Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Round Two - 12 Straight Weeks

I started my second round of chemo last Thursday. Twelve straight weeks of chemo. Utilizing a different drug than the first round of four treatments which were very other week. Daunting to think I have to go to the chemo room every week when it took me two weeks to feel half way human during the first round. But I'm told this next round is less stressful on your body: little to no nausea but fatigue and the threat of neuropathy (tingling of the hands and feet that unchecked could be permanent), along with the possibility of allergic reaction to the drug, on top of mind for the next 12 weeks.

My anxiety was made less having my brother in town for the week. He calms me and mows the yard - what more could you ask for.

The routine seemed similar. Arrived at the oncologist's office. Headed back to the chemo room signed in and picked a chair. Have my blood drawn and wait for the results. If my white and red blood cell counts are high enough, I can have the treatment. It's always the most stressful time. While I pay close attention to my diet and getting my rest, my counts are now in the "low" to lower than low range. Hopefully they don't fall too much farther.

My new chemotherapy drug is Taxol. Taxol is a member of chemotherapy drugs called plant alkaloids. Taxol is made from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree, who knew? And it works by inhibiting the dividing and replicating of fast-growing cells. As you will recall, cancer cells are hyper-fast dividing, thus are growing outta control.

The day of my chemo is always an apprehensive one for me. Just one rung higher than scared I'd say. I'm convinced this shit they are dripping into me is killing the cancer and saving my life, but knowing I'm going to chemo conjures up mixed feelings and emotions I try my best to keep at bay. And while I never want to "get use" to this, there was a routine, albeit a miserable one, created after the first eight weeks. Now with this new drug, comes new side effects, and a new routine (how long will I feel like shit, will I be nauseous, etc.).

My first concern was having an allergic reaction to this new drug. My worst nightmare (ok not my worst nightmare - cancer, hello?) but certainly a concern. The nurses - fully aware of this possibility- begin the transfusion of Taxol slowly. If you don't show any reaction, they turn up the volume. Thankfully, I breezed thru the ordeal and with the new drug on board and we headed for home.

Friday I felt almost 100%. No nausea, plenty of energy, ready to go! I had a good day hanging with my brother. We all went out for a Mexican dinner (Jeff had a margarita – I looked on with sadness). I couldn’t believe how good I felt! Saturday I woke up tired and sluggish. As the premeds of Thursday wore off, I became more and more tired, a bit depressed even. Poor Liz. She’s doing all she can to keep our home functioning as “normal” as possible and then I begin to break down. She’s a trooper at keeping me (and herself) going. Sunday was god-awful. I could barely move around. I’ve never experienced fatigue like that since Mt Everest (and that was due to the lack of oxygen in the air). I feared “this” would be my new normal for the next 12 weeks. Jesus.

Then Monday rolled around. Time to return to work. And my energy came back, along with an itchy rash. An apparent side-effect of the chemo. After a quick call to my doctor’s office, I’m on a course of anti-histamines until Thursday – when I return for another round of chemo. I sure hope the rash doesn’t prevent me from having my next treatment. Hard to bare delaying my 12 weeks in any way. I hoping she will pump me full of additional drugs to ward it off. More drugs.  Ugh. I’m like a walking medicine cabinet. While I’ve been able to put away the steroids and the anti-nausea meds necessary to get through the first round of chemo, I have replaced them with a more holistic regimen of vitamin B-6, B-12, and alpha-Lipoic acid supplements, along with weekly acupuncture – all centered around battling fatigue and any neuropathy symptoms.

Gawd. This is definitely a marathon. And not one I like participating in. I’m tired of feeling “off”, I’m tired of worrying “what if this doesn’t work” and “what if it comes back”, and I’m tired of relying on family and friends to do the most mundane tasks. However, I have gained a lot thru this journey. Seeing and hearing from old friends who I haven’t connected with in years has been priceless. Experiencing first-hand the beauty of human kindness and selflessness that reminds me that despite the ugliness of Cancer, the world is inherently generous and good. Thank you all for this lesson – it is one I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

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