Thursday, October 30th was the day we have waited for since Dan’s diagnosis on September 16th. Trust me, he has been anxious to do something; to act, to fight. We had to wait four weeks post radiation treatments in order for Dan to qualify for all requirements as a participant in a clinical trial for 1 of his 3 drugs. It has been a long wait. We have been full of anticipation and dread at the same time. I can speak for the both of us by saying that the anticipation of his first chemotherapy (and all of its potential side effects) seems to be worse than it actually is (so far). Every patient reacts differently to the 3 drugs he is taking and we won’t know Dan’s side effects until they happen. Most likely to occur: hair loss, nausea. Maybe some ringing in the ears. White blood cell counts will lower, so we are hopeful he won’t catch an infection. We are also hopeful there won’t be any kidney damage. He is a rock star and is rocking 4 quarts of water a day so far to help protect his kidneys and hydrate. The goal is 8. Crazy, I know.
So what is a wifey to do when the day finally arrives? I was nervous for him. Of course, I hated that he is in this situation at all. But what could I do to make it better?
For starters, I helped Raine give daddy a special surprise gift the night before. He gave daddy a card that he picked and signed, lucky fish socks, and a VERY lucky lightning bolt key chain (Raine is a big fan of Lightning McQueen, who happens to have a lightning bolt on his frame). Char also had a card for him and I brought Dan a journal.
In October of 2003, Dan and I had been dating a few months and were pretty much madly in love. He went to Europe for two weeks to visit his cousin, Kevin, in France, and a life-long friend, Kathryn, in Belgium. I was totally despairing losing my new hot boyfriend for 14 days (especially because it was going to fall over my birthday!) but kept my chin up and did the best I could to make a GIANT romantic gesture. I made him a binder for his trip. It had pages full of messages, treats, poems, and photos. He was only allowed to read 1 page a day (unless otherwise instructed) and he totally obeyed. He also completed his Ultimate France Check List by Leah walking across the most beautiful bridge, kissing a French girl, and getting a tattoo. (I didn’t instruct him to get a tattoo, I just suggested he alter himself in some small way.) His tattoo is the Tree of Life on his back and it is beautiful. He always wanted to get it, so it was cool that he managed to get it while in Paris.
Anyway, I wanted to recreate the France binder for chemo but time got away from me. I did my best to have a “kit” put together instead. He had 4 cards and received a gift with each card. The cards had special words of sweet nothings and love and support from me and the gifts were all about keeping him occupied while stuck in a chair with an IV for 7 hours. I went for the obvious reading material subjects: Beer, Nature, Music. I gave him the latest issues of Imbibe, Orion, and Under the Radar. He also had a patch from his life-long friend, Andy, who wore the patch during multiple deployments in war. I started a Dan & Leah book club, based on recommendations by my writing mentor. We have 10 books to get through, and I didn’t want to spend to buy 2 copies of each, so we are each reading one at a time and swapping as we go. Our book club starts off with each of our favorite authors: Dear Life by Alice Munro and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.
In the end, I spent most of the day off and on away from Dan. I took Char to the airport, ran errands, and left a few times to get snacks and use the bathroom. Patrick (a friend from college who also lives in Portland) also came by and we had a hilarious game of Snake Oil. I am pretty sure Dan’s nurse, James, was entertained by us. I don’t expect every chemo treatment will be like this—there might be ones where we just snooze in our chairs. But for his first, I think it went OK and he felt a lot of love and support. Posting his photo to Facebook and using a hashtag #chemo felt a little weird to me, but hey, 88 likes and 24 comments definitely help boost the spirit!
We are four days in as of today, and mostly he has noticed fatigue and a change in his sweetness taste buds (Cisplatin attacks all fast-growing cells-not just the tumor cells, so that will affect his taste buds). I am insanely grateful that he felt up for visitors this weekend because his buddies from high school came from all over -Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington-to give him some love. It was a good weekend.