I’m Courtney and was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in April 2018 at age 34. I live an hour outside of Philadelphia. I am a teacher and received my diagnosis over the phone while breaking up a fight between my students at recess. From that point on, I knew I would need to find the lighter side of my cancer treatment. I started my Instagram (@notasentence) to help others undergoing treatment see things that helped me survive the process and get back to myself now that I’m considered a survivor, but it all began with my first chemo treatment.
At this point, Chemo infusion No. 1 has come and gone and left little behind to remember it by, except a bunch of Keurig cups and Fig Newtons in my purse.
My sister flew in two days prior to turn her doctor coat into nursing scrubs for a few days. It's always nice to have her in town but I secretly think she enjoyed the trip because our house was a quiet place to take a nap without kids and she was introduced to my favorite show, Schitt's Creek.
We arrived at Penn Presbyterian's Cancer Center right on time for my appointment. I had read a lot about making sure to pack snacks and water for the infusion to make sure your body is good to go. We walked in the door with a beach bag full of snacks, drinks, and entertainment. I don't know why I thought I needed to pack entertainment when I had actually traveled to the appointment with my own personal entertainment, my husband Adam and my sister Ashley.
When I was called back to get my blood taken, I was a little nervous because this was the very first time my port had ever been accessed. This is also the first appearance of the disappearing nurse named Stephanie. Stephanie brought me back and told me she would be doing my blood work. She got me seated in a nice over-sized chair and told me she would be right back. A few minutes later, a different nurse came in and said she would be doing the blood work.
After getting my blood drawn I made my way back to the waiting room to sit between the two Stooges I came with. I'm pretty positive the only sounds of laughter in the room were coming from the three of us. We were, by far, the youngest people in the waiting room and my sister wondered if, by the time I finished chemo, I would be wearing the white “old-person” New Balances that seemed to be the staple shoe in the waiting room. At one point, my sister was also charged with awakening the old woman sleeping next to her who was being called for her appointment.
We were greeted at Chair 12 by the disappearing nurse, Stephanie. She gave me all my pre-meds and told me she would return with some paperwork which she would go over with me. However, when she returned she said she was passing me off to another nurse, once again, because it was now her lunchtime. Hence, disappearing Stephanie.
Chair 12 was pretty much in the middle of the room. I quickly noticed the private chemo suites along the outside of the room and immediately inquired on how one gets to move up into one of them. I would be lying if I said I didn't sing a little Jefferson's theme song afterward. We were told it was pretty much luck of the draw with the chairs and suites. My nurse did say that Wednesdays were normally their slower day and I might have better luck on one of those days. So my new plan, try to move all chemo to Wednesdays!
We were now ready to begin my chemo. My first med took only a few minutes and allowed us time to chat with my nurse about when my possible hair loss might take place and if I would lose my nose hair too (apparently wasn't a question my nurse had ever been asked before -- leave it to me).
My next two meds were both a quick 10-minute IV drip. During this time Adam had his share of snacks and hot chocolate, because during chemo you are supposed to make sure to keep your body fed! Ashley had a cup of coffee and I drank my second Nalgene of water. I think next time they will definitely put us in a private room because we were the absolute rowdiest crowd in the room. Disappearing Stephanie returned during this treatment.
Finally, we were to our last dose of meds which was a 30-minute IV drip. Three minutes into it, I decided I needed to pee and acted like one of my students who has waited too long to ask me to go to the bathroom and needs to wait in line for their turn. I danced around in my chair for the next 27 minutes hoping I would be able to hold it and wondering just how much give the elastic in my pants would actually have.
At last we were done! I was shown to the closest bathroom while my sister and husband took one last trip to the snack bar for another round of fig newtons and coffee. We left with a beach bag more full of snacks than when we arrived.