The first visit to Roper Hospital to start the chemo treatment was just as Skip expected. “It took time to get his room and the chemo going. The waiting truly was the hardest part. Skip and Ashley got to the hospital around 9:00 a.m. and were probably not admitted to their room until sometime after noon, with the chemotherapy nowhere in sight.
Ashley had spoken to the pharmacist at the hospital who said it was an unusual prescription, and so it took a little more time to locate and assemble. “More warm fuzzies about being the guinea pig for this protocol at the hospital,” thought Skip. Before his admittance to the hospital several weeks prior, Skip had a surgical procedure that placed a so-called “life port” into the upper left side of his chest, which would facilitate the administering of the chemo drugs. Instead of having to find a vein each time a drug was administered, the nurse just inserted the needle into the life port, which was already connected to a major vein or artery. That life port, as Skip would realize, was a life saver.
It was finally time. The brew had been concocted, and it was time to be administered. Skip was anxious, as one could imagine, having to undergo his first chemotherapy session. He was dressed in a hospital gown and lay in bed as the first of the drugs was inserted into the life port. Ashley was there for support, although there was little that she could do, for this was the beginning of a long and arduous road for the two of them. It was about supper time, so Ashley said good-bye and returned to Bay Club to perform the usual household tasks and to care for the kids. Skip would be in the hospital on this initial visit for seven days, with an IV of poison constantly flowing into his system. Alone and uncomfortable, Skip started to feel the effects of the drugs. The nurses did their best to give their patients anti-nausea drugs but, in Skip’s case, they only seemed to take the edge off. A wave of anxiety came over Skip, which caused him to get out of the bed and pace the floor. He felt as if he were coming out of his skin. Skip thought this was just par for the course, so he lived with this intense panic for the first several days, not wanting to complain or be a nuisance to the nursing staff.
The cafeteria staff brought food, but it was almost impossible to hold anything down; besides, Skip had no appetite. Finally, he reached his initial breaking point and summoned the nurses to help with his anxiety and pain. In tears and grief, Skip tried to explain his feelings to the nurse in order that she might help him. As a result, Dr. Barker ordered a strong dose of sedatives that would help calm Skip. They worked to a large degree. A year of this treatment had just begun; this fact consumed his thoughts. And he had fallen down on day one. Skip now understood what the doctors meant by aggressive therapy. Chemotherapy truly was hell on earth.