I’m quite happy as we leave Luby’s and I head over to the office to see a patient before I head home. I’m still on a steroid high so I feel great – and a little smug, I must admit. Chemo wasn’t that bad. I don’t see what all the hoopla is abou…ugh…wait…is that…ugh…where’s that medicine? Ok, how does this go? Take this one first. Wait 30 minutes and if you’re still nauseaus take the second one. Wait 30 more minutes and if you’re still nauseaus take the last one. The last one isn’t for nausea. It’s Ativan. You might still be nauseaus but you’ll be passed out so you won’t know. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night. Unfortunately, my poor husband didn’t sleep well at all because he kept reaching over to check my pulse.
Day 1 after chemo, Wednesday, I wake up early again and I feel good so I do my workout. Have I mentioned how much I like these steroids? I feel a strange combination of super powers mixed with fatigue and mental confusion. I feel slightly nauseaus throughout the day so I wear magnets on acupoints PC6 and ST36 all day. That and the mini saltines keep the nausea away. I only work half a day, because I’m trying to take it easy, and then go for my regular hair appointment. Although, it’s probably pointless since everyone says that my hair will fall out promptly on day 14. Still, I am hopeful (and in denial) and I want to look good even though I have cancer – at least for the next 14 days – so I get my hair done. But I know that it is the last time that I will see Veronica for a while.
Day 2 after chemo, Thursday, I am struggling to get out of bed. No more steroids until the next round of chemo. My body feels heavy and I’m a bit nauseaus. Saltines and ginger ale help but I still feel queezy. Wow. It’s a long fall from the steroid high I’ve been on for the last 3 days. Luckily, the doctor said I could have coffee. “Good morning, friend. You smell soooo delicious.” Aaahhhhh, yuck! It tastes like metal. Ok. Now I’m mad. I knew chemo was going to kill my taste buds and I was actually looking forward to that a little. I figured I would eat less if food tasted bad and drop a few pounds. But my coffee?! That’s going too far. I drink it anyway because I need the caffeine today.
The first stop is the hospital to get a shot of Neulasta. Neulasta is given after every chemo treatment to stimulate bone marrow and white blood cell production. Chemo kills everything, including infection fighting white blood cells, and drastically compromises the immune system which puts you at a high risk for infections. This is why chemo patients must stay away from large crowds. Ok, no problem there. It’s inconvenient but not bad so I’m off to work. I get through the day in a bit of a fog and I am so grateful when my friend, Julie, comes to give me an acupuncture treatment. The acupuncture settles the nausea, clears my head, and brings some peace back to my body. I slept like a baby again that night.
Day 3 after chemo, Friday, I can barely move from my bed. It feels like a bad hangover and I can definitely tell that I’ve been poisoned. There is a war going on inside my breast and I can literally feel the tumor sizzling. The tumor is pissed. “Yeah, that’s right. You should be pissed because you’re dying, biyatch!” It’s painful and I’m exhausted but I have to work today. Cancer is expensive. I put up a good front for my patients but this is tough. I can literally feel my blood cells dying and the qi draining from my body so I nap in between patients and I can’t wait to get home and collapse into my bed.
In my dream I’m looking at an x-ray of my bones and I’m watching them deteriorate before my eyes.
Day 4 after chemo, Saturday, I wake up crying because the pain in my bones is so bad. I’ve never felt anything like this before. The Neulasta is working. That’s a good thing, I guess, but it hurts so much and the ibuprofin and tylenol that the doctor told me to take aren’t working. Really? Is that the best you have for this kind of pain? Even worse than the pain in my bones is seeing my husband’s face and recognizing that he is in pain, too. He wants to help me but there’s nothing he can do. He would take the pain if he could but he can’t. So he does the only thing he can. He gently wipes away the tears and reminds me that this will all be over soon. He tells me that he loves me and soothes me back to sleep.
The bone pain is much worse in the morning so by the afternoon I feel well enough to go for a walk. It feels so good to be out of bed and get some fresh air. But we don’t go far before it wears me out. It’s so frustrating! Last week I was strong and had enough energy to keep working out and now I can’t even walk half a mile. So I go back to bed and spend the rest of the weekend sleeping and watching more Breaking Bad. I don’t even like this show. Walter White has become such a jackass and I feel sorry for Jesse. But I can’t stop now. I have to know how it ends.
Day 6 after chemo, Monday, I wake with what feels like the worst hangover ever. I’ve made myself so sick with ibuprofin and tylenol that I vomit for the first time. Now the room is spinning and any movement makes it worse so I shut my eyes and lay as still as possible. I have no choice. As much as I hate to do it, I have to cancel work today. By mid-morning the vomiting and dizziness has stopped but I’m still in so much pain. I don’t dare take anything now for fear that I will just continue to vomit so I just lay in bed and cry. My mother in law, Barbara, Auntie Arlene, and sister in law, Kathy, come into my room to comfort me. I’m so frustrated and I tell them that I can’t do this 5 more times. It’s hard for them to see me like this so they do the best thing they know to do. They begin to pray over me and I am comforted. I am so grateful for this family. I don’t know what we would do if we weren’t staying with Kathy right now. She is amazing. She takes care of her own family including 2 rambunctious boys and still takes care of us, too. This sucks but it would be so much worse if I had to worry about everyday things like food or laundry. Kathy takes care of our needs before we even think of them and I am so grateful. I think about those people who are going through this alone and I know that I am forever changed. I will no longer be able to go through life in sweet oblivion because now I know. I have to look for opportunities to help those who are not as fortunate as I am to have such incredible friends and family.
It takes more than a week before I feel like myself again. Just in time to see my doctor for a follow up after the chemo. Good news. The chemo is already working and tumor is shrinking. She explains that the bone pain is a good sign because it means that I’m healthy and my bones are responding well. Well?! No. Not well. It hurts! She says that next time she will give me a stronger pain medicine and a stronger anti nausea medicine. Ok. Why didn’t she just start there in the first place? She explains that they don’t know how each person will react so they have to start with the minimal drugs at first. I suspect that the insurance company has something to do with it too. She promises that she will give me the better drugs next time. Um…yeah you will or I will be such a pest.
Chemo was horrible but I got through it and I feel that now I know what to expect so I will be better prepared next time. In the meantime, everything tastes awful and my mouth is raw. Hopefully the ice chips will help next time.
Thank you so much to Julie Rhodes, Ann Mowat, Allison Fleming, Lisa d’Angelo, and Bebe Keville, for the acupuncture, cranial sacral, and facial treatments which really helped get through the week. You ladies are angels whom I am honored to call friends. Most of all thank you Irwin family, especially Kathy, for opening your home to us and taking care of us. We love you and don’t know what we would do without you.