Possum Chicken

I am just finishing round one of the 7 month regime. It has been a bit of a trial as they say in the old country, particularly the last week or so. Started with 3 weeks of the daily pill chemo – not too bad, fatigue sometimes overwhelming, other things manageable including a rash which came and went. But then last weekend it turned into serious torment. The hospital gang determined it was a reaction (a more sedate term than side effect) to either the chemo or one of the drugs given to fight the side effects of the chemo (probably the latter). I had stopped the chemo pills anyway (21 days on, 7 off) and so the other was also stopped but of course the torment continued. The only thing which gave some relief is a narcotic. OK at night, not too good when you have to work. Monday I worked till mid afternoon, came home, took the drowsy pill, konked out. Surfaced just before Judit, bearing chicken soup, came to fetch me for our Feldenkreis class. The class as always was great, lay on the floor and every so often dozed off, that seemed fine. An hour later at home, heating up the chicken soup I hear an almighty caffuffle in the yard, screeching and flapping, the air vibrating, dinosaurs returned to the earth. Two of the live chickens (as opposed to the chicken in the soup) were careening around the yard. I grabbed a flash light and broomstick and staggered out – the door to their run was wide open and so were all the doors to their little house. There in their house taking up most of the floor was a possum, an unusually pretty possum, colored tan and grey. And just above the possum was Sabrina on her perch shivering and shaking, silenced. With the aid of a broomstick I edged the possum out. He slipped down the ramp to the ground gliding with greater elegance than the hens ever do; they slither and hop and stomp down the ramp to freedom every morning. I had to chase the possum into the vegetable garden away from the other two chickens and away from Sabrina who was now performing in the yard like a yoyo emitting strangled clucks. Then I sat on the ground and lowered my weapons and listened to my own heart emitting strangled clucks. Chickens can’t see in the dark which means it is sometimes very easy to pick them up and sometimes impossible if they are in panic. Holly and Sabrina stopped running and I cooed to them making the chicken lullaby sounds that they know from night time when we do the final lock and check. Holly is the sook and so she was I think calmed by being picked up and cuddled and stroked and returned to her house. Sabrina next, no problem. Then Lula Mae, the little wild one, who disdains human contact, she did not wish to be touched or returned. Everytime I approached, crouched and cooing, she would be propelled from her own crouching position into a feathered ball of fury flying through the air away from the chicken run. Half an hour of cooing, begging, reprimanding and swearing ensued, half an hour of stalking and stumbling. Adrenalin had expelled all narcotic effects and the drama suppressed the itching. At last I held Lulamae in my two hands, a solid little body rather than feathered lightening. At last they were all back home, all doors sealed, a possum fate averted.

At last I got to eat my chicken soup.

The next day off we go, Jeffrey and I, to the hospital for the first infusion of chemo No.2. I have had this drug before (about 18 months ago) and tolerated it fairly well. Today it goes slowly but uneventfully – 5 hours or so after arriving the little packet on the IV stand is nearly empty. And then I start shivering. The PAs are there straight away, and lots of nurses and what they call “the kit”. Don’t worry they say, you’ve got the chills, it’s a common reaction, we are going to give you a drug and then you might sweat and it’ll be OK. Well then suddenly I started feeling really awful and panic stricken as though there were a possum in the room. I remember saying, I feel really bad. “what sort of bad?” someone asks. But I just feel the tar pits opening up and the possum lurking and can’t speak. The next thing I remember is the doctor shouting at me “Open your eyes! Open your eyes! Look at me!” and all I wanted to do was sink back into oblivion. Then time seemed to go very slowly and after a while they said, “you can close your eyes now and relax.” When I asked what happened they said you gave us a fright, you just lost consciousness and then you stopped breathing.

So for the next infusion, two days later, they fiddled with the cocktail, added some stuff (steroids), changed the secondaries (the drugs that guard against the side effects). I was really scared like I have never been before. I think that Jeffrey was even more scared. He said it was really terrifying when I lost consciousness and stopped breathing and the room was full of doctors and machines. It was much more terrifying for him than for me—I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t see anything. I am glad he was there.

It went very slowly but without drama. And same yesterday. Yesterday was Sunday, nice and quiet in the infusion center. They had to change me from Saturday to make sure there was an oncologist on duty. My nurse said – oh glad to meet you, you are the Blue Code Lady. Blue Code she tells me is when a patient stops breathing.