“Thanks for helping me paint, Mom”, said my daughter to me in a truly surprised and grateful voice.
“Anything for my daughter”, I replied as I scratched my head.
Man. It was itchy. “It must be the new growth”, I thought to myself as I continued to scratch. Then, it was my neck. Itchy.
“I’m just going to finish this wall, Katya, and then I need to go and make the salads for dinner, okay?”
“Of course, that’s fine, mom.”
I enjoyed painting. I always have. To see the colours transform on a wall to create a totally different feeling amazes me. This time, we were painting Katya’s little apartment in our basement. It had been home to Grandma for a couple years and since she moved out, the apartment was going to sit empty. Having Katya move in gave her a sense of independence without the cost. Perfect combination while she is at school.
The water was wonderful on my head. I felt the little stubs of new hair growth and decided, yes, for sure, it was this new stubble that was causing the itch. But, what about my neck. And was that a – hive? Yup. A quick verification in the mirror showed me that a hive was appearing. This was not just new growth. I was reacting to something. The paint? Could it have been the fumes? I had been painting for several hours and maybe the fumes were reacting with the Olaparib I had taken at 10 that morning! It was now 4 pm. It could NOT be the new meds. Impossible.
I finished my shower, dressed, applied my face cream and went downstairs. I scratched my neck until it felt better which, of course, caused it to redden. But, “oh”, how a good scratch can make you feel!
I felt fine. I wasn’t sick. I had felt great all day and elated that the new medication was not making me nauseated or causing me to lose my appetite. I had taught my friend Natalie, earlier that day, to make pie crust and chicken pot pie from scratch. I was perfect – then. I thought I could do this. I had had such high anxiety leading into taking these 16 pills a day and my fears had been quieted by a lack of reaction. I had literally dodged a bullet.
Over the course of the next few hours, the curtain of certainty passed over me: this was a reaction to my new medication. I was certain. I was also certain that this was a warning sign that if I took any more, the reaction would worsen. I did not want to go into respiratory failure or any other condition that would jeopardize the progress I had made to date in my fight against cancer – so I decided to not take the second dose. In fact, later that night, with a flaring red neck, decided I should maybe go to the hospital. Poor Kevin. He and David got up out of bed to take me.
We moved through the triage quickly. “It must be my yellow card”, I thought. This yellow card explained that I needed to be seen immediately should I have a fever. I thought this was my pass to get looked at right away. We moved to the side room, then the back room within five minutes.
And then, we waited. Two hours. More and more people came into the waiting area. They were coughing, sneezing, feel sick to their stomachs. Oh, how that was not the place to be for me. I was anxious again. “I want to go home, Kevin,” I exclaimed.
“You really should stay, Stacey. You are wearing a mask.”
But no matter how he tried, Kevin’s reasoning could not persuade me to stay. I went to the nursing station to see how much longer I would be to discover I was next – and then I would need to wait my turn in a room. Ugh! Too long for me. I just wanted to go home. I couldn’t wait anymore. “I am nervous about being among so many people who are ill,” I explained to the nurse. “I need to leave. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
“I can’t tell you what to do,” said the nurse, “but there are a lot of people with the flu.”
“I’m going home.”
And we left for home with a glowing neck and face and an even stronger burning desire to be home. It had been 6 hours since the reaction began and had not got any worse. I would be fine. I just needed to be home.
I remember so much that same sentiment expressed by my parents after a visit to the emergency room. They were always so happy to be home and they always felt so much better. We would pour a glass of wine and “cheer” their return. I did not pour any wine this time and the three of us went directly to bed.
I had few words to say. I had a head full of thoughts. This was definitely a curve ball this reaction of mine. I had yet to figure it out when, my daughter and her best friend Colleen peered into my room. “Are you up – can we come in” they queried.
My daughter had been crying. She felt badly for me. She had called her friend for support and Colleen came right over. Thank God Katya has this person in her life. They have been so much together – both good times and bad. They were here with me, together, facing this reaction with me and with each other. My heart ached for Katya. I remembered how it felt to have a parent who was facing illness and how helpless I had felt. I had cried for my Mom and I had cried for my Dad. And now, my little girl was crying for me. “This is so very wrong,” I thought. “I do NOT want this”, I lamented. “I will fight”, I rebounded.
“I will go to see my oncologist tomorrow and together we will make a plan, Katya,” I stated.
“I will go with you,” she said hopefully.
And with that, we kissed good-night.
I slept well, oddly enough. We all slept in, in fact. Funny how stress plays on one’s emotions and body at the same time. There is no point in worry and yet … we do. There is no point in wondering, “what if?” and yet… we do. There is a point, however, in doing what makes sense. What makes sense is to go “back to the drawing board” and figure out a new plan in this battle against cancer.
It is, indeed, back to the drawing board for me.