Warning: not for the faint of heart!
I’m twelve days in and I finally feel a bit like myself today. Maybe this should be titled the 12 days of chemo. I can think of some super funny word changes to that Christmas song! For me, the past week and a half have been very difficult. They say each person has a different experience and I believe that to be 100% true. I’d like to be honest about mine in the hopes of preparing someone else or offering help or hope or information; some sort of take away.
The day of my first chemo and the two days after were non eventful. I felt good, wasn’t sick, ate well and didn’t have any real complaints. Day three, I felt a little like I’d been hit by a truck. I had been warned that this was going to happen. The chemo is killing cells and the shot they give the day after chemo is telling bone marrow to “jump start” and that leads to a long bone pain. It’s kinda like a bad flu, achy all over feeling. However, I was eating well and did not feel sick otherwise, just tired.
Day four after chemo was the day that the fight started. I woke up at 5 am and I was nauseous and had diarrhea (disclaimer: I’ll be talking a lot about this development in this blog entry…bale now if you can’t handle it…no one here is judging). I immediately started the nausea/diarrhea protocol. I had two different nausea drugs and a large box of Imodium. For the next three days, I pooped and vomited multiple times daily. It was an absolute battle, but I forced down as much Gatorade, jello, sparkling water, popsicles, toast, soup, applesauce etc… as I could. I would make “deals” with myself and set goals. If you can get down four bites of soup, you’ll be good. I gave some thought to going to the ER, but I literally could not get farther from the toilet then my couch. Being completely honest, that was even too far from the toilet on more than one occasion. I sent my friend, Lori, to buy depends. Yep. I know. A REAL friend will buy your depends when you don’t think you can make it across the room without, well… you know. I had an appointment for a blood draw on the seventh day after chemo and I just kept telling myself that I could make it until then.
So, I made it into the appointment on day seven through sheer will. I had lost 13.5 lbs! Nice. I mean I really NEEDED to lose 10 lbs, but I do not recommend this particular weight loss method. While I was there, they tuned me up. Fluids and steroids and anti- nausea added through my port made me feel lots better. I got permission to take twice the recommended antacid for my horrendous chemo heartburn and I got permission to double the recommended dose of Imodium as well. They have other drugs in the arsenal, which they prescribed for me and then I went back home. The next few days, I got better and better.
By the following Monday, I got my appetite back and energy started picking up a little each day. Also on Monday I got chemo acne. Yep, its super awesome. The nurses at the infusion lab don’t like for you to call chemo “poison” because its life saving medicine. But let’s be honest folks. That shit is poison. It’s the poison that kills cancer. I’ll take it. I want it. I thank GOD for it. But, I will not sugar coat it. It is poison. It makes you sick and then it comes out of your pores in the form of nasty looking pus filled pimples. Sometimes we lament …. to be young again … um, no thank you on the acne part of being young. But, for now, I accept it. This poison WILL save my life and I love it for bringing me hope, the rest is just side effects.
I also went back on Monday for more fluids and they had scheduled a chest CT and a heart echocardiogram. The chest CT was to determine the full extent of the lymph nodes that are compromised by cancer. We know that some under my arm have cancer, but the MRI showed what looked like more cancer in the higher lymph nodes in my chest. It’s important to identify where the cancer is so we can evaluate it going forward and also so we know where we need to use the radiation later on.
Tuesday, my oncologist called me with the results. This was the MOST gloriously welcome call, because it was GOOD news!! NO cancer in the upper lymph nodes! Yay! Also, as an interesting side note, the CT revealed that my cancer in my breast and lymph nodes under the arm is already shrinking after just one round of chemo!!! Hallelujah! (Cue angel music playing loudly from on high!) This news alone will give me the courage and enthusiasm to face the chemo chair five more times. I can do it! Plus, I really feel confidant in my team and I know that we will treat symptoms preemptively going forward, now that we know HOW I will react. Not only that, but Dr. Alluri says it just gets better in general. I know what to expect now, so…I feel confident that I can do it and we can manage it.
I want to end this entry by saying, once again, that my tribe of friends and loved ones has been truly amazing. The support and LOVE and meals and gifts and notes of encouragement have given me hope and faith, like I’ve never known before. My friend, Kristin, brought me a bracelet to wear. It’s designed to remind me what I can do. I would like to share this mantra with every woman I know…because there is so much truth: BEAUTIFUL GIRL YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.