Here is some background information about my FORMER condition. I was diagnosed with mantle-cell lymphoma in November 2005. At that time, my oncologist, in concurrence with a mantle-cell specialist in Madison, said there was no rush to treatment. That seemed odd to me, because if there is cancer in your body, don't you want to attack it immediately?!
Actually, the better option was the "Watch & Wait" plan. The justification was that the tumor burden was low and my overall health (aside from having cancer!) was good. That meant that I'd have a CT Scan on a quarterly basis and when it became obvious that treatment was necessary, then we'd start.
This turned out to be a great plan from a psychological standpoint. It gave me an opportunity to "pretend" I really didn't have cancer. After all, when we face something as terrible as cancer, don't we just want to make that whole bad situation just go away? For two years, I was able to pretend I didn't have cancer, and life was normal. But then scans and enlarging lymph nodes on my face reminded me of the truth. Eventually, I did have to start chemotherapy, and that was a blow to my psyche.
I remember the day my doctor discussed chemotherapy with me and the initial course of treatment; I was very dejected. My time of playing pretend was over, and the reality of being a cancer patient started to sink in all over again. I'll be honest: I was sad and I was scared. Everything I've ever heard about chemotherapy and the impact it has on the human body was becoming a truth in my mind. My imagination was getting the best of me, and I was thinking terrible thoughts about what was about to happen to me.
Fortunately, none of it was true. The first cycle of chemotherapy was surprisingly tame on my body. I remember when the first bag was hung, and I watched the chemicals go into my body. I was wondering how soon I'd start getting sick to my stomach. I half expected to see hair jumping off my body. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well I was able to tolerate these cycles of chemotherapy. When you let your mind run wild, you'll find your fears gripping your thought process, and you'll create your own reality.
For several months, we continued on various combinations of chemo drugs and monitored their impact on my cancer. There were good results and then there were slowed results. Then a decision had to be made. My doctor wanted to start a new chemo drug, but its nature was risky for smaller blood vessels. He said I should get a "port." After I was told what a "port" was, my psyche took another hit. Suddenly I began to realize everything was getting just a bit more serious. If I didn't get the port, then this new chemo drug would be difficult to administer.
I got the port, and it made all chemotherapy much easier. It took a bit to make this decision; I had to jump over all my misconceptions that everything was falling apart. This was nothing more than another step in the big battle against cancer. Eventually the port would be removed so I could get an external PICC line — but that's a whole different article.
Suffice it to say you will hear things, and you will experience things in your battle against cancer that may scare you. Talk with the experts and listen to what they are saying. They will walk you through the process and calm your fears. In my situation, my doctor and his team of nurses walked me through the process of getting a port and what that meant; that calmed my fears and helped me make the right decisions.
The PICC line? That was for my stem cell transplant — but again, that's another article and another big step in treatment. Here's the good news: All those treatments brought me to the point I am at right now — cancer free (and that's going on four years now).
Share Your Thoughts
What was your chemotherapy experience like? Is there anything you want to tell cancer patients before they start treatment? Share your comments below.