Now I Know What It’s Like Being Stabbed a.k.a. the Zoladex Shot

injectionIt is a cold DC morning and I emerge from the subway, hands stuck deep in my coat pockets and my wool hat pulled down over my ears.

This is the second time I am going to my new oncologist’s office to get my monthly ovarian suppression shot. Supposedly, it will keep my aggressive cancer from coming back. Or so they hope.

I attempt to stall the unpleasant prospect by taking a detour off Wisconsin Avenue and sitting in an Illy café, drinking coffee and eating a blueberry scone. Half an hour later, I glance at my phone and realize I really need to get to the doctor and get this over with.

The lobby by the elevators in the doctor’s office building is filled with old people. They all have grey hair, two of them are leaning on walkers and one is in a wheelchair. I feel a wave of my cancer anger swoop over me and cover me with its grey wings. I shouldn’t even be here! Why am I here? I don’t belong here! I HATE IT HERE! I grit my teeth as if to prevent the scream of misery from escaping my mouth.

“Go on in the back”, the receptionist at the oncologist’s office smiles pleasantly.

The “back” is the chemo infusion room. My whole body is bucking at the idea of stepping in there, smelling those smells and watching the people, tethered to the poison tree stands, like in some twisted Matrix movie.

I manage to get a seat across from the row of windows that cover the entire wall. As we are on the 13th floor, sunshine is pouring in and I try to steady my heartbeat and breathing. I look around and see a girl close to my age with her legs bent and tucked underneath her, and my trained eye recognizes a wig on her head. I look away when she makes eye contact. I feel guilty for being done with that part of my treatment and not needing a wig anymore.

There is a man sitting in another chair, he is about 48, sturdy, with a full head of dark brown hair. He asks the nurse something.

“Well, in about two weeks.” She responds, as she scribbles something on his IV bag. “But it won’t come out all at once.” She continues, smiling. “You will know when to…” She makes a motion as if one is shaving his head.

There is nothing funny about this! Why is she smiling? Why is she joking about this? I want to go and push her over on the ground. Then I want to look at the guy and say:

“Hair will be the least of your worries, my friend.”

But I just sit there and continue staring out the window.

“Eva?” I hear my name being called.

I spring up, grab my coat and a purse and follow the nurse to a private room to get my shot. She closes the door and to me it sounds like a Swiss bank iron vault door being slammed, imprisoning me, with no escape.

I watch her unwrap the shot. My heart is pummeling against my chest and I feel the veins on my neck throbbing in the same mad rhythm. I know what to expect. I did it once and I masochistically watched it on Youtube.

The Youtube video always had the patient laying down, with the nurse pinching a chunk of their belly fat, inserting the shot quickly in and out. But my nurse insists on me standing up.

I pull up my sweater and turtleneck and my low rise jeans expose my abdomen. She approaches me with the spring loaded needle. The needle itself is several millimeters thick because it has to deliver a small capsule that will slowly dispense the medication over the next month.

To me, it looks like a thin dagger, a stiletto of pain. The nurse steps closer to me and we are now standing, facing each other, only about a foot apart. I take a few panicked breaths and she leans forward and without pinching anything, she plunges the needle in a stabbing motion straight in.

I gasp and my face twists in pain. I subconsciously take a small step back and she pulls the needle out. It hurts ten times more than the last time. I stand there, still holding my sweater and turtleneck up, taking shallow breaths.

“I am sorry…” she says and puts a Band-Aid over the injection site that starts seeping blood.

“It’s OK.” I am able to get out. I feel bolts of pain shooting from right to left of my abdomen. I stand there frozen. The pain slowly tapers off. I turn around to grab my coat but as soon as I bend down to pick it up from the couch, a new jolt of pain cuts through my belly. My throat closes up.

“Where is the bathroom?” I squeak.

The nurse explains it to me and I flee in there, closing the door, locking it, hanging my coat on the hook, then leaning my back against the wall, bent in my waist, hands on my thighs, right above my knees. I try to take deep breaths and stop the panic but it is too late. My eyes fill up and I sob and cry and watch the tears fall on the linoleum floor.

“I can’t do this.” My brain screams in protest. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this again.”

I straighten up which produces another shot of pain. I pace around the bathroom, tears continuing to roll down my cheeks. I don’t know how to stop my panic attack.

After another five minutes, I grab my coat and purse and leave the bathroom. I run through the doctor’s office, the waiting room, out in the hallway, down the elevator and out on to the street. I feel another wave of panic squeezing my heart and pushing more tears in my eyes. Thankfully my sunglasses hide my face. I try to breathe deeply as I walk to the subway.

When I stand on the platform waiting for the train, I feel pain if I shift weight to my right foot. I lean on one of the columns and close my eyes to try and prevent another wave of tears.

On the way home I feel ashamed of myself. I thought my pain threshold was pretty good, given my history of two cancers and all the surgeries and treatments. So how come I can’t handle this? Is it me? Is it the nurse? Or is it just what it is? Is it just one of those things? It hurts like hell and it always will? I don’t know. But I have another 30 days to think about it.

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