In the hours that follow each Herceptin treatment, I have a routine of sorts. Not a purposeful routine. Things just seem to fall into place the same way each time, making every third Wednesday afternoon strikingly similar to all the other third Wednesday afternoons.
I leave the infusion center when my treatment is complete, feeling no ill effects, and I walk to my car. As I drive home, I call John and the boys to tell them I’m on the road and will soon be home. I return home, get a running hug from Danny and a passing glance from Joey, and ask John promptly about what I missed during my 3-4 hour absence from the most important guys in my world. John usually tells me that they wandered in the outdoors or visited Home Depot or just played at home. I always want more details than I get — I want the play-by-play rendition of what I see every day but miss so much when I am away. But I settle for the basics. Do I really need to know, after all, who ate what and who said what and who was happy and who was sad? And could I, myself, accurately recall all this detail if asked? Probably not. So I jump back into the swing of things — which includes dinner and bath and book, an easy bedtime for Danny, and a not-so-easy bedtime for Joey. And then I tend to myself.
I get undressed for a shower and look for the first time since my infusion at the small round bandaid that covers the port that is buried underneath the skin on the right side of my chest. I peel the bandaid off and see the tiny red dot where the IV needle poked me, sat in my skin for a few hours, and then was pulled out. It no longer bleeds but it looks sore and irritated. It is not painful really — but it gives me a queasy feeling to look at it and this is the first tangible reminder of my treatment earlier in the day.
There is something about tending to my own medical needs that makes me queasy — like pulling off the bandaid and really thinking about this foreign item under my skin. I have felt like this when removing bandages after surgeries, when applying ointment to my own wounds, when merely considering the thought of giving myself an injection. And I feel this when I first go the bathroom after my Herceptin treatment. Herceptin has a unique odor and I can smell the drug as it exits my body. It repulses me — and is my second reminder of what occurred hours before this moment.
And then, perhaps because of a physical reaction to Herceptin but mostly due to a mental habit, I take one Zofran pill — to combat the nausea I begin to feel or think I feel. It’s all I need. I never go on to feel any nausea during the three weeks that follow treatment. Life continues on normally. I have normal happy thoughts and normal sad thoughts and thoughts about whether this drug is making me feel bloated (Joey told me tonight, “When I see this loose skin on your tummy, I think there’s another baby in there.”) and thoughts about new diets and health regimens I’d like to follow once my treatment ends.
I conclude my routine by writing this entry.
And then my night resumes like any other night. I get ready for bed. I relax. I call my mom. I talk with John. I watch TV. I mentally prepare for another day with two busy boys who will keep me completely and fully occupied for each day that follows until my next infusion takes place. And I do it all over again.