A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Chemo

Friday’s are chemo day.  It has become our Friday routine that I drive Bruce to chemo and spend the day with him.  On the way today, I couldn’t help but chuckle at a random thought I had.  These Fridays have become almost like a “date day” of sorts, for Bruce and I.  We have such busy lives that honestly, it is the only time that we spend alone together.  I am literally the most unromantic person you will ever meet.  What struck me as funny (probably in a not really funny way) was that the time we do spend alone together is over a very unromantic lunch of Jimmy Johns and watching humorous videos via YouTube at the hospital!  Somehow it reminded me of When Harry Met Sally.

My humor has always been slightly off, another Anderson trait.

I remember when my mom fell and broke her ankle (badly) right outside of our home one winter (coming back from the hospital Thrift Shop).  We ended up having to call an ambulance because literally, it was horribly broken and pointing in the wrong direction.  Still turns my stomach thinking about it.  Anyway, my dad finally got to the hospital some time later and we were telling him about it.  He (very jokingly) told my mom that if he had found her first, he would’ve drug her to the hospital grounds and said she had fallen there.  We all laughed (even mom).  However, we looked over at the nurse whose face was literally contorted into a look of total disgust at my dad.  Ahhh, still so funny thinking about it.

This is where we came up with the name The “Art” of Anderson for our blog you know… is a compilation of all of our sarcastic and humorous (well we think so anyway) outlooks on life and all of our dysfunctional life events.  It is our “Art”.

Anyway, back to today, these days are always a bit surreal…and yet too real.  I am sad to say that I am all too familiar with this process.  After cancer and chemo with dad, mom and now Bruce, I have become proficient at the process.

Today as we drove in for chemo Bruce says he didn’t feel very good.  I can’t be obvious about it, but my heart clutches a bit.  “What do you mean?”, I asked.  “I don’t know, I just don’t feel good, coughing again and feel like I am getting a cold”, he said.  Ugh.  Please don’t let it be pneumonia setting in again, I think.

Bruce and I have a routine.  I drop him off and then I go park, same spot, level 3 right by the outermost staircase.  I grab my backpack full off snacks, water and electronic necessities to make the day a little more bearable.  I walk to the hospital and meet him in the waiting area.  The waiting area is always a little humbling.  There is a mix of people, young to old.  Every one waiting for their turn for chemo, in the hopes of getting a little more time.

Bruce can talk to anyone.  He has the gift of gab.  He has always been an easy communicator.  I tend to be a little more reserved.  I know that my friends and co-workers don’t believe this about me, but it’s true. I have to warm to a situation, sort of sit back and observe before I engage.  But not Bruce.  One particular day he struck up a conversation with a nice elderly gentleman, there for the same reasons we were.  I was busy on my phone as Dari had an upcoming phone interview and I was trying to help him prepare for it.  Bruce apologized for my rudeness (being on my phone) but explained about our son.  The elderly man offered his words of wisdom; tell him to do this, say this, etc.  He shared a bit of his story.  We shared a bit of ours.  His name was called out and as he rolled off in his wheelchair, he wished Darien luck and hoped he did well and got the job.  A short conversation but impactful, as we shared a small part of our lives with each other.  This is a normal part of our chemo days, meeting people that we share small, but somehow intimate stories with.  Interacting with nurses who are always compassionate and accommodating, and learning a bit about them, again sharing stories that usually make us laugh!

Today after I park and get to the waiting area, I find that Bruce is not there.  Crap.  Did he make it up here or did he feel bad enough that he is waiting down in the waiting area?  We have an understanding that I drop him off but if he feels too bad to walk the distance himself, he will wait and I will find him after parking.  I hesitate, do I go back and check his normal path, but I quick ask at the desk, and the say that he is already roomed.  (Sigh of relief)  It’s a slower day this July 4th week, the waiting area is quiet.  I quickly survey the waiting room, it is always a bit of a somber experience, as people wait for their turn.

I find him in his room, I can see that he is feeling better.  Mornings are usually rough for him, as it takes him a while to get going.  He is usually a little slower and forgetful.  I blame that on ‘chemo brain’.  Now that he is up, he seems better.  I am relieved.  

As we wait for the Benadryl to kick in (Bruce almost always sleeps a while) he will show me funny videos on his phone.  Today we are looking at Charlie Chaplin snippets, and we laugh!  Or Leslie Nielsen snippets, again that kind of slap stick humor is what Bruce loves!  I always think that it’s so great that even with everything going on, he can find humor and laugh!

The Darzalex is now running through his veins as I am typing this.  He is looking at his phone, every so often sharing something with me.  Again, I marvel at the surreal nature of this day.  The medicine is working though.  His numbers are improving and so that gives us hope.

This is always a little conflicting.  At the end of the day, we all just want a little more time.  That is what we pray for now.  Time and quality.  And yet, the very thing (Darzalex) that gives us time, also wreaks havoc on Bruce’s body in other ways.  It is a tenuous balance.  We are thankful that there are not many side effects from the chemo overall.

Yesterday we got good news.  Darien, our youngest son, had his first job offer post college graduation.  We are all excited!  It gives us a happy distraction as we look for apartments in the Minneapolis area.  It is fun to help Darien get set up for his future.  I am glad that we can be a part of it.  I am glad that Bruce is here to enjoy this huge stepping stone in Darien’s life.  Bruce and I talk on and off about where we will look for Dari’s apartment and we share our excitement over his new job.  Family is important to us.  Darien’s girlfriend lives in California and for a time, I assumed he would head that way post graduation.  But with Bruce relapsing and once again being actively treated, Dari wants to stay close.  He told me that he would regret moving away and not being able to live close enough to see his dad often.  That warms my heart.  

For a time after he relapsed, we sat in limbo, not planning things.  I decided that we need to plan as we would with no cancer relapse.  We look forward to a trip to South Carolina in September.  Our only hesitation is now with Dari, as I am sure that he joining us may be unlikely, but flying him out over a weekend with us may be an option.  Still, Bruce talks often about when we take this vacation, and it gives us all something to look forward to.

Bruce is now sleeping.  Thankfully the Benadryl will help him to sleep away most of this day until we are done in the afternoon.  Soon, I will run to Jimmy Johns and grab us a sandwich for our romantic lunch.  For those of you in Rochester, did you know that the Jimmy Johns right across from Charlton is the busiest in the nation?  No wonder, it’s in the perfect location.  Bruce’s taste buds are off lately, the things that he has always loved (spicy foods) are now something he can’t tolerate and some things just taste “off” he says.  I usually get the #11, ham, turkey and provolone, which strikes a balance with him.  He just had a couple weeks off from chemo, so things don’t taste quite as bad.

These are our Friday’s now, however, at least now it is not every Friday.  We are now on our bi-weekly regimen for a about 4 months and then, we go to monthly chemo treatments.  For Bruce, that will seem heavenly.

I always say that life is funny, in a not funny way at times.  If you would’ve told me 5 years ago that this would be our life, I would’ve scoffed at the notion.  I never saw any of this coming.  5 years ago we were in a very different place.  Life has a way of taking us down a path, that often has many twists and turns.  This path is another one that we could’ve done without, yet it is the path we are on.

Even with these challenges, I am reminded daily where I work, and on these Friday’s that things could always be worse.  When you sit across from a young man in the waiting area who is bald from chemo, the same age as your son….things could be worse.  When you care for a baby at work who was born with cancer, things could be worse.  All things in life are relative though, and for us right now, this is bad enough.

At times it is hard to see silver linings on what mostly looks a terrible thundercloud, but there are some.  First, Bruce will not actually lose any hair (he doesn’t have much, so he was thankful for that!) but even if he had, he joked that what he would save on shampoo would go towards his medical bills.  I reminded him that he had like 5 strands of hair to begin with, so not like a huge savings there!

Another silver lining, we found that through this challenge, above all else, time with family is our most fortunate of gifts.  Family has always been important to us but never more so when you are reminded how short time can truly be.  Life is so fast, and days fly by and often we forget the important things.  Bruce’s first couple of chemo sessions I was with him, then I let him go a couple times on his own, thinking that this is what life will be like from now on.  That is usually how I do things best, alone.  Bruce is not that way though.  I could tell that even though he never verbalized it, he preferred company.  So, I now do whatever I can (switch out of work) to be here on these days.  Through most of it, he sleeps and I blog.  However, if my being here is what gives him comfort, then I am thankful to be here…even if it is a weird form of dating!



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