Labor, Without the Birth

Today I went into labor. Except, of course, I’m not pregnant. 

As I'm exiting the delirious 5 day haze of my first chemo round, I am eager to be feeling better. The moment I begin to have some equilibrium, I'm out of bed and picking up the house. I determine that a morning errand would be feasible, so the three of us head out to a local bank, where we need to open an account.

Halfway through the opening process, while I’m seated at the desk of the bank employee, a wave of pain descends over my lower body. In the quasi-comfortable chair, in the center of a large bank lobby, I start into what was essentially back labor.

Coming in couple minute waves at first, a strong, clenching pain is gripping my lower back. I don’t understand what I’m feeling but am trying to rush the banking process as much as possible in order to get out of there before I faint, throw-up, or start bleeding - not really sure which is more probable. 

A rational person would have turned on her heels and left right then. But I am not rational today; I’ve been inside the four walls of my bedroom, deliriously ill all week. I am determined to accomplish something productive today, and moreover, to prove to myself that I will come out of each round of chemo quickly and return to normal. (Determination will be one of my more significant coping tools.)

Yes, our information is correct. No, I don’t want to upgrade. I’m mouth-breathing, trying to do so quietly.
Yes, I’ll take checks. No, I don’t need a credit card. Blotchy spots are appearing in my vision.   

Meanwhile, Bobby is growing impatient because the account-opening process is taking longer than he anticipated. He’s tired of trying to entertain Little H in the midst of the bank and is shooting me annoyed glares over the cubicle walls anytime I’ll look up, as though I’m delaying this process out of enjoyment. In spite of the silent battle I’m waging with my insides, he’s still managing to stress me out.         

My chatty teller eventually wraps up the thorough process, but not before the manager is brought out to meet us and thank us for our business. I can barely muster a smile to greet his enthusiasm. I notice my ultra-tactful husband pacing the lobby doesn’t bother to offer much of a smile either. 

Finally, we’re heading out. Bobby sulks to the exit, Little H bursts through the doors like a caged animal set free, and I shuffle behind them, focused on getting inside the car before I lose consciousness or any kind of body fluid.

Before Bobby can get the first complaint out, I’m in Lamaze-breathing mode to bear the sharp cramps that are coming faster and have spread around to grip my front. “Hurts. Here.” I gasp, clutching my lower torso. Before we’re through the first stoplight, I’m sobbing. 

There is a level of pain, for those of us who are weak enough, that is so intense, you wonder if there is a God. Wrenching pain you can’t see through. Nothing else exists during that pain; just white and pain. Even for weeks after it's subsided, the mere memory of it will bring you to tears.

Today was that kind of pain.

After talking a frenzied Bobby out of driving to the Emergency Room, we made it home and got a quick call in to my Oncologist’s office. The nurse advised Bobby that I was having side effects from the shot I received a few days prior, a drug called Neulasta, which is used to help restore white blood count, post chemo. It’s standard protocol; most chemo patients receive this sort of injection after each round to help avoid infection whilst depleted of white blood cells. 

Only, the nurse was wrong. I was not having a reaction to the Neulasta, but to the chemo itself. My hormones were scrambled and were actually putting me through an odd simulation of labor. But it will take us until this time next round, when things get even worse, until we realize what’s happening.

For now, the nurse has called in a prescription for Vicodin and I spend the next three days taking it around the clock, until I can feel the pain subsiding. 

A year ago I had a virtually empty medicine cabinet… a few vitamin bottles, a couple old, expired prescriptions. I usually let a cold or a headache run its course and avoid medication, however stubborn or irrational my husband finds this. Suddenly, my medicine cabinet has become a small pharmacy of strange prescriptions I can barely keep track of. And I did not hesitate one bit to take those pain-inhibiting Vicodin.

That night, I was so exhausted I actually told Bobby I couldn’t talk; we went to bed in silence. It was definitely a rough day. I went to sleep wondering when things would stop getting worse. 

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