The process of administering chemotherapy, or to put it quite bluntly, POISONING, is freakishly routine and unceremonious. There is no sort of preparation phase. No warnings. No, “Are you ok? Are you ready for this?” Because, frankly, all they do is hang a bag of poison from the “tree” and let the poisons drip through a long clear tube into the access point somewhere in your body. I was fortunate enough to have a special “Power Port” implanted into my body, which makes the continuous poking of an increasingly weakening arm vein unnecessary. Now, the nurses just use a connection device and “plug” right into me. And that’s that.
My body begins to fill with poison.
As a matter of fact, it’s filling with poison as I type this. It’s a weird thing that, coming to terms with the body as a receptacle for poison, a vessel for fluids that kill in the process of saving. But it’s not just the poisons that fill the vessel either – that have turned the perception of my body from a symbiotic machine, acting in concert with its environments, taking in energy and exhaling the by-products effort, into a closed vessel that contains everything that enters – but all the other pills and fluids I must necessarily ingest and retain.
My new routine demands swallowing three poisonous pills (Xeloda, to be exact) upon waking and two more before sleep. These slow release pills enter my bloodstream (or somewhere) and begin to kill off the cells, some of the good with the bad, that reproduce the life-stopping cancer hiding within. I don’t know how they do their job….but I trust they do it.
At some point by the afternoon I will also take a vicodin, it too acting in ways I don’t understand, to ward off the discomforting and painful effects that come from the crowding cancer in my abdomen and the unpleasant sensations that are central to post-surgery recovery.
Those, however, are merely the daily efforts to fill the vessel. At the hospital, once every couple weeks, I now not only fill the body slowly with pills, but FLOOD the vessel with poisons…after the initial formalities, of course.
There is the stabbing into my power port for blood draws, which conversely is a small emptying of the vessel, before the clear tube is hooked in and a saline solution injected to clear the entry point. The first of a handful of liquids runs its course, right down the pathway into my heart.
The saline is then followed by the first nausea medication, the power of which I trust is warding off a sensation I hope to never experience, the powerful effect of the poisons that are to come, the sensations that not many years ago left patients racked with misery, doubled over, knees to the floor, most likely praying out for relief. Those prayers have, fortunately for me, been answered by the accumulative knowledge of modern medicine, of which I am inexpressibly grateful. The medicine drips casually into my system, allowing me the privilege to sit here and type without restriction.
Then 40 minutes later the tube is clamped, cleared, unhooked, and then rehooked into a separate bag of vessel filling fluids. The fanfare still completely absent, the clamp is released and without so much of a flinch the poisons begin to drip into my heart, drop by drop, cautiously controlled this first time in to empty itself over a 90 minute period. If I handle this initial dosage well, the next treatment will be shortened, and so on.
Drip. Drip. Drip. The poisons fill the vessel, flooding the body with cancer killing agents. And despite being fully conscious of this seemingly unnatural act, a slow-suicide of sorts, I remain as calm as the procedure, letting the vessel fill, not trying to fight off or expel the liquid death. Fighting fire with fire…in a lounge chair.
It’s odd to look at the body this way. Where before I sought to fill my body with the healthy energy I knew was necessary to create a healthy output, I now recognize the need to pour in a terrible substance, a killing liquid, and hold it inside, to contain it securely. It’s an ugly thing this poison. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But this disease is immeasurably uglier and right now these chemicals, these poisons, are the best weapons we have at our disposal to deal with it effectively, so I don’t mind submitting to this unnatural act.
And I am inexpressibly grateful that we’ve come to the point that I can fill my vessel with these cancer killing, yet life-saving, poisons and do so calmly, rationally, and functionally enough that I can even type all this in the process.
Ultimately, however, I look forward to the day my vessel tips and these poisons come spilling out, letting the healthy cells grow into the place where the bad used to reside.