Thursday, February 3, 2011

Life with Cancer...chemo

I realized in my last post I got more "creative" with my words (well, maybe not). I think lately I've been thinking about what it's like to live with cancer. Sometimes people ask if we feel normal or feel like we are back to normal. I think I feel normal, considering. Sometimes if I take a step back and look at my life in the past 12-18 months it has been pretty tough. AND it's had lots of good moments. Like right now I'm looking down at one of my sweet and beautiful nieces, Jada Bryce. She wants to cry but can't help but smile and I love that. I feel like that sometimes.

Anyway, a part of me feels compelled to let people in to the day in and day out of living with cancer. It's clearly different for each person. I really can't say what I thought today would look like 8 months ago. I'm not sure I could even think beyond that day. So here I am 8 months (almost) to the day of my diagnosis. In the beginning it was intense. I can literally look back at my calendar for June and see that I had a doctor's appointment almost every day. If not every day, at least 3-4 out of 5 days. That's like a part time job. Things totally lined up to free us up for this...I went part time, Adam was waiting tables, and people could keep Charis. That regiment became our "normal" for a few weeks as we were figuring everything out. Then it slowed down a bit to maybe 1-2 appointments a week. I was also trying to work during this. At the time life definitely felt off and maybe a little chaotic but we were totally surviving and pressing through. Only now do I look back and I have to think hard about those times. How did we do it? How did I still try to hang out with my high school girls before they left for college? How did I get Charis to her doctor's appointments? How did Adam and I find time to go out? You know what, we did it. And I think we did more than just survive. We made an effort to sit still, to enjoy, to get away, to rest in Jesus, to be loved and cared for by others, to delight in our little lady, to trust and to be. It wasn't always easy but it was possible.

I'm not really sure what I'm doing here to be honest. It just seems like in the past I've been asked so many questions about this journey. And I think people really want to know what some things are like. Today let's start with Chemotherapy. What I had was "induction chemotherapy" which according to the internet is the use of drug therapy as the initial treatment for patients presenting with advanced cancer that cannot be treated by other means. I would have 6 treatments of TAC (Taxotere, Adryamycin, and Cytoxin) every 3 weeks from late June to early October. Fortunately I did not need a port, so each time the nurse started a new IV on my hand, wrist or arm. First they did labs to make sure my blood counts were high enough to receive the chemo drugs. This took about 15 minutes. Then they would give me pre-chemo drugs such as an anti-nausea and a steroid. The "T" and "C" were bag infusions that took about an hour each. During the Cytoxin I had to soak my fingers in ice water for the whole hour. This prevented the drug from getting to my finger tips and therefore making my nails come off. Yucky. The Adryamycin was bright red like cherry kool-aid and was given by the nurse. They had to strap on heavy duty gloves while pushing it through my i.v. because apparently it could burn your skin (and turn pee pink). This is what I did 6 times. I sat in a room with 15-20 other survivors receiving their specific poison. I didn't like chemo, it made me feel weird. I never really talked to people there but I did stare as if others were an anomaly. I wanted so bad to meet others but always chickened out. Within 24-48 hours of my infusion I would have to go back to the doctor to get a shot of Neulasta which protected my white blood cells. Turns out after 5 of these I was told my insurance wouldn't cover them. I'm still waiting to hear if they will cover my 5th one at over $9,000. I'd hate to have to pay that. My sister gave me my 6th one. Oh healthcare. Then 10 days after my infusion I'd have blood work (cbc) done to make sure my "counts" were good. They always were and I am so very thankful for that. What were the effects of chemo on me? Well, for the first week I would have a metal taste in my mouth. Sometimes I'd feel weird like I was hungry but couldn't eat. Ice cream always tasted yummy to me. I lost my hair (all over), but shaved my head before it fell out. That's about it. I didn't throw up or really feel nauseous thanks to the drugs I took for the 2 days following chemo.

Chemo was officially out of my system by the end of October. My hair came back pretty quickly. My MRI following chemo showed a major reduction in the size of the tumor and the amount of cancer left. It wouldn't be until surgery that we'd know for sure what was left.

That was my experience with chemo. I still can't believe that within 3 weeks of my diagnosis I began chemo. I don't think I realized the seriousness and aggressiveness of my cancer until later. I know that was God protecting me. Here are a couple pictures my dear friend, Jen Hunt, captured when she came to my first chemo with me.

the ice bath

hey!

the i.v. pump

my friend lindsay made me a bag of trash mags and candy!

1 comment:

Theanne... said...

I've always felt it is God's help and your attitude that made the difference...plus your family and friends and your precious daughter...there's a lot of positive in your life, that's been there since before the cancer.