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The Tale of the Octopus - How I survived IP Chemo

abrub's picture
abrub
Posts: 1531
Joined: Mar 2010

I posted this on the colo-rectal forum, and on Expressions as well, but I thought that since we're the ones that have the most IP chemo, it fits here the best:

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The Tale of the Octopus

Once upon a time….

Okay, let’s make that in September, 2007, the night before my first Intra Peritoneal chemo (IP) treatment*, I was staying at my brother’s apartment in NYC for ready access to Sloan Kettering the next morning.

My brother’s very good friend and upstairs neighbor, Rita, is a psychotherapist who kindly offered to come down when I was ready for bed, and do some pre-treatment visualization with me in order to facilitate the next day’s treatment of which I was duly terrified. Rita talked with me, discussed scenes I find relaxing (no. 1 is snorkeling) and then began talking me through some relaxation scenarios. My husband sat in the living room while all this was going on.

I relaxed, eased back into her suggestions, and all was going swimmingly. Rita then asked me to visualize snorkeling, and then visualize the chemo in my belly going after the cancer cells.

I did just that, and then burst into hysterical laughter. All of a sudden, an octopus that I’d seen on my last snorkeling trip was now swimming in the gallon of chemo that I was imagining in my belly, reaching around with his tentacles, delicate removing cancer cells from wherever they might be. [Note that in real life, said octopus was annoyed, and showed this by flashing from red to blue to red again, before disappearing into a crevice.] The image was lovely, but also very funny. Thus the relaxed mood was shattered, and Rita had no idea why I was doubled over in laughter. My husband came in from the other room, wanting to know why I was laughing so hard. And I'd been so close to drifting off to sleep!

Yes, I did explain, and Rita was relieved. However, her hopes of talking me down to sleep the night before my chemo failed. On the plus side, my mood was much improved.

And thus, the octopus became my totem animal. He saved my life, as the IP chemo was effective, and I’ve been NED since.
Subsequently, I bought myself a very nice blue plush octopus, who accompanied me to the hospital for my next surgery (hernia repair.) Other patients were amused; the hospital chaplain needed the explanation of the Octopus on my IV pole. My octopus goes with me for any major medical procedures now.

And hopefully, the princess lives happily every after, with her octopus at her side.

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*This was actually my second treatment, the first having occurred starting 48 hours after my surgery while I was still in the hospital, and under the influence of significant drugs. The IP chemo consisted of having 4 liters of chemo infused directly into my belly during 3 sessions over 3 days (2 liters on the first, and 1 liter each on days 2 and 3. The gallon of chemo is left to resorb on its own.) I was supposed to have a total of 8 treatments, but only got through 5, because it caused chemical peritonitis.

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