You Don't Need to Suffer

Chemo therapy is broken into cycles. Each cycle is made up of days. Day 1 is the day you receive your injection. My first 4 cycles are known as "AC" - Adriamycin doxorubicin and Cytoxan cyclophosphamide.
This is a very standard protocol for Breast Cancer and the most common side effects are nausea and hair loss. Unfortunately, the nausea, for whatever reason they don't understand, tends to be more pronounced "in the young ones" - as they say. The young ones, of course, meaning me.

Day 1 wasn't so bad. There were popsicles and good company. I was feeling pretty fine, except a little tired, right up until the end of the Cytoxan (which makes you weirdly congested - suddenly I felt like I had a sinus infection). They gave me an extra bag of fluids (at my request) in addition to a great IV anti-nausea medicine which lasted ... until I hit rush hour traffic heading home. (I immediately called the nurse and rescheduled my next appointment so THAT never happened again.) By the time I got home and took an Ativan & a benedryl to counteract the allergic reaction I was having to my compazine (clenched jaw - ouch) I was fully, totally, passed out. I slept through the night. It was awesome.

Day 2 also wasn't so bad, parts were almost normal. Mama came over and lay down in bed with me and this effectively forced me to stay in bed all day. I did some writing (have you seen my chemo guides?!?) I even ate some toast and some mashed potatoes. When handsome boyfriend came home I had enough energy to do some light stretching and my arm PT AND best of all snuggle up and watch some TV while eating pasta. I could text with people without feeling dizzy. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad??


2:30am - WOOF. Do not throw up, do not throw up. You have 60 short minutes till you can take another ativan and try to go back to sleep.


4:45am - OK, distraction. Yurts. Handsome boyfriend's birthday, we need yurts. Do not throw up.


6:30 - 7:30am - Semi-sleep. More like lying curled up in a little ball, but it feels very restful. Also, like it would be harder to throw up in this position. 


8:00 am - Fenway is whining. He must feel as gross as I do. Let's try a walk.... BIG MISTAKE


By the time I got home from the walk I could barely get myself back into the bed. I don't even know what happened in the interim hours except lying in bed trying to distract myself from the nausea and waiting to take another ativan.


Mommy came to pick me up (I was in NO shape to drive) and I cried on the phone to ATT because of course now, with my brand new phone and my brand new IOS 6 would be when my phone decides I don't actually have service in my apartment. You know my phone, which also acts as my lifeline to my doctors and nurses, and also AS MY DOORBELL. You might cry too. Especially if 95% of your energy is going into trying not to throw up.


By the time I got to Kaiser for acupuncture I was a husk, red rimmed eyes, greyish/green skin. Everyone who saw me looked sad eyes. The receptionist sat me down and handed me a bucket. The acupuncturist ushered me in - "If it's ok with you I'd like to start you immediately - you don't look like you feel so good, we can talk after the needles are in". Me - (whimpering) "Yes, please."





The acupuncture helped A LOT. Like enough that I could actually talk instead of just cry and whimper. 


So once the acupuncturist was done I was moved to a chemo chair. Sitting down my BP was normal, but when I stood up it went through the roof. DEHYDRATION. The Onc Pharmacist came and gave me a whole new set of medicines to replace the one I was allergic too. I also got an IV drip with some Zofran and two bags of fluids. About halfway through I could stand up without teetering like a bobble head.


My ride came up to keep me company. It could not have felt good for her to see me like this: (FYI, to me this felt amazing...)





By the time I left, giant lunch bag of pills in hand, I felt almost like a human being. My incredible generous friend took me to get "clear broth & noodles" from My Grandfathers Kitchen (a pho place conveniently located in hospital alley). It was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. I kept it down. 


Then, I was even renewed enough to run a few errands with my very generous caretaker that mostly involved sitting on couches. 


By the time I got home the IV meds were waning but I felt really ambitious and decided to pick up the small, pasta bag disaster that Fenway had made in my prolonged abcense. Sadly, this was a big mistake. I was done. Depleted. 


But I also reaked of hospital tape and hand sanitizer and sickly sweat. So I laid down on the shower floor and showered. Then I curled like a burrito into a pile of towels and dried my hair lying flat on the flour (FYI this worked really really well, I would recommend for even non-chemo depleted ladies) then it was time for my dose of my new anti-nausea meds, and guess what? I almost totally slept through the night. I def wasn't nauseated and this morning, as long as  don't move too much I actually feel better than I did on Day 2 (although maybe not better than I did on the day before I dumped my body full of super toxic chemicals)


I now have regular bi-weekly acupuncture appointments (covered for free by Kaiser! You rock!) and before my next injection I will be given a super potent anti-nausea injection that is supposed to last 7 days (usually it lasts more like five but I'll also have my discretionary pills) I would not have had any of these things If I didn't ask.


THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

You do not need to suffer in silence.
Ask for help when you need it.
Whether you are sick, or healthy
Stubborn, or a magnet for affection
ASK FOR WAYS TO ALLEVIATE YOUR SUFFERING
Whenever it can be avoided it should
(It's not good for anybody, especially you)

Stay tuned - today is hair shaving/donation/wig day! whoo hoo!!



lots of love
xoxoxoxox
Dena