine personal touch -- even upbeat, if there is such a thing for cancer chemotherapy. I was also impressed with your perspective, insightful dialog with your providers, and general attitude.

    Now a few hours later, still no nausea, but at the cost of fairly heavy sedation. With both lorazepam (Ativan) given IV to help prevent nausea, plus a dose of prochlorperazine (Compazine) -- another anti-nauseant with sedative properties when she arrived home, you're sleeping comfortably and apparently without nausea so far.

    A big hug and a kiss--- Dr. Dad

  2. Lara: Another wonderful, insightful, uplifting post by you. And I'm glad Dr. Dad could be there with you.

    Much love, Mom

  3. Lara, your ability to see (and convey to us) that there can actually be a positive side of chemo is both remarkable and inspiring! And, besides your sense of humor, you also seem to have a very good balance between what you can do something about (anti-nausea medication) and where going with the flow is the best approach (being in sleepy la la-land really does not sound too bad). Just understanding that balance must be another way you are helping your body heal. Cathrine PS. That cocktail really does look good:-)


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