Yesterday I had my fifth round of chemo.
Since I’ve already had one round of this particular drug, called docetaxel, or Taxotere, I know it means business. First, they put you on steroids for a few days to ward off possible allergic reactions. Yes, steroids – the bon-bons of pro-wrestlers and muscle-heads. It’s a bit weird, but at least I have the energy to run circles around my toddler for a few days.
Then I stop taking the steroids just as the side effects of chemo kick in, and it starts to get ugly. Last time I had a raw, ragged mouth and throat that took all the joy out of eating and drinking (two of my favourite pastimes.) Worse was the constant, deep, aching joint-pain that radiated out to my muscles, causing them to sort of seize up and stay that way for days.
In the info booklet provided by the drug company that makes Taxotere, its effect is described as causing the walls of cells to stiffen so they can’t reproduce or grow. To me this sounds a little understated considering the chaos that is wreaked upon my body, so I have concocted my own theory about what’s really happening. In my unscientific way I rationalize that the chemo is attacking the factory (in my bones) that produces very fast-reproducing cells (like cancer cells) and we’re not letting anyone in that factory without a work permit. Normally I’m kind of laissez-faire on the subject of work visas and generally suspicious of factory owners, but in this case, not so much. I say find the interlopers, pound the crap out of them, and back to work with the permit-holders. I think of chemo drugs as my thugs, my henchmen, in there to clean the place up a little. The factory may quake with the violence of it, but it’s my factory dammit, and I want order restored.
Of course, being henchmen and by nature not too discriminating about where they land their blows, there is a lot of pounding of “good” cells right along with the interlopers. So this time I’ve asked for and received more drugs for pain. Even better, my family and friends have banded together to chip in for a massage therapist to come to me every single day next week. This is an astonishing thing to do and much as I’m dreading the onset of the pain that will require such care, I’m practically giddy about the incredible relief I know it will bring. I’m also reminded that I’m not alone as I go through this. I’m surrounded by people who keep committing these outrageous acts of love and support to get me through my darkest days. Big blitzes, or little random love bombs – ka-boom! – they just keep going off in my vicinity, lighting my way.
So, Taxotere, bring on the henchmen, do your thing. I know I’ll get through it – and when the dust settles I’ll toast my thugs and my loved ones alike. Just as soon as I can drink something toast-worthy again without wincing.