Cancer Story

First Hospital Stay (of Many)

Continuing from the earlier post on August 10th, here is where my treatment begins and I’m faced with side effects of the chemotherapy. Following my diagnosis, I was transported to the nearest hospital which was in New Rochelle to begin treatment. It’s interesting but when I try to remember these memories, it’s hard for my mind to find them. However, what I do remember is lying in a hospital bed with tubes going in and out of me. The tubes were funneling into my chest where a port-a-cath had been implanted. For those folks who don’t know what a port-a-cath is, it’s a tube that runs out of a small incision in your chest to the main vein underneath your skin. They insert this for comfort purposes; fewer needle pricks. The situation was very surreal and not something that I knew how to react to. Luckily a lot of my family was there to support me as I began this treatment journey. I remember them asking me how I was feeling and just having an automated “OK” response to everything even though I was feeling uneasy about what laid ahead. My uncle was the last one to arrive and I’d always get excited whenever he was around. As a kid, we would go down to my uncle’s house in New Jersey and I’d remember having so much fun with them. This time, however, my uncle looked concerned as he stood at the head of my bed but trying not to show it.  Then the oncologist came into the room greeting everyone as she slowly walked up to my bed side to check my vitals. After finishing, she explained to everyone the road ahead for me which consisted of a few heavy rounds of chemotherapy and if all went well, moving into remission. As the doctor explained this, various drugs and procedures were being mentioned that I never heard of. One of the procedures which scared me the most was the mention of “spinal taps” which reminded me of the bone marrow procedure. As we’re listening, most of us were nodding our heads but none of us knew how Chemotherapy worked. Mainly, Chemotherapy is a combination of different chemo drugs that are delivered at scheduled intervals. We then learned that I was already given my first dosage of chemo to kick off my treatment. The big question I used to get asked all the time was “Do you feel it (chemo)?” And to be honest, you don’t really feel anything, immediately. I’d say the first time I felt chemotherapy’s effects was when I attempted to run down our walkway in the backyard. Being athletic and a fast runner as a kid, I was always proud of my speed. Now it was like starting an old car with bad brakes. My legs struggled to get going and when I tried slowing down, that didn’t seem to work out either. I nearly crashed into the garbage cans on the side of my house which saved me from hitting the ground. It was almost like I had no control of my body. The next side effect would be my hair loss. This started probably two to three weeks later after I noticed my hair on my pillow or in the shower; which freaked me out. Then by the second or third round of chemo, that’s where I started having numerous muscle aches, soreness all over and nausea. By this point, my body preferred sitting or lying down than playing outside with friends. Probably the toughest for me was nausea. I hardly noticed it initially but by this point, nausea was happening all the time forcing me not to eat and to throw up often. But I would recover when they put me on steroids which caused me to blow up with water weight and more importantly eat a lot. Eventually, I would leave the hospital and continue my treatment at home where I slowly adjusted back to normal. However, my next big challenge would be returning to school and friends after being away for more than a month! Imagine yourself in this situation and how you would react especially now coming back with no hair and dealing with cancer and resuming school again. To be continued….