Mixed Blessings

We had to be at the Cancer Center this morning at 8:30 a.m. so I got up at 6 a.m. My Chemo week mornings are busy because I have to get dressed, eat breakfast, feed the pets, let Danny out and back in, make coffee, do dishes (if I have time), make sure our bags are all packed, prepare coffee travel cups, wake the guys, fix them breakfast, find misplaced items–not necessarily in that order. (EJ also  has his responsibilities, which include making sure the car is warmed up and ready to go, loading the luggage into the car, and driving us to the Cancer Center.)

I woke the guys at 6:30 a.m. It took JJ a long time to get up because he didn’t sleep well and was tired. He asked for Magic Mouthwash for mouth sores so I poured him the prescribed amount in a small medicine cup, but it made him feel nauseous so…he ended not starting to get dressed until 15 minutes before we had to leave. On Chemo mornings he also has to rub a cream on his shoulder where the port is just before we leave because it numbs the area so it’s less unpleasant when the needle is inserted into the port.

U.S.S. Enterprise at Warp Speed
U.S.S. Enterprise at Warp Speed

JJ was quite grumpy and negative this morning because he dreads Chemo and he has to mentally prepare himself to go. EJ and I also find ourselves more tired at the start of each cycle of Chemo because the schedule is wearying. Sometimes in my head I can hear Scotty (from Star Trek) shouting in his Scottish voice, “She canna take much mor’ of this, Cap’n!” when Captain Kirk orders the Enterprise to go at a high warp speed for too long of a time. Like the starship, we keep going because we must.

We loaded all our gear into the car and took off. JJ’s mood improved as we drove until he was again his cheerful self.

At the Cancer Center, we sat in the waiting room while JJ filled out his daily blue form, indicating on a scale of 1 to 10 how he is feeling: nauseous? tired? anxious? appetite? and so on. I looked across the room and saw an elderly couple who I thought I recognized. From the way the husband was looking at me, I thought he recognized me too. They attended the same church as I did all through my childhood and I dated their son for a bit. They were super nice. I haven’t seen them for probably 25-30 years. It took me a few minutes to work through, “Is it them? Or no? I’m sure it is! Isn’t it?” Then I decided I’d ask them if they were Mr. and Mrs C, but….”Should I go stand in front of them? Or wait to make eye contact?” Then the door open and we all were called back to the infusion rooms, and the man said, “Hi, TJ! How are you?” and we hugged.

I was anticipating chatting with this newly found couple throughout the day, but we were taken to an Injection Room to the right instead of left to the Infusion Rooms. The nurse told us that JJ is not having Chemo this week because his white blood cells are way too low. Instead, he has to come to the Cancer Center every day this week for an injection. The nurse said that she could give us a prescription if we could give the injections ourselves and we all chorused, “NO!” We definitely didn’t want to try to give JJ injections and he definitely didn’t want to receive them from us. “We will come to the Cancer Center for the injection every day, thank you very much.”

It is sort of a mixed blessing: JJ is rather happy that he doesn’t have to spend hours every day this week in his infusion chair. However, the last time he had an injection–only one–he groaned in agony for a couple of days afterwards. The injections make his body ache terribly because they force the bone marrow to produce blood cells. So although we don’t have long Chemo hours this week, it still might be a difficult week.

JJ still has to have his remaining weeks of Chemo, so the Chemo has to be rescheduled. This means that our whole Chemo experience is stretched by an additional week. Also, because JJ’s white blood cells are so very low–almost nonexistent–he can’t fight off any infection, which means we have to be even more careful to protect him from illness. He must avoid contact with people and public places. Yesterday at the grocery store we bought four bottles of an elderberry mixture which is supposed to strengthen the immune system. We can’t give it to JJ, but EJ is taking it to boost his immune system because he is the one who goes out into the world among people more than JJ and I do. He is the one most likely to bring sickness into our home.

Old quarantine sign
Old quarantine sign

Years ago, if there was contagious sickness in a community, people had to have large “Quarantined” signs on their doors if someone in the home was sick, and no one could enter or leave the home so germs wouldn’t be spread. I feel like posting one on our door. Or, as a friend suggested, we could install an airlock/spraydown in our entryway, which is very sci-fi. It would also be more cool–and effective because germs don’t read signs.

After the nurse gave JJ his injection, I showed her a picture of JJ with his funky orange hat that I had taken with my phone. She laughed so hard she practically rolled on the floor. “He looks like a clown,” she gasped. Another nurse heard the laughter and came into the room to see what was up. I’m sure they must not hear that sort of laughter very often at the Cancer Center. I showed her JJ’s picture and she laughed too. I was glad we could spread a little joy. EJ’s co-worker offered to make JJ more hats if he wanted, and on the way home we talked about how much fun it would be to have her make a purple hat or a blue hat….JJ said that the hats actually resembles the feel of hair, so it gives him the sensation that he still has hair, which is comforting. EJ and I said that the hat also looks sort of as if he has hair, so even though it is very orange he looks more like our son than he does with his bald head. So we love the hat.

On the way home, JJ asked if I’d make him an egg burrito so when we got home, I got out the iron fry pan. I diced up and sautéed all-beef bologna, onions, bell peppers and about 7-8 frozen tater tots. The tater tots give the mixture an extra flavor. I beat eggs, poured them into the fry pan, and scrambled everything together. I heated up flour tortillas and scooped the scrambled eggs into the tortillas. EJ and JJ love them (so do I) and say I make the best egg burrito ever. With positive reenforcement like that, I just might keep making them. 🙂

With their bellies full, my guys took naps.

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2 Comments on “Mixed Blessings

  1. I hope that you will have some rest too, Teri . And I pray that the injections will help the blood cells to become on the right level. This is really asking so much of you all. But you are really a trooper the way you are handling everything. EJ and JJ too hero’s . It is a battle with so much going on it looks almost to much to handle . I’ll keep on praying love you all very much and ((((( hugs)))))))

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  2. Simone, thank you for your concern. Both EJ and I were able to nap for about an hour. JJ slept for several hours. His body is now beginning to ache so I gave him Tylenol.

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