Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Big, Long One

Now I guess it is really LONG overdue for an update on the progress of my chemo and so forth and I have realized that. I almost feel like I am SO overdue that I cannot manage to catch up! But, I am putting my best effort forward to thoroughly bore the hell out of you with my cancer drama! How about that??!!?? Please know that this one is long and not necessary to read. It is here for those who are curious but I REALLY understand that it is not as attractive as those posts with that cute little man of ours!

Since my last update I have had 3 treatments (#3, 4 & 5 – out of 8). They have gone overall, ok. They have definitely gotten a bit tougher as time goes on, just a little bit more to recover from each time. I get really wiped out and so unbearably tired and it lasts for several days to the point that I start feeling guilty like I am being so damn lazy or something!

Anyway, the treatments unfortunately do not come without their drama. So let’s start with #3! I went in for that treatment on July 10th. I went in very ready for a couple hours of cruisin’ magazines, reading my book and eating some yummy lunch I picked up on the way. Well, as Barbara (my WONDERFUL nurse) started with my blood work, I just happened to mention that my port kind of hurt when she pushed some heparin through. It was almost like a pinch. Well, this started all sorts of fun stuff for me! I was immediately sent to the hospital for a dye study to be done on my port. Barbara wanted to make sure that nothing was wrong or off with my port because if she then did the chemo, those drugs are so strong that if my port had a leak somewhere along the way… as she put it… “they could burn your boob off girl!”

Well, this was fun let me tell you! Normally this process would be nothing much for the normal person. BUT we all know that is not quite the case with me! Of course the dye that they use is the same stuff that they use for the CT Scans. This is the stuff that I am allergic to and have to be pretreated with steroids and benedryl. I had to be checked in to the hospital for the procedure in the same place that I had my port put in (which if you remember was quite a nightmare for me so the place freaks me out!). Full on with getting changed into a hospital gown and all (thinking to myself… “how the hell did I get here? Why did I open my fat mouth?”). Then the doc came in to explain the procedure as the nurse was injecting me with all the pretreatments. As the doc is talking to me I realize that I have no idea what he is saying and that all of the sudden the room is seaming very strange and off and that I feel really weird AND my heart is beating so hard and fast that I thought it might just leap out of my chest onto the floor! I kindly interrupt the doctor (who definitely had better things to be doing, it seemed) and then told the nurse how I was feeling. They immediately put me on a heart monitor and realized that my heart rate was up to 158! This was me on steroids! I hate steroids! My body just goes so fast on those things and this was shot directly into my system. It hit me like speed! It ended up taking about 30 minutes for my heart rate to get down to 100bpm which they called my resting HT for the day. Really, normally on steroids, it probably is.

After things settled down a bit they were able to wheel me in and do the dye study which came back perfect! Thank goodness! All was well, but let me tell you… I never came down from those steroids until late that night! After the hospital was through with me they had me WALK back to my doctor’s office because I was so amped up that they did not want me to drive. This is only a block so it really was not that bad but I was pretty disoriented and it is bloody hot here at this time of year!

I returned to my doctor’s office and Barbara took one look at me and said, “Boy girl! You are juiced up!” I replied with a, “You have no idea! That was crazy!” and then proceeded to get my dose of chemo drugs that I came for in the first place…

My poor family later had to deal with me chatting away about everything at high volume, and THEN probably telling them AGAIN about everything. I know because I heard my Mom and Paul in the kitchen (my senses were on super power!) saying, “Wow, she is still really feeling those steroids.” “Yeah, no kidding. She is talking so loud.” I just had to laugh and apologize but you know Pete, (who was my captive audience at that point… poor guy) just listened so politely. I think he knew I just needed to get it out of my system!

And on to treatment #4… July 24th
I had the huge delight of having Paul accompany me to this one. I have learned that I don’t really need anyone to help me get there or home but it sure is nice to have company when I am there. I just never know what new twists may arise! Previous to going in for this treatment I had my pulmonary function tests re-done. I really thought I had nothing to worry about and that I aced that one and wasn’t even thinking about it. BUT that was not the case, unfortunately. For a little background, one of the drugs in my ABVD treatment is called Bleomycin (the B in the ABVD). This drug is the reason that I get pulmonary tests done. It is known to cause stress and long term effects on your lungs. They monitor this because if it does cause any negative effects on your lungs and they don’t catch it early, it can harm them to, from what I understand, unfixable points. Well, my pulmonary functions decreased… my lungs have hardened slightly because of the drug and it is causing me to take in less oxygen.

So, as the end result, I have been pulled off of that drug… for now. The following next two treatments will be without the Bleomycin. They will re-check my pulmonary functions again and then determine if my lungs could handle the drug for the last two treatments.
This of course was scary, confusing, and needless to say, discouraging for both Paul and I as we sat there and silently asked ourselves the same question. “What does this mean for the effectiveness of my treatments and the end result?” Well, Dr. Morris says that overall it does bring my percentages down, like any change in my treatment would. He told me that because of my cancer, staging and so forth my percentage started at about 75% (that is the chance of a full recovery). This now would drop it anywhere from 1% -10%. But really this number is a guess. No studies have been done to really know what this does to my healing process. We will only see in the future. I only wish that my lungs would have been able to handle this one.

And on we go…

And my most recent treatment (#5) was done on August 7th, last Thursday. This one went smoothly and came with good news!!! Paul was able to come with me again to this treatment. It will be the last one he can come to because he is back to school now! Boo hoo! It has been SO nice to have him around during this summer.

So, in between chemo #4 & 5 I had my CT Scan redone. Yes, with all pretreatments and all. This was an at-home pretreatment where I had to start dosing myself with steroids 19 hours before the scan. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night but the scan went well and I only had a slight reaction to the injection that night (my face and neck got red and itchy but it didn’t go any further!). At the doctor visit before my chemo, Dr. Morris came in and said, “Your CT Scans look GREAT! And I don’t mean good, they look GREAT!” This was magical news for both Paul and I of course (and the Doc too!) but really what a relief. No matter how much you try and convince yourself that everything is going to be alright, after going through so much lately, it is hard to keep your positive brain powered “on.”

He told us that the mass in my chest is completely gone and that there is a small mass in my neck still but it is small. On to the chemo we went (the second one without the Bleomycin) and to Mimi & Papa’s we go for dinner and a celebratory toast!

Oh but wait!!! Of course we didn’t get off that easy! That night both of my arms went all tingly! It was crazy! Also, the bottoms of my feet swelled up so much that my toes would not touch the floor! I was all off balance and feeling just down-right crapy. But, hell, I just had chemo! I just had some majorly toxic chemicals pumped through my whole body! I felt lucky my arms didn’t fall completely off! Well, I went to bed thinking that if it got worse I would get up and make a call. But it was things I could handle and I was tired, so off to bed. The next morning, it was all gone. Well, the swelling in my feet was much better but still there, but the rest was fine. I was going to move on with my day. BUT Paul insisted that I call Dr. Morris’s office and tell them about the evening before. Well, to my surprise they had me come in right away and get my blood work done. Arghh! Just what I wanted to do is drag myself BACK in there! But, it was the right thing to do. That is what I was told over and over.

The blood work came back fine thank goodness. I have to say that I was deep down thoroughly terrified. I mean, what if my body was getting to the point that it could not handle the chemo anymore? What would that mean? That cannot happen. But, it happens to people. But it did not happen to me. A lot of what was happening to me is a result of the “V” of the ABVD treatment I am getting. The Vinblastine can cause problems with your nervous system which can cause tingling, numbness, imbalance, swelling… yada yada yada. And so it is. Of course it is. I can’t get away that easy!

But the other side effect I have been dealing with is a mind clarity issue. I am so foggy and cannot think like I used to. I get confused and have to read things several times and flip things around. I really just thought of all of this as a side effect of chemo and your body processing so many toxins. But, Dr. Morris thought this was the most perplexing symptom I am having and ordered an MRI on my brain. That just about caused me to have a heart attack in his office. My experience with an MRI was not a really positive one. I really had a hard time handling the whole thing and the thought of getting back into a machine like that made me start to sweat through my clothes! I then proceeded to tell him how awful they are. He then proceeded to tell me that it really isn’t that bad which I responded with directly asking him for a prescription for valium.

Now, I have to take a moment and toot my horn and pat myself on the back a bit. I have been a damn brave woman! I have gone through so many medical tests, scans, waiting to hear news, chemos, and injections, being brave, being brave, being brave. I still am brave. All the fricken’ time! This time I needed a little help. And I asked for it. I don’t always do that. I always feel like I should just be able to get through it. But I went today for the MRI with three valium in my system and my supportive and wonderful husband in tow. He held my foot the whole time. They put head phones on me which played a sampling of some Phil Collins, Def Leppard and Abba over the pounding sound of the machine… WHAT!!??!! I did some serious yogic breathing and got through that f*** MRI! I guess everyone has their thing…

We will hear in a couple of days what the results are of the MRI. I am guessing that my brain is still there and all is well.

I continue to get my Neupogen shots after every chemo treatment but now I only get them for the three days after chemo. Paul is a champ at giving the shots. Zane is very interested in the shots too and actually asks for one too! We have to pretend to give him one after Mommy gets hers. We use his medicine dropper to fake a shot for Zane. THEN he turns around and asks for one in the other arm! Poor kid. He will be so shocked that time he actually gets stuck with one of those things!

Hopefully I will not wait this long again for an update to get to you. Then it will not be so much for you to read. I certainly do not expect you to read all of this. I just know that many folks ask and wonder. They wonder what happened to the updates either from me or my Mom. Things just get so darn busy and then when I am down, I am down. And then, sometimes, I would rather talk and post about Zane because he is so much more fun than all of this.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you posted all that info! It's good for us to know and I bet you'll be glad when you look back on this someday and scoff!

    You are a damn brave woman...and wonderfully positive through it all.