Here’s some advice if you ever need chemotherapy at the Miami Cancer Institute: make your appointment for 7:45am. No problem with parking. My spot was so close to the entrance I felt like a VIP and was brought back from fantasy when the security guard didn’t hold the door open for me and say, in an English accent, “Good morning Mr. Elbinger.”
They have this swell hot beverage making machine on every floor at MCI. It’s much better than Keurig’s. I don’t know if it’s better for the environment with these slim pouches they have available in everything from hot chocolate, coffee, green, oolong, and Earl Grey tea, but hey, I’ve got the cancer so who cares about being green?
I felt like a chemo veteran today. They showed me the chair; I unpacked my stuff, including my whole wheat everything bagel with lox cream cheese. This was the good lox cream cheese, with the chunks of lox, not the pink cream cheese with the lox pureed and blended into it. Next, I took out my I-need-to-buy-a-new-toy-to-make-me-feel-better brand new Nintendo Switch. Let me tell you, you won’t know you need it until you get it. I know, I could have been old-fashioned and read a novel on my Kindle, or blogged on my laptop to pass the time, but being Mario and battling other Nintendo characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for 3 hours was kick-ass fun.
I’m supposed to be vigilant with the side effects. Some of them can be dangerous, so I called the MCI hotline to report when my hands and feet started to feel like there were ants crawling on my skin and biting, which then led to numbness. It was so bad that I couldn’t feel my dog’s fur when I petted him. Christopher, the nurse practitioner I spoke with whose feminine voice was incongruous with his name, told me what to do about it and said it would get better. But it was a side effect that would keep happening and likely get worse with each treatment. Chemotherapy can lead to neuropathy, which is damage to nerves that can cause weakness, numbing, and pain.
And now I’ve heard of another potential side effect called “chemo brain” which is "the foggy thinking and forgetfulness that cancer patients often complain about after treatment, may last for five years or more for a sizable percentage of patients.” A main complaint patients have is that they get a tip-of-the-tongue experience with words they want to say. A friend of mine has chemo brain and is embarrassed when she stumbles over words in conversation. I’m hoping my cognitive effects won't be so bad. It already takes me two days to solve the Sunday NYT crossword; I’d hate for it to take two weeks.
I’m not frightened by any of this. Concerned, yes, but fear will get me nowhere. This is all just shit I have to go through to get better. I’d rather, as Brene Brown says, lean into the discomfort than fear it.
Thanks for being part of my support system! Feel free to click on the links for more information about the things I mention, and be sure to check out my RESOURCES page! Also, check out the Nintendo Switch here: https://amzn.to/2KXQXhT