Monday, January 7, 2013

"Worst patient, ever"

I am an overachiever! A winner! Here's how:

Thursday, when we met with my doctor before I started the new course of chemo, I asked him, "Will this chemo be easier on me than my old kind?"

He replied, "It couldn't be worse."

So I said, "True, that was rough. I had some pretty bad reactions, didn't I?"

He shot back, "Shelly, in my 40 years of doing this, I have never had a patient react worse than you."

This silenced me. I stared at him, trying to digest this. "What do you mean?"

He continued, "I've never, ever had to hospitalize anyone else for oxalliplatnin. I've never seen anyone sicker than you would get."

I stared at him longer, contemplating this bit of information. My oncologist, one of Seattle's finest, with his bulging client list, seeing hundreds of people a week for forty years, and I'm the WORST REACTOR HE'S EVER SEEN?

Huh. So... you're telling me... IT REALLY DID SUCK, WHAT I WENT THROUGH.  Disbelief, peppered with a strange sort of validation.

He said, "You can close your mouth now." 

Wanting to be perfectly clear, I asked, "So, compared with other people, in terms of how bad it was for me..."

He cut me off, "Shelly, on a scale of 1-10, you were a 31."

Well, now. Look at the big balls on Shelly. All those times I felt like a prisoner of war, strung up by the arms in a dark concrete room (Ok, yes! Dramatic. But I truly sometimes experienced visions of torture scenes while I'd be experiencing this stuff. I've seen the show "24". I know what a North Korean prison looks like.) And it turns out, I was right. It was really, in fact, THAT BAD. Not that I ever doubted it. But it sure is nice, when you've been dealing with something brutal for a year and a half, to have someone "in the know" acknowledge it. In a world where we never celebrate (or even really acknowledge) toughness or endurance (not because he's unsupportive, but more because, it's expected of you, it comes with the territory, it's not a "bonus, extra quality"-- it's essential)-- anyway, in this sort of world, I feel like I received an exotic, bright (if fleeting) piece of news. It was like an opal-rumped tanager or a Swainson's Lorikeet, or even a purple-headed glossy starling, came flying through the room, then left.

He also told me he loved me. So I have that going for me, as well. 

Even the chemo nurses told me they would shudder when they saw me on the day's schedule. Turns out I'm a neat person to know!

And how did my new chemo go? The act of getting it was a breeze. No IV morphine required, for a change. I felt well that night, too. Then, out of the blue, I barfed rather violently. Friday was spent in a chair, not eating a morsel, watching TV, trying not to puke. Feeling sick in the gut. I watched "Footloose" for the first time ever. And several episodes of "Snapped". Etc.  Saturday I felt much better. But alas, I have to do it again this week. My new schedule is Thursday on, Thursday on, Thursday off. Thursday on, Thursday on, Thursday off. So it's more frequent than my old regimen, but probably less days overall where I'm totally out of commission.

I asked him how long I could expect to be on chemo, knowing he can't answer at this point, and he told me that 9 months might be a place to set our expectations. 9 months plus the 15 I just completed. And! I probably will NOT lose my hair, so we have that going for us as well.  I can do this.


  1. You can do this. You are one tough sonofabitch. And I love that your doctor said he loves you. What took him so long?! xoxo, Moogs

  2. I'm so proud of you Shelly! I'm also very proud to call you my friend! You are a rock star-I don't think any of us needed to hear it from your doctor, but I know it must feel good to get the validation. Keep up the fight! I'll keep praying!

  3. You are hardcore, Shelly. In fact, you've always been a badass.

    Love from your VT Jen(ny)

  4. Worst patient ever!?! That's pretty awesome (and horrifying at the same time), but I actually like the title "Badassest Patient Ever" or maybe "Biggest Balls Ever" or maybe "Toughest Chemo Bitch Ever" or.... Well, whatever, you're awesome and amazing and I am in awe of your strength and spirit, especially given everything you've been through.

  5. You are pretty bad ass and one tough lady! I swear you could probably train for and win an Ironman at this rate...but why would you want to do that?! :)

  6. Yup, you're badass. And it's the most wonderful thing in the world to know that you have a spectacular doctor (even w all the accolades) brave enough to tell you the truth and then express his love. Partnership in health care is like a rare earth magnet.

    I'm so happy for you --- for this acknowledgement, for this moment to be mindful of how ridiculously tough the road has been, and for the opp to know how awesome you are for enduring with the courage and grace you have. And this, this I know: you can do 9 more months, Shel. Here to help, if ever, I can.

    mua, wss

  7. Sarah Steen HolcombJanuary 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Worst patient ever - what a compliment in this case! :) You rock! And your new regimen (Thurs on, Thurs on, Thurs off) sounds like a really horrible Florida training set. If you were back in college swimming, I think you would now be a distance swimmer instead of a sprinter because your endurance is INCREDIBLE! You are truly amazing. I have always admired you and that admiration only grows. I think you are going to rock this set of Thurs on, Thurs on, Thurs off!

    1. Sarah Steen HolcombJanuary 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      Actually, let's not minimize sounds like the WORST Florida training set ever. But you can do it!

  8. Shelly, you're the baddest chick I know! You go this!

  9. Shelly...Shelley (Branam) Hecker here. My mom shared your blog with me. You really are amazing. I think of you often and always with admiration. Can't wait for the day when you got this thing beat for good.