Thursday, June 17, 2010

People, Meet Chemo

Another chemo day, so again I am up all night. Maybe chemo nights will be the only times I get around to blogging. I’ve learned a lot about my chemo the past few weeks, and how it’s affecting me. A lot of things that I thought were happening just because I’m getting older, are actually side effects of chemo.
  • My eyes have changed color from dark brown to light brown
  • My eyesight is getting worse
  • My eyes water a lot (very messy if I don’t use waterproof eyeliner)
  • My eyelashes have gotten super short, thin and brittle
  • My hair has thinned significantly and changed to the consistency of thin straw
  • My mouth is so sensitive that I have to use non-minty toothpaste (this really sucks!)
  • I cannot eat or drink anything even remotely cold and sometimes even room temperature is too cold, so I am unquenchably thirsty every other week (this is by FAR the worst of the side effects)
  • Foods that are too hot, or too cold hurt my mouth
  • I tan very easily (bonus) but it fades very quickly (bummer)
  • My hands and feet are very sensitive to pain
  • My toenails will split and practically fall off with the slightest stub
  • I have hot flashes and night sweats daily
  • If I walk barefoot in my house I get pins in my feet but if I put socks on, I get hot flashes
  • I’ve been forced into premature menopause, and all the joy that goes along with that
  • My feet hurt
  • My arms and legs often ache (this one is not actually from the chemo but from the shot I get after every chemo to up my white blood cell production)
  • I sometimes get so weak walking even short distances, that I have to sit down and rest
  • I get extreme headaches and eyeball aches that no drugs will touch
  • I have learned that there is an extreme difference between queasiness and nausea. I teeter between both of them – most often queasiness
  • I severely crave carbs: bread, pastry, pasta, bagels, potatoes, oatmeal. On chemo weeks, that’s about all I eat
I had a port implanted in my chest last year that they use to give me the chemo. They push a needle that is about an inch long into it. That is not fun.  Then they pull on the syringe at the end of a tube that is connected to me to see if they get blood, meaning that it’s in right. This grosses me out so I don’t look. Then they “flush” the port by pushing into it, a syringe of saline. I hate that part. It’s disgusting. I can’t really distinguish if it’s a taste or a smell that it causes, but I try to keep some gum in my mouth and when they flush I chew it fast to try to avoid it. Next they hang a plethora of bags from my IV pole and start pumping them in through the newly-accessed port. At the end, about 4-5 hours later, I get a “push” (a huge syringe full) of one of the chemicals called 5-FU. I kinda like the name of it. When I leave the cancer center, I have a pump tethered to my port, which pumps 5-FU for the next two days. On Friday afternoons, I go back to get the pump removed, and get a shot of Nulastin, which will increase white blood cell production. They do this because chemo will severely lower immunities. It’s a very thick shot that I get in my upper arm and it hurts. It’s a relief walking out of there on Fridays without the pump though. Unplugged.  I do this every two weeks, forever.  I may get an occasional one-month break, which basically means skipping one treatment, but for the most part, I will do this for the rest of my life.

I still get queasy at the mere thought of chemo, and whenever I walk into the Cancer Center. It’s disgusting and depressing. One day my little sister Al came with me on a Friday for pump removal, and found the atmosphere so sad that she immediately had to leave and waited outside for me. I try to look at it from different perspectives, but it rarely helps. At first I would concentrate on visuals of the chemo battling to kill the tumors. This helped make it less gross for a day or two but soon stopped working. I tried looking at chemo days as my “job” that I have to do so that I get to travel on my good weeks. This didn’t really work either though. I bring all kinds of stuff with me: blanket and slippers, computer, movies, games, books, crayons. I get comfy, chat with friends, and even had a pizza delivered today. It helps the time go by, but does not distract me from the fact that some seriously nasty poison is being pumped into me for about 5 hours, and will make me sick for about 5 days. As the day goes on, I can immediately start feeling the effects: cold sensitivity, queasiness, and a cloudy-headedness. I start dreading chemo Wednesday on the preceding Monday. I hate it.

On a brighter note, I leave Saturday for Cancun. I will be there through the next Friday the 25th. I will then be home in Greensboro for a week for chemo, and then leave again on July 3 for a 7-day cruise with my girlfriend Cynthia to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Belize, and Honduras! Can I get a "hell yeah!"?  Cyn is awesome and super fun so it’s really going to be an amazing trip, AND... this gives me a reason to wear some of my more formal dresses that I never get to wear. I should try to find a tiara! Or a boa! Yeah!!!  Joss and I were going to play dress-up that way on our January cruise but we never got around to getting them.

After the cruise I am home again for another chemo week, and who knows after that. Soon I am planning to get back up to Maine to see my Dad and Diane, to P-town (MA) to see my sister Christine, back down to Florida to hang out with Neil, Al, and Don & Jeannie, and also to some more local beaches. My doctor says I look well rested, and she is glad I am not working and am traveling and visiting family. It’s funny that one week I feel so crappy and the next I feel pretty good and am able to get away. I am not sure how long that will last, so I am trying to cram as much living in now, before I get to the point where I cannot. Usually the first few days I am away are not great because they are so close to chemo day, and I just rest a lot, but by the Monday after chemo I start feeling better. I know that’s it’s made a huge difference in my attitude, sense of serenity, and health to be able to relax with family, hang out poolside, or on the beach, and just not worry about anything. I tend to totally forget about cancer when I am away from Greensboro. Maybe that’s why I never stay here that long. I have stopped checking my work emails several times a day like I was, because it stresses me out so much. Everything seems to be under control without me anyway. I really just want peace at this point. Peace… but adventure!

I know I still owe blogs about Florida and Philly, but this is what was on my mind right now. Hope to get the others down at some point, but, let's face it... I may never. I will at least put up the pics of James and Oliver buried on the beach up to their necks. Priceless!

(here is a link to the Florida pics on my facebook:

Enjoy every day!
Go home by 6:00... don't let work be your life.
Spend time with your family and tell them you love them.  They won't always be there.
Plan a vacation, or even a day trip.
DO FUN STUFF!!!  You will NEVER regret it, but you will regret it if you don't.

I love you all.

1 comment:

  1. You are my inspiration. - The Jerk from Work.



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