The Infusatorium

A Peek Through the Window of Life With Multiple Myeloma

A Peek Through the Window of My Life With Multiple Myeloma

I arrive at 8 am. Sam works admitting: name, birthdate, reason for being here. The data links me to my doctor’s orders. I receive a barcoded arm band.

The infusatorium opens at 8:30. I wait, reading Web/MD magazine. I wonder if I could write for them. “No,” I decide, “I’m irrelevant. I’m no Brokaw or Ferraro.”

Recently, I’d wrinkled my nose at the uneven coverage of Tom Brokaw’s multiple myeloma diagnosis; the cancer we now share. Our celebrity obsessed social culture stuffs itself on sound bites. It’s mostly appetizers, seldom the entrée of what, in this instance, is a fascinating disease.

We Can't Stop the Chemo Until a Cure Is Found.

We Can’t Stop the Chemo Until a Cure Is Found.

As I digest these thoughts, an elderly gentleman opens the door to the infusion clinic. I follow. We must weigh ourselves. He sidles out of his wheelchair, edges onto the floor scale, and grabs the printout. It’s my turn. 177 pounds. A little chunky for me, due perhaps to winter’s inactivity and steroid bingeing on potato chips and candy.

I nestle into a lounger at one of the infusion room’s seven stations. The light is muted, pleasant. I connect my iPad to the wireless. K approaches. I like her. The oncology nurses are universally wonderful, compassionate guides through the Stygian underworld of cancer.

The Wires of My DNA Got Crossed.

The Wires of My DNA Got Crossed.

We chat about our weekends as she takes my vitals. BP is 120/58. Good, I’m relaxed. She palpates my wrist, then wraps the IV site in heated blankets.

Several minutes later, a fat worm of vein greets her needle. She draws two tubes of blood for lab tests. It’s the usual suspects. K hangs a bag of saline, flushes the IV port and attaches the drip. She brings me ice water and a blueberry muffin. In the infusatorium, we are all celebrities.

The room gets busy. First, a young boy arrives with his little brother and his father. I’d not seen him in previous visits. Raccoon eyes and a shadow of new hair infer cancer. So, a fellow chemo junkie. His wan smile, nonetheless, lights the room.

My Bone Marrow is a Junkyard of Used Up Chemo.

My Bone Marrow is a Junkyard of Used Up Chemo.

Then, a regular, obviously the respected patriarch of an extended family, shuffles by me with the usual entourage: two adult daughters and his wife. He dabs watery eyes with tissue. His resting gaze shows resolve.The ladies surround him with love, the strongest elixir of all.

Nurse R arrives at 9:50. My labs passed muster. She hangs another bag of saline. This one contains four milligrams of a magic potion. The tiny dose is infused over 20 minutes. Any faster and it can stress the kidneys.

Hope Floats

Hope Floats

Finally, it’s time for the subQ. At 10:25, K brings the medicine. Another small dose, but it packs a wallop. She wears a protective gown, gloves, and a plastic face guard over a paper mask. Did I mention this shit is poison? The needle stick into my belly fat goes OK, but for a few moments, when she pushes the drug home, it burns as if I’d swallowed a jalapeño pepper. Before I can object, it’s over.

K disposes of the needle and her bio-hazard suit. She returns and shuts down the saline drip. She cleans up my IV site. After 2 1/2 hours, I am free to go. I have bandages on my belly and wrist. The nurses bid me farewell.

Others arrive as I exit. Out in the lobby, no one stops me for an autograph. On go the sunglasses … I slip into my cloak of anonymity and depart.

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14 responses to “The Infusatorium

  1. Ah john…Kenny would so be in your corner. Reading your blog brings him to mind always. Soon you will be enjoying your new grandchild. Take care dear friend…nancy t

  2. great blog. the irony about Brokaw is that he is a better journalist than those who are covering this story…. he would have asked the right questions, produced a more accurate story.

    • You are right Julie. I linked to K. Giusti’s interview. It was relevant. Sanjay Gupta on CNN was awful as their “expert.” Thanks for all you do at MM Support.

  3. This was so informative! And I didn’t know you were doing this. For how long? How often? I loved reading, “My labs passed muster.” Perfect selection of photographs. You are becoming such an accomplished artist.

  4. I had never thought about it – but I guess you are a “celebrity” of sorts while in treatment. I only went thru 2 rounds of chemo but 6 weeks of radiation – 4 weeks once a day, 2 weeks twice a day. Every week the doc visited me in the lab and I also saw him in his office. There were techs, physician assistants, nurses, receptionists, and even the superintendent/doorman in the living facility who knew me, held me by my hands and arms, spoke to me, and generally touched me in every way for nearly two months. And then one day it was over – sent me home, treatment ended, with the instructions to now “get better”. Fame is such a fleeting quality… :)

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