Tuesday, May 7, 2013



from Allison W. Gryphon, Stage 3a Breast Cancer Survivor
photographs by Mary Elizabeth Gentle

“I didn’t know chemo came in a bag.” my dear friend Scott said to me a bit amazed. Yes. Chemo comes in a bag. I didn’t know either until I was looking at the bag with my name on it. Chemo also comes in pill form. There are over 70 types of chemotherapy drugs. My chemo therapy came in the form of a drip and was administered in my medical oncologist's office once every three weeks. Each appointment was around 7 hours give or take. I had a total of six chemotherapy sessions over a period of 4 ½ months.

I received my chemotherapy treatment at the same time as five other people. We all shared the same big room with a very attentive staff and were given a bit of privacy with the movable walls you see here.

As simple as it seems, this little monitor keeps tabs on the administration of the chemotherapy. The monitor and the chemo, for me, were all on one rolling stand so I could move around throughout the day if I wanted to.

Each chemotherapy station in my oncologist's office had a television and a piece of artwork that I could escape into on the wall. One of the most wonderful things provided was a movie, library so that anyone who wanted to pass the time and lose themselves in a movie could. One of the things I’ve been doing since my chemo experience is collecting new and used DVDs, CDs and VHS tapes that people are getting rid of and donating them to my oncologist's office. It's one of those little things anyone can do that helps a lot.

Needle in. Chemo on. First the oncology nurse would find a good vein in my arm. She would then thread the needle, meaning that she would get the tubing in and then take the needle out. One thing I was afraid of was sitting with a needle in my hand. I think it’s good for people to know that is not how it works. I had no idea. Once the plastic tube is in to administer the chemo, the needle is removed. This process was not the most pleasant in the world for me. I made a habit of turning my head away and talking to someone or putting on music and closing my eyes while the nurse prepped my arm for chemo.

For me, once the chemo began it was a fairly simple process. I never felt bad the day of treatment. It was always a few days later when I started feeling the effects of the drugs.

The day before, on and after chemo, I took a steroid to help diminish some of the side effects. The side effect of the steroid was weight gain and the puffy face you see here. That surprised me having been raised in a society that primarily shows chemotherapy associated with weight loss. It was not something that I was prepared for.

Watching the drip. It’s weird. Surreal. Sometimes scary. The thing about chemo was it provided a lot of time to think. It was hours of contemplation every three weeks. I did my best to keep it “me” time and really embrace that I had an entire day with my feet up to write, read, watch movies and TV and learn more about my treatment from my wonderful doctors and nurses.

Each chemotherapy station in my oncologist's office had a comfortable chair with a foot rest and many settings which allowed me to be as comfortable as possible during the process.

As a writer, the process of writing is my outlet. I learned from many of the other people I was in treatment with that even people who don’t normally write do so as an outlet. My hospital even offered free writing therapy classes as an emotional support for anyone fighting cancer.

Pillows. I felt strange with the chemo running through my body. It’s a tough one to describe, but I will say I found pillows to be a wonderful tool for feeling more comfortable and relaxed. I often had one in my lap to rest my arms and under my knees to ease the stress I was feeling on my back.

For more on chemotherapy, please visit Cancer Answers at www.thewhyfoundation.org

Cancer Answer Tuesdays 

What can I do about metal mouth? What is a good gift for a cancer fighter? How do they do radiation tattoos? How can I prepare surgery? What should I say to someone I work with who was just diagnosed? How am I going to get through today?

Every Tuesday, The Why? Foundation will present a small, but big cancer question and answer about fighting cancer day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute.

If you have a question or helpful tip, we want to hear about it. Please email us at info@thewhyfoundation.org.

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