Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Two down, ten to go. I can do this?"

5 days post chemo treatment number two (of twelve), and I'm sitting here in a daze. My second round of chemo was a doozy, to say the least.
Accessing my port was a nightmare, only because something made me light-headed. My mom and I wonder if it was the strong alcohol cleanser used to clean my skin. I also wonder if she flushed my port to quickly. Either way, I nearly passed out. Luckily, my sweet mom was there to talk me through it. It was the worst dizzy spell I've ever had in my life.
Getting my chemo drugs wasn't bad at all because they administered Emend at the beginning of my treatment, instead of the end. And it wasn't bad because they haven't given me Avastin yet. I left the chemo clinic on Wednesday tired but not overly sick.
I did okay on Thursday, too. I was severely fatigued and unable to touch anything cooler than 70 degrees, but not sick. Friday was pretty much the same. My parents took me to have Merle (5FU pump) removed and so I could have some more fluids and anti-nausea meds administered. Friday night was basically a snooze fest.
Oh hello, Saturday. Thank you for beginning at 3 am with the pukes. I especially appreciate the pain in the right side of my face and upper back that won't go away AND the anxiety I've had at the thoughts of getting my first Neulasta injection.
I was the first patient to arrive at the chemo clinic Saturday morning, and for that I was very glad. Another bright spot--I was given enough fluids and anti-nausea meds before the port access was removed to make it home. And the Neulasta shot, IN MY STOMACH, didn't even hurt. I had those few, small victories going for me upon my return home.
Saturday evening, I was sick. Very sick. And I longed for my Emend. The anti-nausea regimen we tried on this chemo treatment did not work at all. Sunday was a blurry mess, too. I'd tried to get up. I wanted to get up. But I couldn't. The fatigue and nausea kept me in bed for the entire weekend. And most of Monday, and half of Tuesday ... Christmas Eve.
But now, it's Wednesday. And I'm up. I'm showered. I'm dressed. I'm feeling okay. I'm pacing myself because I will be up all day today ... if it kills me. It's 4:30 in the afternoon, and I've yet to sleep. Hope I can make it until 9pm, my bedtime.

I'm still optimistic. I had a brief moment of despair yesterday after reading my most recent CEA levels from my online medical records. My CEA has gone up. Panicked, I researched this scenario and have learned that often times at the beginning of chemo treatments, CEA values will flare. Especially since the cancer is dying. I also have to remind myself that everyone is different. My cancer adventure isn't going to be like anyone else's so I can't freak out about things I'm not informed about. 
Mental notes for my next treatment: 
~ Accessing and un-accessing the port isn't painful. Don't pass out. 
~ Neulasta will keep me safe. Stop worrying about it.
~ Ask what anti-nausea meds are being given BEFORE they attach them to your port.
~ Insist on Emend. Emend is going to save me from losing many more days to drug-induced slumber.

I'm going to get used to this. It can only get better, right?

Me leaving the clinic after treatment #2

Carry on,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"The Merles"

My daughter and I are "namers", meaning we love to give inanimate objects names. For example, my cancerous tumor was affectionately named, "Lucifee". So we thought it would be most fitting to name my 5FU pump.
We named it Merle, after one of most loved/hated characters on our favorite TV show, The Walking Dead
But why Merle? It's simple really. Both my pump and Merle Dixon are loud. And Obnoxious. And in the way. But as much of a irritant as they are, they both save lives. So, to the Merles, we appreciate your service and loud, life-saving ways.

The Merles

Carry on,

Monday, December 16, 2013

"The apples taste like paper."

Okay, let's talk side effects because let's face it ... one of the biggest ordeals when during with chemotherapy is managing the side effects of the chemo drugs. 
The side effects I've been told to watch for are neuropathy, cold sensitivity, weight loss, loss of appetite, mouth sores, susceptibility to infection and illness (duh), change in the sense of taste, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, hand-foot syndrome, and a few others. More than likely, I'm not going to lose my hair. Believe me, that's one side effect I'm glad to have avoided.
The ones that scare me--the neuropathy, hand-foot syndrome, and mouth sores--scare me because there is pain involved. The neuropathy is especially intimidating because in rare circumstances, those side effects can become permanent. What is neuropathy? It's this: "Neuropathy (painful nerve damage) is a common side effect of oxaliplatin. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and even pain in the hands and feet. It can also cause patients to have intense sensitivity to hot and cold in the throat and esophagus (the tube connecting the throat to the stomach). This can cause problems (such as pain) swallowing liquids. If you will be getting oxaliplatin, talk with your doctor about side effects beforehand, and let him or her know right away if you develop numbness and tingling or other side effects." Well wouldn't you know it? Oxaliplatin is one of my drugs.
Following my first chemo treatment, I've only experienced a few minor signs of my projected side effects.
*I've had a few symptoms of neuropathy. I've experienced the cold sensitivity. I haven't had a piece of ice since during the first treatment. It hurts to swallow it. I drink room temperature cola and water. Even slightly spicy foods burn the inside of my mouth and that heat trickles down my throat all the way to my stomach. Swallowing feels so weird to me right now, like my throat is swollen but not like a painful sore throat kind of swollen. Obviously it's hard to describe. Regardless, I really miss ice.
*My mouth is already messed up. My gums feel furry. Yes, furry. Regardless of how many times I brush my teeth, my mouth still feels like there is a weird film coating the entirety of it. My gums are really red and have started to bleed, too. Bummer.
*I was tired directly after chemo, but that seemed to have subsided quickly.
*And last but not least, one change in the taste of a food. I love fruit and sadly, apples taste so funny to me right now. For example;
"Here mom, try this to-die-for apple dip your bestie made you," my adorable daughter said. 
Mmm, that does looks good. Grab, swipe, insert, chew ... "Yuck."
I spit what was in my mouth into a napkin and took just a piece of apple. I chewed it, then spoke the first words that came to mind. "The apples taste like paper."
"Like paper? Mom, how would you know what paper tastes like?" she asked.
"I'm just telling you what my mind is telling me these apples taste like, and that's paper."

So there's my first accounting of the side effects issues. I hope with all my might that the neuropathy doesn't get too bad throughout this aggressive treatment plan. Apples tasting like paper, I can deal with. Painful nerve damage, not so much.

Carry on,

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"One down, eleven to go."

The week after getting my diagnosis, I began treatment. The first step was seeing my surgeon, Dr. H. to discuss a portacath placement.
I really like all my doctors. But Dr. H ... he's one of my favorites. He's always been sincerely interested in my health. Meeting with him to discuss my diagnosis and port insertion, he responded just like I thought he would; with genuine concern.
He worked me into his busy schedule. The next day, I arrived at the surgery center, sick and already throwing up. They prepped me for surgery, gave me some of my "magic milk" (Propofol), and put a chemo port in my left clavicle.
My port ... and favorite flannel

I woke up sore and still nauseated. The thought of going to the chemo lab for my first treatment only added to my discomfort. I was pushed in a wheel chair from the surgery center to the cancer clinic but I don't remember much about that ride. My head hurt so badly and the nausea was nearly unbearable. My entire left side was sore and stiff.
I sat down in a recliner in the chemo lab and I honestly can't say that I remember a collective 5 minutes of the rest of that day. What I do remember; my neighbor (and chemo nurse) A getting me a blanket. I remember looking for my mom, numerous times, making sure she was there with me. I remember hearing my best friend M's voice. Aside from that, I don't remember much else.

My first chemo treatment. Flowers from my boss.

Hours later, I was sent home with a pump and told to return Friday to have it removed. I did just that. I slept for the next 45 hours straight and still sick, I returned to have the pump removed and to have fluids and anti-nausea meds administered.

Enter Emend. This drug is my favorite. I love it so much. I took an Emend pill the day that my pump was removed, then one each for the following two days after. I had NO NAUSEA. I was so tired, and my port bothered me immensely, but I wasn't sick to my stomach.
"I'll take it!" I told John. I had survived my first chemo treatment.

One down, eleven to go, I thought. I can do this. I'm going to complete my chemotherapy treatment and be cancer-free. I will survive. I believe that I can survive this. I said this to myself often during the days following my first chemo endeavor. I didn't really recover that quickly. The following Wednesday was the first day after my port surgery and chemo treatment that I had stayed awake all day and had been in bed during daylight hours.
Regardless, I really do believe what I told myself after chemo. I will survive this, and I will be a stronger person for it.

Carry on,