Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
contributed photoTherapy dog Sirius visits with Press writer Mark Reccek during his first chemotherapy appointment. contributed photoTherapy dog Sirius visits with Press writer Mark Reccek during his first chemotherapy appointment.

The chemo war begins

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to The Press in Opinion

“Hello, is this Mark Reccek?”

“Yes, I am he,” I responded to the caller.

“Hi, Mark. I’m just calling to let you know Dr. K would like you to begin chemo next Tuesday,” the office assistant said.

And so, the next stage and chapter of beating cancer has begun.

Pensive, unsure and frightened are some of the words I would use to explain my first chemotherapy treatment.

The night before the treatment, I did my very best to ignore worst-case scenarios by thinking positively. I had been warned and told about the host of immediate, serious side effects I might experience within the first few minutes of my first treatment.

The morning of treatment arrived faster than I had expected. After registering, being weighed, assigned a chair and asked a few questions by the nurses, the process began.

The nurse deftly inserted an IV line into my vein and gave me saline, Benadryl and another drug to help combat any potential, immediate side effects. Not too soon afterward, the first chemo drug arrived. I was asked information such as my name, date of birth and Social Security number to ensure the nurses were administering the proper drug to the correct person.

The first bag was then hung, and the drug began the slow process of traveling from the bag into my arm. I peered over my right shoulder as I keenly watched the toxic liquid cocktail eventually enter my vein. The burning sensation was one indication the drug had arrived in my system.

At this point, the 50 milligrams of Benadryl had fully impacted my body. I was quite groggy and felt as if I was levitating. After roughly 20 minutes with no reactions, I was fairly certain the first chemo drug would not pose any serious health issues.

Paying me a visit during this time was Coplay resident Charlene Piskula’s therapy dog Sirius. He jumped on my lap to do what he does best — calm the receiver of the chemo drug. His presence surely helped to calm my fears.

After three-and-a-half hours of receiving the first drug, it was time for the second. The second drug breached my body much faster, yet with the same ultimate purpose — to reach and attack the cancer cells. Before I knew it, my first round of chemo was over.

The radiation process and now my first chemo treatment has been nothing short of interesting. I’ve learned so much about medicine, cancer and side effects, as well as how to fight to stay alive.

In the past, I often would marvel at the positive attitude and sheer resilience of those battling cancer, asking myself, “Where do they gain such strength?” I’m learning, through my own experiences with cancer, it’s either do or die.

You fight not only for yourself, but for your family, friends and even complete strangers. You fight to inspire them and show them even in those darkest hours, there is a light shining up ahead.

Take that light through the darkness and recapture the life you once had.

Cancer can either be a death sentence or a means to an end — the end being recovery and victory.

It’s a battle like no other — a battle that opens up one’s eyes to life and living.