October 30, 2018
It was raining, so I didn’t have to wake up to water the vegetables. After a while I slid out of bed, grabbed my pee jug, and went to pee. I peed in the pee jug, took it outside, and emptied it onto the composting stuff in the garden.
At 7:30 a.m. I called a taxi company to pick us up at 8:30.
After washing my hands, I went to my mom’s room, asked how she slept, and gathered her medicine. She takes two pills in the morning, one of which has to be sliced in half. The slicing is never exact, so I feel slightly guilty. I walked to the kitchen, sliced up three pills, one half for today five to fill the five-day pill box, walked back to her room, and handed her the medicine. I asked what she wanted for breakfast. Typically, she wants soup. We keep goat’s head soup and oxtail soup in the fridge; all I have to do is warm it up. Today, she wanted tea and french toast. I was a little irritated because heating up soup is easy. French toast is not complicated, but it takes extra steps.
I made the tea, boiled with milk and powdered ginger. Made the french toast with added sugar in the mixture because she likes it, prepared a tray, and walked to her room. Her door was locked and I heard her shower was on. I cursed. Took the tray back to the kitchen and decided she could eat a cold breakfast.
I then returned to my room and packed the pre-med, the two chemo drugs, and some saline. By this time I noticed a missed call. The taxi had already arrived.
I dressed quickly, opened the gate, let the taxi driver in, packed a backpack with the chemo protocol, most recent blood test results, a notebook, my laptop, the pack containing the chemo drugs, and whatever else I could stuff in. We left by 8:40, and I thought we could still make it to the clinic where the chemo is administered by 9:00 a.m., but we spent 20 minutes snarled in a massive traffic jam before we finally reached the main road. Something about trucks blocking the road and a fallen tree.
We arrived at the clinic at 9:25 a.m., took the elevator to the first floor, and confirmed with the surly receptionist that we were on the schedule. The waiting area is unwelcoming , the receptionists as warm as an underpaid and overworked government clerk. Everything seemed to be running late. Around 10:30 a.m., my mother went to use the restroom, but found it was out of order.
We were called in at 11:30 a.m. My mother was offered tea, a mandazi, and a bed. The doctor arrived to insert the special needle into her chemo port. Once the needle is inserted, the doctor injects heparin, to clear the port and ensure that the medicine goes to the right place. This is my simple understanding. After he had injected the heparin, the nurse took over. My mom got 100 ml of saline, to make sure fluids were going through the port properly. The nurse reminded her to yell if there was any discomfort, as that would indicate that the needle is not sitting properly.
The nurse asked for the chemo drug that takes a while to mix, something about the proteins in it being difficult to dissolve. I handed it to her. She went off to prepare it. Next I handed her the pre-meds and 100 ml saline. She mixed them, removed the now-empty saline, and started the IV pre-meds. They are supposed to manage side-effects from the chemo as it’s being administered. When they were done, my mom, a former nurse, turned off the line, and waited for the nurse to return with the first chemo drug.
The nurse came with the first chemo drug and started it. It’s all very boring. We watched it drip, drip, drip. I tried to edit an article, but I didn’t have the concentration. The nurse came by every 10 minutes or so. After it was done, she attached normal saline to flush away the chemo drug, to help the body start removing it from the system.
Once the flush was done, the IV line was disconnected, my mom took her walking stick and shuffled off in her slippers to the now-unblocked toilets.
When she returned, the second chemo drug was administered. This one takes two hours. I waited about 10 minutes and then took off to buy lunch across the road, in a petrol station that sells mediocre snacks. I got two vegetarian samosas and more candy than I should, and spent four minutes contemplating whether I should buy a bottle of wine.
I crossed the road, returned to the clinic, and discovered that her lunch had arrived: fish on the bone along with some sad cabbage and ugali. Mom doesn’t eat ugali. I called the nurse over, and she repositioned the IV so mom can sit up and eat lunch. She ate the fish and left the ugali and sad cabbage.
My phone was now at 10%, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to call the taxi when we were done. I ask the nurse how much longer it would be, and she told me about 40 minutes. I called the taxi and asked him to pick us up at 3:15.
I took the medication protocol from my bag, asked the surly receptionist to prepare the invoice, and walked to the in-office pharmacist to pick up post-chemo drugs. The pharmacist—my mom likes him a lot—told me that instead of carrying three separate drugs, I could get one that combines two of them. I checked the protocol—it makes no sense to get a combination if one is taken two times a day and the other three times a day. The drugs were fine. I collected them. Went to pay the invoice, but the card reader was not working. I joked with the administrative assistants that everything slows down when it rains in Nairobi. We waited for about 10 minutes for the reader to work or stop working. It stopped. One admin assistant disconnected it, plugged it in again, waited for it to start, tried to run the card again, and the reader worked.
I returned upstairs. The second chemo was just about done. After it was done, the nurse attached a second flush, which went for about 10 minutes. And then she removed the needle from the chemo port. Mom sat up. I placed her shoes on her feet and laced them up, and she went again to use the restroom. I gathered our things, stuffed what I could into my bag, placed her handbag over my shoulder, and threw her scarf over my shoulders.
I looked out the first-floor window and the taxi had arrived. On the way home, I asked the taxi driver to stop by the grocery store, so I could buy canned dog food since I was too tired to cook the regular dog rice. We got home. I opened the gate, used mom’s keys to open the front door, made sure mom got into her bedroom, paid the taxi, fed the dog the canned dog food, warmed up some githeri in the microwave for mom to eat, and sat down in the room I use as an office to rest for a while.
I opened my bag to remove the keys to my room. I couldn’t find them. I recalled that I put them on the taxi seat in the morning. My phone was now at 2%. I called the taxi, asking the driver to check if my keys were on the back seat. He found them, and said he was coming over to drop them off.
He dropped them off and I sent him a token of appreciation using MPesa. I was exhausted. It was 5 p.m. I napped.
I woke up at 8 p.m., prepared mom’s dinner—a smoothie and a health supplement. I fed the dog again, contemplated cooking then abandoned the idea, opened a bag of candy, ate all of it.