1.11.2018

Lorazzies Make Everything Better

By my third round of chemo, I found myself wanting to dry heave in the parking lot. I would panic as I walked toward the infusion room, playing connect-the-dots between every trash can, sink, and bathroom - should the heaving suddenly get real.

I'd lunge for the overpriced recliner nearest a trash can, put in my ear phones, turn Mumford and Sons up as loud as I could, and close my eyes so I could mentally remove myself from that room. I had to go far away from that place in an attempt to suppress the overwhelming urge to throw up.

The caregivers bringing in fast food to their patients sitting next to me didn't help.

I confided my odd reaction to my oncologist, and he quickly diagnosed my ailment as "anticipatory nausea." My mind was anticipating the nausea that was coming, and freaking the f*ck out on me. My nurse dumbed it down, and simply label it as anxiety.

I had never experienced anything like it in my life, and was shocked at how physically overwhelming it could be. I became mentally and physically paralyzed in my ability to move past my pending infusion.

From the start of my treatment, I was prescribed a drug called Lorazepam to manage my nausea: Take 1-2 pills every 4 hours for nausea.

Three rounds in and my nurse was telling me this same drug was used to manage anxiety outside of the cancer world, and simply popping them before I left for chemo would most likely put a halt to my parking lot heaving. It would probably make me want to curl up in that same parking lot and take a nap - a power that would prove useful at 3 a.m when the steroid infusion left me wide awake.

She was right. I waltzed into my next round chiller than a wine cooler in an ice chest, and I became not just a believer in anxiety, but a believer in the drugs available to treat it. I also walked in with a newfound empathy for every person that had anxiety, and knew there was no shame in admitting its overwhelming control over me.

Though I've not had to face anxiety in the last 13 months on a treatment that did not make me sick, I found my familiar friend knocking on my door the moment it was decided to resume the treatment that taught me how sick chemo can truly make you. The nausea wasted now time, and started to overtake me right there in my little infusion room. Anxiety was back, and I found myself digging up leftover (and probably expired) pills to help me calm down and get through the remainder of the day.

I do not hesitate to take one when the thought of being sick again triggers that "anticipatory nausea." I know I will need those tiny white wonders to knock it off of my back, and continue on.

Facing cancer is daunting, and needing the help of drugs that can help keep the ship steady and moving forward is not shameful. Down the hatch one of these will as I walk out the door next Friday, and down the hatch another will go once I arrive at my infusion. Cheers to these little white pills, and the peace and calm they will bring to my mind, my body, and most likely my already low blood pressure.

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