my first day of chemo

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I had the first day of chemotherapy today.  In Swedish chemotherapy is cellgiftsbehandling — “cell poison treatment.”  Somehow or another I envisioned test tubes filled with bubbling green, poisonous, liquids stirred by mad witches.  Actually it’s nothing like that.  They put you in a bed, insert an IV channel into your hand, and hook you up to a drip. During the next two and a half hours a succession of nurses replace the plastic bag of liquid as the old one is depleted.  The liquids are transparent, like water, none of them is green and bubbling.  And there is nothing even remotely witch-like about the nurses.

The list of side effects is notorious: hair loss, impaired brain functions, numb legs and hands, nausea, vomiting — the list goes on.  But I haven’t experienced anything so far. In order to deal with the side effects, there is an endless list of do’s and don’ts: pills I must take, pills I shouldn’t take; food I should eat, food I shouldn’t eat.  And since I’ll get very weak towards the end of the treatment it’s important to stay away from other people’s germs and bacteria.  I shouldn’t eat from communal bowls — of soup or sauce — and I shouldn’t eat buffet dinners for at least a year!  (That tells you something about the microbiological content of your average smörgasbord).

Chemotherapy takes much longer than the radiation, and I hate spending time in a hospital bed, but under the circumstances there is nothing to complain about.  What’s heart rendering though are all the people in the beds beside me: old guys with terrible coughs, mothers with children, young girls with their parents.  It’s a vision of Purgatory.  They all love each other so much; they are all so worried.  But then again, everybody has a different story.  There are tricky cancers and there are relatively easy ones.  Even people who look terrible may have a good prognosis.

This is the chemo cocktail they’re giving me — chemo (click to download) — The main ingredient seems to be something called Cisplatin.

Only three more days of treatment this week.  I’m settling into a routine.

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