Sherry Hanson has published hundreds of articles, essays and poems. In 2013 she won a MORE Award for excellence in reporting on musculoskeletal issues from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). She also won the 2014 Paumanok Award for Poetry from Farmingdale State College, Farmingdale, NY.
Sherry is a three-time survivor of ovarian cancer and volunteers in the “Survivors Teaching Students” program for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington. She is also a volunteer Scientific Research Advocate for the Knight Cancer Institute, affiliated with Oregon Health Science University in Portland, Oregon.
After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I at least knew what to expect in terms of the building I would be in. I had been given the tour once I completed the class on Chemotherapy 101, so I knew where the room was, how it was laid out, what kind of chair I would be sitting in for seven hours or so. It was a large, bright room with windows on three sides. My chemo nurse escorted me to my place and asked if I wanted anything to drink; I had a cup of coffee and looked around a bit. Not too much, but enough to get my bearings, see the layout, where the rest rooms were, what the other patients looked like.
Chemotherapy today is a far cry from back in 1980 when my father was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and people were often retching their guts out in treatment. The nurse put in my IV line and I got an anti-nausea drug and anti-allergy meds before the poisons went in. My chemotherapy agents, carboplatin and Taxol, followed successively. I did Sudoku for a while, but was soon nodding off. My nurse came by with a warm blanket and said, “You’re still at that? Go ahead and take a nap.” So I dozed.
Maybe some people actually sleep through it. The blanket felt wonderful as the cold began to spread through me from the fluids being pumped into my veins. With the footrest raised, it was almost like being in a recliner. There were short breaks while I was assessed for any allergic reactions, then again to begin the second drug. My sister was with me to help me face this thing that all of us four siblings had sworn we would never do as we watched our dad battle AML: chemotherapy. But as my gyn/onc had told me, I had to do it or die.
The first day of chemotherapy was long, with my son and his family stopping in to check on me. My granddaughter was only two years old, but the nurses let her in for a quick look to be sure Nana was okay. Hopefully my sister got a break and went downstairs or outside at some point.
Day One of chemotherapy is always a long one. I was fortunate and had no allergic reactions. I did see someone else having a treatment, and I could tell that she was scared. Sometimes the process can just be stopped temporarily while the reaction passes, and then resumed, as was the case with this lady across from me. But I did not look too closely; fear can be contagious.
Eventually, the day did end and I walked out of there without having any issues - thank God.