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Packing for Chemotherapy? Don’t Forget Sense of Humor, Patience, Guts

While a blanket, water and snacks are important for the chemo bag, don't forget to bring the good stuff like guts. No guts, no glory.
PUBLISHED: JULY 16, 2017
Overhead in the Infusion Room:

Patient: I don’t know how I lost so much weight. I got a haircut, but I don’t think that was it.

Nurse: Unless your hair weighs an awful lot.

Patient #2, to friend (two precious older ladies dress in bright yellow shirts) who is embroidering a beautiful baby quilt while they talkShe’s had three boob jobs. I’m sure he’ll pay for another one.

Nurse #2: Those jobs are expensive. You have to maintain them.

I’m an unapologetic, eavesdropping, persistent people-watcher. Most writers are. I’ve discovered recently that this pastime or bad habit or calling — however you see it — holds me in great stead during my chemotherapy treatments.
Cancer veterans often are asked by newcomers what they should bring to chemo. We reel off the usual list of snacks, bottled water, a blanket, something to read, puzzles, phone, phone charger, etc. After a year and half in the trenches, I’ve realized that the important item you bring to chemo is your patience.

It’s not just chemo for most of us. It’s also lab work. In my case, that involves going to the infusion room to get my port accessed before labs can be drawn because I’m on the “hard stick” list. Then it’s an appointment with the oncologist. Then chemo. And between each stage, there is waiting. At my last appointment, I waited two hours for my doctor and then another hour for my surgeon, with chemo in between. I went in the building at 9 a.m. and left at 4 p.m.

There will be waiting, and the only thing you control about that waiting is your attitude. I came to this cataclysmic realization only recently after a year of teeth-gnashing and whining. I even wrote a letter to Texas Oncology reminding them that while we are patients, we are also their customers, and this is the only business where they don’t recognize that waiting hours for appointments in icy cold waiting rooms is poor customer service. I was in public relations, so I know. This is especially true when your customers feel awful and some are precariously ill. But that is a topic for another blog.

So, what do you do while you wait? Here are some of my favorites:



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Kelly Irvin is a multi-published novelist and former newspaper reporter who worked in public relations for more than 20 years. She retired from her day job in 2016 after being diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a degenerative motor neuron disease, and stage 4 ovarian cancer. She spends her days writing and loving her family.
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