I walk into the front door of the Infusion Center. I feel weary, weary of the time and the energy it takes to stay and do what I must do.. sometimes reluctantly and tearfully… but I know it’s what keeps me alive. So, I resign myself to the process. I am alone, as always. Even after three years, I am still afraid of the needles, of having to stay in a room for eight hours, being told I can’t leave, and knowing I have to keep one arm still.
The infusion room is long and the chair recliners are placed in a semi-circle facing the nurses station. Overhead, the white fluorescent lights make it easy for the nurses to do their jobs. It also helps me see the needles are sharp, the vials of drugs are filled and ready to be released, by a syringe, into my arm. Nurses move to get the chairs ready for the task ahead. Chairs are wiped down and disinfected, and pillow cases are removed, and replaced with clean ones
Patients recline and try to get comfortable. Many look tired, their faces weary, and pale. Their bodies are thin. I can see in their eyes, they are resigned to treatment. I rarely see them smile. Most of them have relatives or friends sitting close by. I see in their faces the dread of having an IV put in their arms. Some become irritated, or angry. Some patients cry, or become detached to what is going on. Most of them sleep through treatment with a blanket around them. The nurses wear gloves and a few wear face masks.
I walk across the infusion room to a table placed by my chair. I open my bag, and place a newspaper, People magazines, a novel, and a writing pad on top. I shove pillows behind my back, get comfortable, and start reading.This keeps me distracted as a nurse hangs a bag of saline from a pole. She cleans a place on my arm, and after one to five tries, she jams the needle home.
I feel my body tense. I hope that this time, one stick will do. I experience a multitude of emotions. I try not to swear. Sometimes, I want to strike out but I don’t. I bite my lip and tell a joke to improve my mood and behavior. I make the nurses laugh to hide the pain. They inject me with a drug to prevent nausea. The second drug helps with other unpleasant side effects. The third injection is Benadryl which helps with allergic reactions, and I take Tylenol for pain.
When the saline bag is empty, the nurse replaces it with an Ig solution in a bag. The solution is pumped into my arm at a slow rate so my body will handle the medication with fewer side effects. That takes about seven hours lying still. I am given a ham sandwich at lunch which I look forward to. It breaks the monotony and is a positive reward for sticking it out in treatment. The Benadryl makes me sleepy so I nod as I read, and sometimes I fall asleep.
I am in my fourth year of treatment. Some days are good and some days are hard. The hard days are when I am nauseated, have diarrhea, experience muscle jerks, or become so exhausted, I can barely move. The good days are when I have the energy to see a movie, eat a meal with a friend, or go outdoors with my dogs.
I have days I am depressed and days when I experience joy. I am learning skills to reduce stress, and I am doing better at self-care. I am learning to accept my limitations, explore my inner world, and come to terms with death. I know now I am stronger than I thought, and I have so much to learn. Hopefully, when my life is over, I will have grown spiritually, been a better friend and mother, and will have fulfilled my purpose in life.
” These words were written so that others who have a chronic illness can see, we are silent heroes, who try every day to live our lives the best way we can. Every day is a challenge and an opportunity for us to grow as people. We are human and we have our ups and downs, our fears, and our moments of triumph. We go on living, taking one step at a time, and we carry hope for the future. Even though we are ill, our lives matter.” Yu/stan/kema