I know its been awhile since I have gone backwards in my journey so today...Im going to take a step back. Lets just call it a Flashback Friday!! I wanted to write this particular blog because I think its important for patients to be aware of some of the things they never tell you. Also, this is the reality of chemo. This is what it did to me. Please don't read this and think the same things will happen to you. Some people float through chemo with very little problems. And all in all, it could have been much worse....I guess.
As happy as you see me in this photo, was about as happy as I was to be at this 2nd treatment. Its hard now...to even look at that picture because I know what this all felt like for me. This post isn't the easiest because I am going back to a very horrible time for me. Though I didn't experience too many side effects from my first infusion, I was aware that they would be accumulative so I wasn't sure what to expect this next time around. Little did I know...I wouldn't even make it past the first hour without experiencing one of the crazy side effects, I believe most doctors don't tell you about. I do not want to scare anyone or bring any negative thoughts to those who might be starting chemo soon but, again, its important that I remain honest.
So, as you know from my first chemo treatment, they give you lots of premeds to avoid many things from happening. One being the nausea, the other being an allergic reaction. I had no idea an allergic reaction was something that could even happen. I would soon find out after all of my premeds were done being injected in to my veins.
So here comes that wonderful bag...You know the one with "TOXIC" written all over it, the one that gets delivered to me by a nurse covered in head to toe, the poison? I remember actually feeling pretty optimistic because my first 2 weeks weren't too bad. After the chemo infusion began, that quickly changed. I am not sure how I was able to determine that something was wrong as fast as I did. I guess you just know when something "isn't right" and that's exactly what I said to my husband. I don't think he really understood what I was trying to tell him but I asked him to get the nurses as fast as he could. When they finally came over, my heart was racing, my blood pressure sky rocketed, I remember saying that I just felt really funny. I had no idea what was going on at the time. I was also having a hard time trusting my nurses at that point. They wanted to give me meds to counteract the reaction and I didn't want any more meds. My husband encouraged me to just trust them and let them do whatever it was they needed to do...and so I did. I am pretty sure they gave me Benedryl and Adivan and who knows what else. This concoction would become a part of every single treatment from here on out. In addition to that, we learned that I did better with slow infusions. My nurse thinks the reaction I had was because my "drip" was too fast. The rest of the infusion was a blur to me as I was knocked out from the cocktail of crazy drugs I had been given.
I never really felt terrible on the days that I had chemo. In fact, I cant honestly say that any of my side effects were ever consistent with ones from the time before. For some people, side effects are cumulative. For me, they definitely were. I remember my nurse saying to me..."It's like a boxing match, you just keep getting knocked down...you get back up and then we knock you down again". So essentially...you are in the fight for your life. That's how I interpreted that. Within 2 days of my treatment, I would understand why chemo was so hard. I was exhausted. I was tired. I didn't want to do anything except for sleep. I, personally, could deal with the nausea, and the lack of appetite, the headaches, and the body pains. There were pills to help cope with all of that. There was no magic pill that would take away my fatigue which made it the worst side effect I would experience. I always felt tired. For the first 2 months while I received the A/C cocktail, all I wanted to do was sleep. There was also no magic pill that was going to keep my hair from falling out. These were all just really shitty things I had to deal with so that my life could be saved from this stupid fucking cancer.
Another odd side effect was from my Neulasta shots. I received Neulasta 24 hours after every single infusion. I sometimes believed that most of my side effects came from Neulasta and not the actual chemo itself. Neulasta is used with certain chemotherapy regimens to lessen the incidence of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, thus reducing the risk of infection. The drug works by stimulating the bone marrow to produce new granulocytes. This stimulation of the bone marrow often leads to some degree of bone pain. I am so thankful that my nurse suggested for me to take Claritin and Aleve the day of my shot and the few days following. Though I am not exactly sure how much this helped but I have to imagine to some degree it did.
My infusions were always on a Monday, my Neulasta on Tuesday and by Wednesday I was down for the count. The pain associated with the Neulasta shot was nothing short of the worst flu like symptoms you might ever encounter. I would stay in bed and sleep for the 3-4 days following this. There would be a point during every cycle...where I would finally make my way out of the bedroom and do my best at functioning somehow. It was usually by this time, that I would become very sad and depressed because I was quickly reminded of everything I was incapable of doing anymore. As my treatments continued...this just got worse. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for everyone else to watch me go through this because for me, this is when reality set in. This was when I started to "feel sick". At times I had wished I never even found my cancer because I didn't feel sick before any of this. This was when my fatigue became incredibly difficult for me. Some days, I felt like all I could do to stay alive was remind myself to keep breathing. I think that sometimes, I just wanted to sleep because I was so depressed. I just wanted the bad days to go away. I wanted to get to the next infusion so that I would be that much closer to the end of it all.
I don't plan on writing too many more posts about chemo. Its hard for me to go back and remember how horrible it was for me. Its partly why I become so anxious and depressed at times. I fear ever having to go through this again. I sometimes wonder if I could even do it again which makes my brain spiral out of control. I believe this to be true for most. Sure cancer is a really scary thing. Even though it sounds like a death sentence...it's not. But the chemo can feel like death at times and I fear ever having to go through that again. Fact of the matter is I fear lots of things that come along with this.
So with that being said, I want to end this blog on a positive note. I am teaching myself to acknowledge these challenges, these bad days, and these fears...but to figure out a way to end those thoughts in a positive way. So here goes...Today, I am thankful that I have my health and the hair on my head. I am thankful that I was able to start working out again this week. I am thankful that this weekend, I will be picking up my camera again for 3 amazing photo shoots. I am thankful that I have today.
I found this screen shot on my phone the other day. I found it a few days after I was diagnosed and I always try and refer back to it during those tough moments. I hope maybe during your rough moments, you can read this and remember to live in the present. The past is the past and it does not in any way predict your future.