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- Story Listed as: True Life For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Life Experience
- Published: 01/22/2019
Cancer SucksBorn 1977, M, from Wareham, Ma., United States
Well, I suppose that I should start by telling you a bit about myself.
My name is Daryl Delancey. I was born on January 17, 1977 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Which, as it turns out, is a stroke of luck, being mere driving distance from the best medical facilities in the world.
I grew up in Kingston, Massachusetts, roughly forty miles south from Boston. I resided in a nice, middle class neighborhood, and lived right on the banks of the Jones river.
Music has always been a passion of mine. I used to constantly tell my old man that I was going to be a rock star. Thankfully, my father is a realist and prepared me for that let down. That dream didn’t quite pan out. I am still to this day in a band, and I am still a true metal head, just now, an old one. Being a realist myself now, I am well aware that the rock star ship has sailed. It is still quite fun to crank up the amp and have a few beers though, until my kids yell from upstairs because they need something. That really puts a damper on the rock star reverie.
I enjoyed sports very much as a kid, and still do now, for that matter. I still play hockey now at forty-two years old, although it is not quite as easy as it used to be. Actually, it kind of hurts now, especially the next day, ha! As my old man has told me on numerous occasions throughout my life, "it sucks to get old, boy."
He wasn't lying.
As I had mentioned a couple paragraphs ago, I am now forty-two years old. I reside in Wareham, Massachusetts, a town just before the cape cod canal. The town’s saying is, “gateway to cape cod.” I have been married since may of 2000, and have two children, both girls, ages 10 and 13. Yes, I am extremely outnumbered in my home, even my dog is female.
I am a master certified Chrysler technician, and work at a dealership on cape cod. I do not enjoy my career, in the least bit, but only a small percentage do, so why complain?
I enjoy fishing and hunting. I also enjoy beer, I like to drink it, brew it, visit breweries. Ok, I’ll just admit it, I’m a beer snob. I’m the guy that is going to ask what local brews you have on tap, I’m not ashamed of it, I prefer quality.
Well, I guess that brief overview of myself at least gives you an idea of who I am.
So, moving on.
In the beginning of winter 2016, I was enjoying a nice hot shower after work. I was washing myself and found a lump on my groin. My first thought was, “crap, hernia.” so I figured that I should get it checked out. I called my doctor the next day and scheduled an appointment.
I went to the scheduled appointment, irritated that I had to take time from work, and expected to have to take more time due to hernia surgery. The doctor came in and examined me, she examined the lump longer than I thought it would take to diagnose a hernia. She ended up saying, “this is not a hernia, it appears to be a lymph node.”
Ok, lymph node, nice, just some pills or something, maybe some rest time for the swelling to go down.
She told me that she needs to send me to a surgeon to biopsy it due to it’s very large size. Dammit, another appointment, more missed work, what a pain in the ass. I asked her what she thought was causing this. She told me that there were too many possibilities and that she did not want to speculate.
I went to see the surgeon, he got me in within a few days, which was surprising. We all know doctors are not usually over accommodating and expect us to work around their schedule. He really was nice though, funny. He laid it right out without candy coating it. He said that he needs to surgically remove the lymph node and have it lab tested to see if it is cancerous.
That was the first time that I had heard that word thrown around. So now I’m thinking, “what the hell is this? The “C” word?”
I went home, and of course, starting googling, which I wish I had never done. If I can give you one piece of advice, DO NOT GOOGLE MEDICAL CONCERNS BEFORE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DEALING WITH! You will be making funeral arrangements before you are even diagnosed.
My surgery got scheduled, and I tried to put it out of my mind. I made everyone agree that we would not discuss it until I got the proper diagnosis. Of course, in the back of my mind I was worried, and couldn’t help but think about it.
I had the surgery, it went perfectly fine. Doc told me he should have results in a few days. Ok, so now, we wait. A few days turned into a week, and then into a second week, so I call. They told me that the results were inconclusive and that it needed to be sent to another lab for further testing.
Of course, doctors making me wait, what a HUGE surprise.
After weeks of waiting, dealing with extreme nervousness and anxiety, I just stopped myself one day at work and made a decision. I thought to myself, why am I making myself sick with worry? What is the point, I certainly can’t change anything. And just like that, like a switch flipped in my brain, I stopped caring. I hadn’t told anyone, aside from my wife and boss, so at least I didn’t have anyone pestering me, I suppose that made it a bit easier to continue with my newly found attitude.
I also came to the understanding with myself that I knew what the results were going to be, no question. I guess being a pessimist sometimes pays off. I just became kind of numb to it, I just knew what was coming.
Finally almost four weeks later, my phone rang one morning at work. I looked at the screen, and knew the number.
Here we go.
I answered, and when I heard the voice on the other end was the surgeon himself, he didn’t even have to tell me, I knew. If it was nothing, a nurse or desk secretary would be on the other end of that phone. He told me that, unfortunately, it was not the news that he wanted to tell me. He got me an appointment with the oncologist’s office in his hospital.
Now I have to start telling people. I called my wife first, and then the task of telling my mother. Mother's tend to over dramatize a situation, and make it worse, it isn’t their fault, it is just the way they are wired.
Ok, what next?
I still kept it quiet until I really knew what I was dealing with. I saw the oncologist rather quickly. She informed me that I had Lymphoma, but it was non-Hodgkins. Ok, at least that sounded better. Thankfully I was still in the “whatever” state of mind, so I was pretty careless about what she was saying. To sum it up in a quick way, not to bore you, I was told that I had an extremely slow version of it, and I may not require treatment for seven or eight years. Even if I did require it that it would be a light chemo, not overly aggressive.
Sounds good, right? I can live with that, let’s roll with it. So I did, and I became very content with turning a blind eye to it. I saw the doc a couple more times, got a cat scan, she kept telling me nothing is progressing. Cool, I'm ok with that, I don’t feel bad, just more tired than usual. So, I continued on with life like normal, even making cancer jokes about myself.
Enter my wife.
My wife was in nursing school at the time, and she mentioned my diagnosis to one of her instructors, which happened to work part time for the number one lymphoma doctor and head of the department at Mass. General hospital. She told my wife to get me to Boston, and she helped get me an appointment with the big guy.
My wife called me and informed me of this. I was furious, life was going along just fine, and I did not feel like going through all this crap again. I actually yelled at her and my mother when they told me to just suck it up and go. What an asshole I was, but I was just so done with dealing with any of this. I had found a happy place and didn’t want to leave it.
Yeah, I am pretty dumb sometimes.
I trudge up to Boston, sit in the lovely traffic, and make my way up to Mass. General. I had a bad attitude instantly, I guess my façade showed stoicism, but inside I was scared. I would be damned if I let anyone see that though. I am quite stubborn, if you haven’t figured that out already.
I entered the hospital with my stupid attitude and closed mind, only to have that changed almost instantly. When I tell you that everyone that I encountered in that hospital were the kindest and nicest people that I had ever met, it may be understated. Everyone from the woman at the information desk, the guy cleaning the bathroom, the secretaries, the phlebotomists, the nurses, all incredible.
And then, I meet the doc.
He walks in, smile from ear to ear, grabs my hand and shakes furiously. He introduces himself and starts talking.
I was blown away, and I hadn’t even began talking to him yet. Here is this guy, probably one of the most brilliant people on the planet. He could act like I wasn’t even worth his time of day, just be a mundane jack-ass and tell me what he is going to do because he is the best, and how lucky I am to even be in his presence.
There are not many people in this world that I can say that I instantly liked the moment I met them, but this guy was the cat’s ass. I can say that, right?
I had never in my life felt so comfortable around a doctor. I forgot he was a doctor for a few, until he started telling me about the whole cancer thing, here we go again.
Again, I'll shorten it up a bit. He tells me that I have the most aggressive form of this type of lymphoma, my pet scan lit up like a Christmas tree. This was just before the holidays, and he wanted me to start treatment right after. My brain started to jumble a bit, and I lost focus. Oh, ok, not what I was expecting to hear.
Short story, I ended up being slated to start just a few days after my birthday, after I negotiated. I was given an appointment to come in for chemo school with his assistant. After that, I see him one more time and then head to infusion right after to start treatment. He explained that it involved five different drugs. What a 180 from my original diagnosis.
It all happened so fast that I barely even asked any questions. So, here we go again into the unknown. Let me tell you, I can’t quite come up with an analogy to help you understand how I was feeling at the time. My façade stood strong, but inside I wanted my mommy. Yeah, that’s right, tough guy, my mommy.
My wife and I showed up for the chemo school session. Doc's assistant handed me a bunch of papers, and we started going over them. I understand why they do this, but why does every single section have to include, “you might die from this?” very unsettling.
So, she explained everything, I signed a bunch of papers that stated it’s on me if I die. I'll spare the details and keep it short, but like all the others, she was great and answered all my questions.
So, that must mean that I have a good grip on what is about to happen, right?
She had given me a list of forums and medical web pages that I could visit and talk to other people about chemo and get information, credible information. Ok, I had at it. First off, the sites may have been credible, but they all led to the same answers, none. I tried a couple of the forums but only found that people on these are whiny, cry baby softies, looking for people to feel sorry for them.
Decision made: no more internet.
I am not lying to you when I say that I wouldn’t even look up a drug name. I completely shut myself off from any of the forums, medical pages, and google. Best decision ever, because you could google for years and not find anything, at all, that could help describe what I was about to go through.
Worst of all: no beer.
The big day came, we headed up to Boston very early. It seemed like forever, but I got in to see the doc. He strode in just as he had the first time I had met him, he just made you feel good, and he had such an air of confidence, but in no way cocky. He gave me a quick pep talk and explained what I would most likely experience, and off I went to the dreaded eighth floor.
I walked into infusion and went through the whole paperwork thing and then the waiting thing. I finally got called in and the attendant brought me in and guided me down one of the wings to one of the chemo chairs. She sat me in one with a window view overlooking the water, at least the view was nice. She got me seated and settled, and then I sat and waited for my nurse.
My nurse shows up and introduces herself. I was instantly wary of this woman. Unlike everyone else at this hospital, this woman seemed nervous and unsure. I had been comforted all morning by the plethora of confident professionals. This woman made me instantly hop on the train to anxietyville. We began to talk and instead of her convincing me otherwise, she only made my initial feelings worse. Wow, I was nervous.
She started to insert the I.V., she was even unsure with that, she tried three times until she finally called another nurse over, who got it first shot. My extremities were sweating at this point. That finally got settled and the saline drip began. She then gave me my pre-meds which include things like benadryl, tylenol, nausea med, etc.. Do you think she told me that I.V. benadryl would make me feel extremely dizzy and light headed?
I was so anxiety ridden at this point, I almost walked out. My wife calmed me down, and I relaxed a bit. After a while she shows up with my chemo drugs. Nerves spiked again, and she did not even try to comfort me. She hung the first bag and began the drip. The I.V. machine started beeping, and she got so frustrated that she actually started smashing the buttons with her finger. After she called over another nurse, yet again, she informed me that the drip will take thirty minutes and she walked away.
I was sitting talking to my wife when suddenly my heart starting racing, I am talking machine gun fast. I started sweating bullets and my wife pushed the call button. When she told her what was going on over the intercom about six nurses instantly swarmed me, pulled the curtain around me, and this woman looked like a deer in the headlights.
Out of all the nurses, a male nurse took over the situation and started delegating very calmly. Now, i told you earlier about how the doc made me feel, well this guy, double. He was absolutely incredible. He was not even my nurse, and he stayed with me until the situation was resolved, which was thanks to him. My nurse just stood to the side like a dumb-ass.
So, all fine and dandy now, the male nurse set everything up for her, calmed my nerves, and it began again. They ended up slowing down the drip where I had had a reaction. He leaves to take care of his own patients, and left me with the queen of dumb-ass. Everything went ok for about 30 minutes or so, when suddenly, my throat begins to get scratchy. My wife got me water, but when i swallowed, it felt like there was a lump in my throat. Oh, good, my throat is swelling closed, call button.
Dumb-ass shows up, again, looks like she has no clue what to do. Thankfully, the male nurse swoops in for the save, again. This man deserves a cape, I swear. He gets me settled again, and again, they slow the drip. Clearly I am having reactions to this drug, but it has to be administered, or I'm screwed. With the extremely slow drip, I did not have any further problems with it. The male nurse kept coming to check on me, even though I was not his patient.
I will cut the details out again to shorten this up a bit. I was supposed to be there until about one or two p.m., needless to say, that did not happen. It was seven p.m. and I was still receiving the last drug. I was the only one still in the unit, everyone had gone home, including the nurses. Who shows up at my chair, the male nurse. He was supposed to have left already, but he wanted to stay to make sure I was ok. I told him I was fine as long he was there, and I was very thankful for his work. I explained to him my feelings for my nurse and asked him if I could switch to him as my primary nurse. He told me that it was my perogative to decide, and he went into the computer and changed it.
Ended up being the best decision ever.
I finally got out of there at seven-thirty p.m., I felt like a wet dish rag. I was completely exhausted.
I got home, went to sleep, and then got up and went to work. You may say, “what a dumb-ass,” perhaps you would be correct, but I was damned if I would let this control me.
I wasn’t too bad for most of the day, aside from fatigue. I made it through the day, went home and relaxed, it wasn’t too bad. I figured, “damn, this isn’t that bad, I've got this.”
And then, Saturday came.
By Saturday late morning-ish, I felt like a train had run over me. I went back to bed, and within an hour or so, I thought I was dying. Holy crap, it was equivalent to a horrible flu multiplied by infinity.
I was beginning to get a sense of what the doc meant by, “we just about kill you, and then stop.”
Yup, I was certainly dying.
The worst of it began to ebb around Sunday afternoon. By Monday, I had the wet dish rag feeling again, and the fatigue was pretty nasty. Thankfully, the nausea meds worked well and for the most part kept that at bay.
Off to work I went. Yes, work. I made a promise to myself that I would not let this rule me. I refused to lay down and feel sorry for myself. My wife was in nursing school full time and was not employed, so that gave me motivation as well. Pressure to perform makes a great recipe for motivation.
The fatigue was misery, but I got through it, and then Tuesday came.
Tuesday, probably my least favorite day. I had to take one hundred milligrams of prednisone for five days, and then stop. Normally, people are weaned off of prednisone and don’t usually take such a high dose. Let me tell you, there is a reason for that. Wow, my head felt like a hollow, echoey, pounding bass drum. I actually had hallucinations. No one really gave me any sort of warning about this, so I had absolutely no clue what was happening. Everyone at work kept asking me if I was ok, and said that I was grey.
Oh yeah, good times.
Well, at least I now had a schedule I could go by. Thursday I would go to infusion, Friday wet dish rag, Saturday and Sunday near death, Monday wet dish rag again, Tuesday massive headaches mixed with light headedness and hallucinations. I would gradually feel a bit better by the day and almost feel normal by the end of the third week, and then start all over again.
Nice, I have a baseline. Should be a routine four and a half months, right?
Halfway through treatments I had a pet scan again to see how things were going. I had the scan done, headed home to meet a friend to go to the shooting range that night, maybe do something I enjoy during all this crap. My family and I were heading home, my phone rings, it is Mass. General calling.
“Hi, this is, so and so, from Mass. General Hospital. You need to go to the nearest emergency room, right now. We discovered that you have a pulmonary embolism while reading your scans.”
Ok, I turn to my wife and tell her I have a pulmonary embolism and they want me to go to the nearest E.R.. what the hell is that? I asked her. Being a nurse and all, she needed no further explanation. Judging by the speed she now drove, and the look on her face, I was screwed, again.
No gun range for Daryl tonight, apparently, I was heading to my second hospital of the day.
Ok, this part of the story is incredibly boring, as I spent the entire weekend at the hospital full of rookies. Ill just give a brief summary.
In the E.R. they do x-rays, the blood clot broke up at some point between the hospitals and went through my heart and lungs. At least it broke up, obviously because I'm still here to tell this story. I went through hell all weekend in a hospital full of dumb-asses (refer to my original infusion nurse comments to catch what I mean by dumb-asses). But, at least they didn’t kill me.
Now, seeing my Boston doc, he tells me I have to be on blood thinners for six months. Ok, another pill, no big deal, I guess. Nope, I have to inject myself in the stomach twice a day for six months. Sounds great, right? Hell no, not great. The needle doesn’t hurt, but the medicine feels like fire being injected under my skin. Twice a day for six months, dammit. Needless to say, by the time my six month sentence of this crap was up, my entire stomach was bruises and lumps.
Oh, and the worst part, this extends my beer vacation. I also have to avoid cutting or injuring myself at all. Ha! I am an auto mechanic, I injure myself for a living. This should be fun.
There you go, a quick overview of that hellish experience. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The next infusion goes flawlessly, everything was right on schedule. Pretty easy three weeks there, in comparison to others. I go in for my fifth treatment and they inform me that my nurse is out sick. I'm out, no friggin’ way am I doing this today. My mother was with me and was telling me to just get it done, you can’t go off schedule with your treatment. I called my wife and she told me the same. made sense. Ok, fine, I’ll suck it up and go in.
I meet the nurse, he seemed like a good guy, that made me a touch more comfortable. He tells me that he has been a nurse for thirty-plus years. Ok, that sounds promising. He then proceeds to tell me this is his first time in infusion, he just made the change from E.R..
Are you f***ing kidding me?
I roll with it, my mother looked very upset and I did not want to make her any worse. He put the I.V. in, first shot, ok, he seems pretty good. The first med goes in without a hitch. The second med is an extremely toxic, flesh eating drug that cannot be touched in any way. They triple check the I.V. line before they inject it. Stuff is bright red, I named it “red devil,” quite fitting.
I had been so nervous all day and it all culminated when I saw the red devil syringes. My stomach said “nope, no, sir, I'm not with you anymore,” and emptied it’s contents via my mouth. I finish that up, and he starts injecting the red devil. Pretty shortly in, something just didn’t feel right, it hurt and never had before. I looked down at the I.V. and saw a bubble forming under my skin. I looked at the guy and said, “we have a bubble forming here.” His face went absolutely pale white, maybe a hint of grey thrown in. He hopped up and started sucking out what he could with the syringe.
Damn, it burned.
I just looked at my mother and said, “told you.”
Another long story, here’s a quick overview.
Treatment had to be stopped, and I had to get the antidote I.V. delivered for the next three days straight. Three days straight to Boston, and then re-do treatments on the fourth day.
The head of the unit came to me and offered to put myself and my family in a hotel so we did not have to drive home. Ok, they put us up at a nice hotel near the hospital. She had given me reservations that were printed out to give to the hotel. At check in, they ask for a credit card, it will not be charged, just back up in case we go rock star on the room. Ok, no problem.
We get to the room, and it was pretty nice. I was completely drained and just wanted to go to bed. So, that is what I did. A little while later, I hear really loud bass, like when a car drives by with their system blasting. It does not stop, just keeps going and going. My wife calls the front desk and they inform her that there is a function going on just above us. They also say that the hotel is full and they cannot move us to another room.
The next morning, I go checkout, because screw this, I’m going home right after this damn antidote infusion. I go get that done and we head home. I stopped at the cafeteria to get a drink and the kids some food. My debit card is declined. I check the bank app, the hotel had charged almost four hundred dollars to my debit card. I called and yelled and screamed, but they didn’t care, said they would credit it within five business days.
Oh, something I forgot to mention, for some reason. I had said how my mother was, basically at her wit’s end when I was almost refusing to go for treatment, and when the red devil incident happened. I failed to mention why.
My father was in the hospital across town.
Yeah, let me back up a bit. I was in my second treatment, and I was at work one day, and my wife shows up unannounced to have lunch with me. My wife NEVER shows up unannounced to have lunch with me. What is the deal? Well, the deal was that she came to tell me in person that my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She did not want to tell me over the phone, and my mother was too upset to tell me.
Yeah, cool, I feel a lot better now.
My father was recovering from major surgery that day the red devil incident occurred. My mother really needed more on her plate.
Long story short, I ended up finishing the antidote regimen, my nurse came back on Monday, and the treatment went perfect. That nurse came up to me on Monday and stressed how sorry he was. Looking at him, he clearly was very upset about the situation, I felt really bad for him. I let him know that I do not blame him for anything, nobody is perfect, and I hold no grudge. He seemed to feel a little better after talking to me.
I finished up the last treatment on April 20, 2017. I had absolutely had it with everything, and just wanted it to end. If it weren’t for my nurse, I would not have made it through. I cannot thank him enough for everything he did for me. I still talk to him today, he even drives down for barbeques at my house. I still go for check-ups every three months, and nothing has returned.
I cannot stress how amazing Mass. General was, and still is. All of their employees, nurses, and doctors are world class.
My father had complications as well, but recovered fully, and is still clear.
I have probably left out many things, but this is long enough, and I don’t want to bore you to death. Just figured I would jot down some of my experiences.
I would like to end by thanking my wife, mother, and family. I would also like to thank Ron. Many days you helped me more than you will know with your daily check-ins.