Yesterday the bell rang outside our chemo department. Amy had finished her chemo and the bell was there to proclaim the news that she was done. Amy is Japanese, and probably about in her mid 20’s. She is very short and thin. She had the standard chemo for bowel cancer - 8 sessions consisting of a two hour session intravenously every three weeks and oral medication to take every day for the first two weeks. Then a week off. I never saw anyone with her, so don’t know much about her. We said “Hi” and “How are you” when I coincided with her schedule. She never complained much about side effects, but she had to have all sorts of extra precautions when she was being treated. She had a heated small blanket covering her arm, and when she dragged her pole with the medication on it to the toilet, she had to put gloves on - as the pole was too cold otherwise.
We have 8 chairs in the suite dedicated to Bowel Cancer patients on Thursday, and most of them are young. Another woman and I were the over 70’s but the rest of the room there were 2 young women, 2 young man, and 2 middle aged men. The one who sat next to me looked a bit older, but when he stated his date of birth, as we all have to do before we get our medicine, it turned out he could have been my son.
I do a lot of eavesdropping while others are telling their medical secrets to the nurses. Man next to me was refused to have his full treatment because his liver levels are higher than they should be. He was quite worried by this. It had happened to me before and I had been worried too. “Why?” he asked. “It could be from alcohol,” she said, “Have you had much to drink?” “Only a glass of wine and a beer yesterday,” he admitted. “And a glass of whisky the day before. But I have such bad back pain and it helps me relax to have a drink. I’ve hardly slept for the last week.” “DId the doctor not tell you not to drink?” she asked.
“No,” he said, but not very convincingly. The doctor hadn’t told me not to drink either, but I hadn’t asked him. But it is in all the chemo literature that they give you that alcohol is not recommended.
He looked so downtrodden, that when the nurses were out of hearing I said to him, “i have had that high liver result too, and I had had a drink before, but I haven’t had any since. I make sure I don’t drink the day before they take the blood.”
“And do you still drink?” he asked. “Yes,” I admitted, “once in a while.” The truth is I have emptied all the bottles in the house that have anything in them that looks or tastes anything like alcohol. But not all at once. A bottle of nice RIoja I bought myself for my birthday lasted 8 days.
I do wonder why so many young people get bowel cancer. I can’t remember when I was in my 20’s and 30’s of ever hearing of a person about the same age having it.
It was not my best day at chemo - because I started the day with nausea and a headache - nothing to do with the treatment. Maybe if is anticipation, but I don’t really dread going. I just wish I didn’t have to. I feel better today. But it would be nice to have a drink - but I’ve only got vanilla extract left and I need to save that for Christmas.