Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chemotherapy Remembrances

These past few days would have been my chemotherapy treatment days if I were still receiving it, and I found myself reminiscing about it. Several vignettes came to mind.

The senior nurse at my new infusion center who gently and matter of factly counseled that this was a time to be kind to myself.

The young nurse at my first infusion center who was injecting the diuretic Lasix directly into my IV line saying it would “tap” my kidneys.

The 80-year-old man at that center who had tumors in his liver, lung and brain. He was the gregarious, erstwhile owner of an insurance agency and would tell his life story to anyone who would listen but loudly enough so most of us heard it, repeatedly. He was the only patient who had the same chemo recipe as I did, so we were there for the same five hours and usually headed for one of the two restrooms at the same time – about 15 minutes after the Lasix “tapped” our kidneys.

A middle-aged woman at that center told me she had breast cancer and already had undergone surgery and radiation therapy. She said she cried like a baby when she realized she could not return to work in September as an art teacher for all grades in an elementary school because, given her compromised immune system, the risk of getting sick from exposure to the kids’ ubiquitous germs was too great.

A woman with lung cancer referred to one of her chemo drugs as “Cis-poison” (Cisplatin). Some breast cancer patients refer to Adriamycin, a clear red chemo agent, as “Red Devil.” But a young pathologist chose to call it “Red Sunshine” (also the title of her 2011 book) to reflect her positive attitude toward treatment.

A woman at my new infusion center told me she had lung cancer. Asked how many more treatments she had left, she responded, “This better be the last one!” Later, after a new bag of IV fluid was hung, she wheeled her IV stand out the back door and smoked a cigarette.

A couple came together to my new infusion center. He was a Vietnam veteran, and telling me that was enough to briefly bring those memories front and center. He was a large man who reminded me of a retired farmer. She looked like a pixie. He confided one day that she was “just skin and bones.” She slept during her chemo infusions. He sat next to her the entire time, no book or magazine, just his hands and his thoughts. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  (On His Blindness, John Milton)
P.S. My high school friend’s energetic, I’ve-got-so-much-living-in-me-yet sister:

© Jean DiMotto, 2011   Website: 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Judge DiMotto-

    This is Corey- I'm about to take my first final in 11 hours and I know it's nothing like going through cancer; nonetheless, I find myself reading your blog at 10pm for a little inspiration.

    I work up at 7 am this morning and in a half-dreamlike state began thinking about my aunt. I remembered how she stopped dying her hair and now it is silver, like a "silver fox," as she has been newly nicknamed. Two thoughts suddently came to me: first, how natural this process of aging is and yet how our society puts pressure on us to hide from it. Now I can see how my aunt is courageously, authentically, and beautifully accepting the gift of age. Additionally, it finally dawned on me why she stopped dying her hair. My uncle has cancer and as I made this connection I thought to myself, "What a deeply human response." I think that's what we're called to as human beings: accepting where we're at in our journey and giving authentically out of love. Anyways, I just wanted to share this with you because I thought you'd understand. Many blessings & have a wonderful Christmas season with your family!