Monday, September 30, 2013

Last Chemo Day!!

Today was my very last chemo treatment!

I'll start at the beginning...  I arrived and delivered the goodies to the receptionists and the chemo nurses.  I posted this yesterday, but here are the goodies I got for them:

I also dropped off a big box of popsicles as a donation for future patients.  Certain kinds of chemo can cause severe mouth pain and mouth sores (I experienced bad mouth pain after my first treatment).  Eating popsicles while receiving this type of chemo can help as the cold restricts the blood vessels in the mouth which keeps the chemo from being absorbed there.  I ate a popsicle during my second treatment and had much less severe mouth pain.  They were out of popsicles for my third treatment (they found some ice cream as a replacement) so I decided to bring some as a donation this time.  My awesome dad bought a huge package of 100 to contribute - he's the best!

Everyone was thankful for the goodies, but they were even more excited that it was my last chemo!  Lots of smiles and hugs!

I met with my doctor and got a couple bits of good news!  First, I won't have to get the Neupogen shots after this round.  Since I don't have another chemo to prepare for, it doesn't matter as much if my white blood cells drop.  We still expect them to drop (so I'll have to stay away from anyone who may be sick and go to the hospital if I get a fever over 100.5), but won't need the shots.  I'm so happy about this... the last round of shots caused severe bone pain that caused me to be on prescription painkillers for several days.  Happy to skip that this time around!

The second bit of good news from the doc is regarding my radiation treatments.  We originally planned on 4 weeks of treatments (5 days per week - so around 20 treatments).  Recent studies have shown that a lesser amount of radiation is just as effective in people with early stage Hodgkin's Lymphoma (like me!).  She still has to discuss it with the radiation doctor, but we my be able to get away with about two weeks of radiation (so approximately 10 treatments)!

So I finished up with my doc and headed to the infusion room.  My massage therapist Sarah showed up to surprise me and hang out (her office is literally next door to the cancer center).  My good friend Brian also came to hang out and keep me company and drive me home.  The picture is a little blurry, but here we are:

Look who also showed up:

This is my awesome friend Brandi who always seems make me laugh by butt off :)

I finished up my infusion in record time (no port issues this time!).  As soon as I finished up, I got to ring the bell to signify the end of my treatment.  Here's what the bell says:

Ring this bell, three times well
Its toll to clearly say
"My treatment's done, this course is run
And I am on my way!"

So I rang that bell three glorious times as loud as I could!  Then hugged all the incredible nurses who took such amazing care of me over the last few months.  Here they are:

Had it not been for this amazing group of women, I could not have gotten through all this the way I did.  If you're ever looking to complete a random act of kindness, consider doing something nice for an oncology nurse.

So here's where we go from here:

October 21: PET scan to see if there is any cancer left on my lymph nodes (there won't be)
October 23: Meet with oncologist to review test results and where she tells me I'm CANCER FREE and can start radiation
October 28: Meet with the radiation doctors to discuss my radiation treatment (I'll have radiation to make sure any residual cancer cells that were hiding on the PET scan are all dead)
November 4 (maybe): Begin radiation - not positive they'll be able to start me on this day, but that's the tentative plan for now

One more little piece of exciting news... My mom is coming to visit!!!!  She lives in Texas and didn't think she'd be able to visit until Christmas.  But thanks to her kind boss and my generous father (who lives here in Indy), she's coming for a long weekend in November!  I have so many supportive people here, including my daddy and my big brother, but it'll be so nice to be able to hug my mom!

Ok, that's all for now.  I feel good so far today, so I'm going to try to eat a little bit of dinner (pizza - don't judge me).  Then I need to get LOTS of rest so I can stay awake for the Pirates game tomorrow night - oh, by the way the Pirates are in the POST SEASON!!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy Last Chemo Eve!!

Tomorrow will be my last chemo treatment!  I intend on making it a celebration!

I'm bringing some gifts for the chemo nurses and the sweet receptionists:

Fannie May chocolates and Bath & Body Works lotions, anti-bac, and candles for the chemo nurses
Goodies for the receptionists (they know me by name!)
Everyone there - especially the chemo nurses - have been so nice, there's no way I could ever thank them enough for all they do.  They run around every day tending to 15-20+ patients at a time.  I know their job is stressful but they always have smiles on their faces and tons of encouraging words.  I'm so thankful for them!

If anyone would like to come visit during the celebration tomorrow, come on by!  I'll be at Hematology Oncology of Indiana which is in the St. Vincent Cancer Center on 86th and Harcourt Rd.  I'll be in the infusion room from approximately 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Monday, September 30).  If you come, just let the receptionist know you're visiting someone in the infusion room and they'll point you in the right direction.  Anyone's welcome to pop in and visit!

Hooray!  Excited to begin the end of this journey!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dinner Party!

Melissa, Amanda, me
This week a couple of my dear friends hosted a dinner party for me and a few of my girlfriends.  The two gals in the picture with me above were the lovely hostesses.  Amanda asked me awhile back if she could throw a dinner party for me about halfway through my treatment - so I would have something fun to look forward to in the midst of all the chemo yuckiness.  It was amazing!  I did look forward to it for weeks and it was so fun to get together with the girls and eat, drink, and laugh.

Since the "official" color of Hodgkin's Lymphoma is purple, Amanda had set the table with fun purple decorations.  Here are a few pictures:

How cute?!  She did such a nice job!  I am so grateful for Melissa and Amanda to have thrown this dinner party and I'm grateful for all the gals who took time out of their lives and away from their families to be there with me.  I have the BEST friends! (And they're beautiful too!)

Left to right: Amanda, Melissa, Emma, Sarah, me, Brandi, Erin, Tisha, Holly
Thanks to Amanda and Melissa and the rest of these wonderful people!


Neupogen Shots - Round 3

I started my third round of Neupogen shots this week (second round for chemo treatment #3).  As a reminder, Neupogen is the shot given in my stomach to help boost my white blood cells which have dropped due to chemo.  More on my first round of injections here.

This round of shots has been much more painful than the last two.  I started getting the shots on Wednesday of this week and on Wednesday night I had a lot of pain in my breast bone and in my lower spine and pelvis.  It's hard to explain the pain... it's not in my muscles, it's actual pain in my bones.  Very uncomfortable.

I had an early morning meeting on Thursday and as I was driving home I was in tears the pain in my back was so bad.  I took some painkillers and laid down and felt quite a bit better.  My brother was able to give me a ride to get my shot that day and we had ice cream for lunch on the way back :)  The nurses said to continue taking my painkillers every 4 hours for the next several days.  Thankfully the painkillers work to ease the pain, but they make me tired and loopy!

Friday was the last shot in this round.  I'm not sure yet if they'll have me get these shots after my next (and last!!) chemo treatment on Monday.  I really hope not!

Thankfully I've been feeling pretty good besides the bone pain.  I have a little nausea that comes and goes and I still have the occasional indigestion, but nothing bad.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Chemo #3 Day 5

I shared in my last post that my white blood cells (WBC) have dropped again and that I'd be receiving shots this week and next week to boost them.

The shot is called Neupogon and it stimulates my bone marrow to produce more white blood cells.  Side effects are similar to the flu - fatigue, muscle/joint/bone aches, and nausea.  I received three shots this week: one per day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (today).  Then I'll go back next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for shots also.

Yesterday (Thursday), I felt pretty icky most of the day.  I was very nauseous and had sour stomach (as a result of stomach acid) really bad.  Finally in the evening, my stomach started to feel better and I actually developed an appetite.  However the only thing that sounded good to me was Fazoli's breadsticks dipped in alfredo sauce (not healthy, I know - but I hadn't eaten all day, give me a break!).  Thankfully my husband is amazing and ran to Fazoli's for me right then and there :)  Once he got home it was like being on Man v. Food... I didn't know how long the nausea would stay away, so I tried to shovel in as much food as I could while I felt good!  I ended up eating some fettuccine alfredo and 3 breadsticks!

Today I got some IV fluids along with my Neupogen shot.  It took 2 hours for them to put in a huge bag of saline, but it was worth it.  I feel pretty decent now and I know the extra fluids will help with nausea, headaches, and constipation over the next several days.  Hoping I feel pretty decent over the weekend!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

White Blood Cells.... Seriously?!?

Got the results from my blood test... stupid white blood cells are still too low, which means more Neupogen shots.  Blaaaaaahhhhhh.....

Seriously, White Blood Cells... get your act together!

I got my first shot today (Wednesday) and will go back Thursday and Friday this week plus Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday next week.  Double blaaaahhhhh!

The Neupogen shots help stimulate my bone marrow and create new white blood cells.  Last time around, the shot made me feel nauseous and achy - similar to flu-like symptoms.  My bones, joints, and muscles were achy for days.  And I had Super Fatigue (a term I just made up to describe the most tired I've ever been in my life).

As for tonight... honestly... I feel kinda crummy.  My tongue is a little sore (so far not as bad as the first time, but uncomfortable), I'm feeling a bit of nausea, and I'm really tired.  Hopefully these shots won't treat me too bad this time around and I'll be on the upswing in a few days!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chemo #3: Walkthrough of My Day

Chemo #3 is done!  75% of the way there - next (and last) chemo treatment is scheduled for Monday, September 30.  This time I wanted to walk you through my treatment day, hour by hour.  I also want to give some more information about the chemo regimen I've been receiving, called ABVD.

But before I do all that, here's an update on how the end of my week last week went:

I last left you with the exciting news that my white blood cells were back in the "normal" range (well, in the normal range for a chemo patient).  I was able to make the trip out to St. Louis on Wednesday for a work trip I was honored to be invited to.  Wednesday night I didn't feel great, but was able to eat a little bit at my BFF Heather's house - she lives in St. Louis, so I stopped in to visit when I got into town. Thursday was a pretty good day - felt good all day, the work meetings were great, and they treated us to a St. Louis Cardinals game that night.  Here's picture from my seat in the Champions Club Suite:

As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I was cheering against the Cardinals (who lost) :)
Unfortunately Friday wasn't as kind to me as Thursday was.  I woke up with nausea and terrible heartburn.  By the time our morning meetings were done, I was extremely fatigued and feeling like poo.  I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed in my hotel room while my coworkers went on the Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour and took a tour of the Arch.  By the time dinner rolled around I was feeling quite a bit better, other than a little bit of a headache.  Then at dinner I started to feel really sick and ended up throwing up in the bathroom :(  My coworkers all went out for after-dinner drinks, sadly I went to bed still feeling icky.  I felt better Saturday morning and headed home.  I ate a little breakfast and felt fine, but by that evening I was feeling nauseous again.  Sunday was about the same: nausea, no appetite, heartburn, and an all-around "blah" feeling.  I did feel ok enough to attend our weekly football get-together and the Nagel Bar & Grill (friends' basement)!

So that brings me to yesterday (Monday)!  Here's how the day went:

7:30 a.m.
Wake up feeling nauseous (more on that below), to the point where I stood in the bathroom for a few minutes convinced I was going to barf.  Put numbing cream over my port site.  Attempt a little breakfast  (thankfully the worst of the nausea passed and I was able to eat some toast and jelly).

8:00 a.m.
Head to the Cancer Center.  Although I know the chemo is working and is saving my life, I still wasn't looking forward to another round.  Here's how I felt in the car:

Actually, it was more like this:

Haha :)

8:30 a.m. 
Arrive to Cancer Center.  The sweet young gal who's the receptionist remembers my name now.  I wish her a chipper "Happy Monday!"  She snickers and checks me in.

8:45 a.m.
I'm called back by a nurse to check my vitals: weight, blood pressure, pulse ox, and temperature.  All are good :)  I've dropped a couple of pounds, but nothing drastic.

8:50 a.m.
Move to the next waiting room to be called back to see my oncologist.

9:10 a.m.
Meet with oncologist.  Unfortunately my white blood cells went back down again :(  They were up on on Tuesday last week (even though they were at the low end of the "acceptable range") but my blood work from Friday showed they have dropped again.  Thankfully they didn't drop too far, so I was still able to get chemo today as planned.

Doc wants to test my blood counts again (last test was done Friday) to determine if I'll need the Neupogen shots again or not.  I'm hoping not!  Read about my Neupogen shot experience here.

I told the doc about my severe nausea this morning.  She said it's actually very common for patients to experience this the night before and morning of chemo; it's called Anticipatory Nausea, which about 1/3 of chemo patients experience.  Basically my body knows what's coming and causes anxiety nausea (similar to a Pavlovian response).  She gave me some nausea medicine that has an anti-anxiety medicine in it for next time.

The doc is going to have a PET scan scheduled for October 21, which is three weeks after my last chemo treatment.  As long as the PET shows no signs of cancer, they'll have me meet with the Radiation Doctor (I seriously just typed "Radioactive Doctor" by mistake, hah) and potentially start radiation the week of October 28.  So that means I'd be done with EVERYTHING by Thanksgiving, which was my goal!!!!!!!!

9:40 a.m.
To the infusion room, ready for chemo!  The doc drops off my chart and all my prescriptions (chemo, steroids, and IV nausea medicine) to be filled at the on-site pharmacy.  I find a comfy chair and wait some more.

9:55 a.m.
Steroids and nausea medicine are ready to go, so the nurse accesses my port (which means they stick a needle into it; needle has a tube attached to it where the drugs go in).  Of course there are more problems with my port.  It's nothing serious (quite common actually).  When they access the port, they first push in a syringe of saline, then pull back on the syringe to get a little bit of blood return in the tube.  If there is no blood return, there's a chance there is a problem with either the port tube or the needle entry, which could mean the chemo would enter into my chest cavity instead of the vein, which is very bad.  But more commonly, it's just because there's a small blood clot preventing the blood return.  I had no blood return at first, so after laying in different positions, lifting one arm, then the other and so on... they then shoot me up with heparin, which is an anticoagulant (fancy word meaning it keeps my blood from clotting at the port site).  They let the heparin sit for a few minutes and try again... no luck.  Then they try another drug that Josh calls The Clot Buster.  I don't know the real name, but it's a stronger anticoagulant that will break up any blood clots at the port site.  Finally after about 15 minutes, we get a blood return!

10:10 a.m.
Treatment starts!  My chemo buddy this week was my friend Nikki and we had a great time chatting and catching up!  My husband brought me to the appointment and waited with me until she got there (he had to work and couldn't stay the whole time).

The first drugs to go in are two types of nausea medicine and then steroids (to assist the nausea medicine and make me ineligible to fulfill my dream of playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates).  These drugs all "hanging" IVs, meaning they hang from a bag attached to an IV hanger, like this:

Before I start explaining about each individual type of chemo I receive, I want to explain a little bit about the ABVD chemo regimen.  ABVD is a combination of 4 types of chemotherapy drugs and is used as the first treatment option of Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  Each "cycle" of ABVD is given over a 4 week period and is split into two treatments given every other week.  In my case, I'll receive 2 cycles which equals 4 total treatments.  I'm including more info about each chemo drug below.

11:15 a.m.
Chemo Drug #1: Dacarbazine (i.e. DTIC)

Dacarbazine (DTIC) is another "hanging drug" and usually takes about 1.5 hours to go in.  They keep in on a slow drip since it can cause bad headaches if it goes in too quickly - and since I'm prone to headaches anyway, they go extra slow with me :)

Common Side Effects
Nausea - this is very common with DTIC

11:50 a.m.
Lunch time!  My chemo buddy Nikki ran over to Subway to get us lunch.  I'm usually ok to eat a full lunch on chemo days, this time was no exception!

12:45 p.m.
Chemo Drug #2: Adriamycin

Adriamycin is the deep red drug that causes my pee to be bright orange!  This drug is a "push" drug, meaning a nurse slowly pushes it in through a large syringe.  This is the drug that can cause mouth sores and mouth pain (which I experienced after my first treatment and was VERY severe).  To combat this, they had me eat a popsicle last time since the cold constricts the blood vessles and won't allow the chemo to be absorbed in the mouth.  I think this helped with the mouth pain as I didn't experience it too severely after my second treatment.  Unfortunately they were out of popsicles this time, but the awesome chemo nurses found me some yummy ice cream instead :)

Common Side Effects;
Nausea lasting 24-48 hours after treatment
Orange pee (sorry, still not going to post any pictures!)
Hair Loss - this is the one that causes the most severe hair loss; in my case, the dose is pretty low so although I've been losing a lot of hair, there's a chance I may not go completely bald.  This drug is used in a much larger dose for breast cancer patients, which is why they are usually bald within just a few weeks of their first treatment.
Mouth Sores
Long-Term Heart Damage (again, I'm taking a very low dose - and my heart function was above normal before treatment - so there's a very small chance of this happening to me)

12:50 p.m.
Chemo Drug #2: Bleomycin

Bleomycin is another push drug and as you can see is a fairly large dose.

Common Side Effects
Nausea and/or vomiting
Fever and/or chills
Hair loss (although less common)
Darkening of skin
Pulmonary toxicity, which is a fancy way of saying lung damage; my lung function was above normal (measured at 107% before treatment) and I've never been a smoker, so the chances of any long-term damage are very small for me.  Short-term however can show some minor problems that can last 6 months or so after treatment ends.  The chemo nurse warned me that if I get a cold I may carry a cough longer than normal and if it lasts more than a few weeks to see my doctor and let her know I've had Bleomycin.

1:00 p.m. 
Chemo Drug #4: Velban

Velban (or Vinblastine) is the last chemo drug and is also pushed in by the chemo nurse.

Common Side Effects
Mild nausea and/or vomiting
Pain at injection site (I've never experienced this)
Pain at tumor site up to 3 hours after injection (I've never experienced this)
Hair loss
Bone Marrow depression (drop in white blood cells, red blood cells, and/or platelets)
Constipation (boo)
Mild numbness or tingling of fingers and toes (I've never experienced this)

1:10 p.m.
Chemo is done!  The nurses flush out my port with more saline and heparin (which tastes terrible!).  I stopped by to visit with my new friend Sandy on my way out.  If you remember, I met Sandy at my first chemo treatment - she also has Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  She's stage IV and will have a total of 6 cycles (12 treatments) of ABVD.  She was so sweet and helpful the first time we met, so I stopped to chat with her on my way out after this treatment.  She's just finished treatment #8 and is doing very well!  She told me she had severe mouth pain after her first treatment like I did, but she said hers was never as bad after the first one (similar to me).  So there's still hope for a pain-free mouth! :)

1:30 p.m.
Stopped by the blood lab for my blood draw.  They're testing my blood cell counts to see if I'll need to come back for Neupogen shots again.

2:15 p.m.
Back at home!  I was feeling pretty good, so I was able to work for a couple of hours.  Only side effect at this point was itchiness from the steroids.  Took some Benadryl, which helped.

4:30 p.m.
Ran out of steam.  Tried to start this blog post, but literally couldn't keep my eyes open.  Nap time!

7:00 p.m. 
Woke up to this:

Apparently somebody had to go potty.  Considered ignoring her because I was so darn tired.  Realized the consequences of ignoring her and got my butt out of bed to let her out.

7:30 p.m.
Josh gets home from work and forces me to eat dinner and drink lots of water.  I was hungry but had no appetite, if that makes sense.  I have an herbal medication to help with nausea and loss of appetite, so I took that and was able to eat (had some yummy soup that was homemade and delivered by my awesome friend, Carmen).

8:30 p.m.
Back to bed :)

I woke up around 4:30 this morning, which is about normal for the morning after chemo.  I napped yesterday and went to bed early, plus the steroids they give me make me antsy - so I'm normally awake really early that morning after.

I worked a little bit at 4:30 a.m. - mostly catching up on emails since I was traveling most of the week.  I took a break but then worked the rest of the day.  I'm feeling pretty good today, so I figured I'd squeeze as much work in as possible in case I don't feel well later in the week.

Unfortunately my blood test didn't come back today - they said they should have it first thing tomorrow morning.  So I should know early tomorrow whether or not I'll have to do the Neupogen shots again.

Like I said, I'm actually feeling pretty good today.  Not much of an appetite and I'm pretty tired, but otherwise good!  I have a weird craving for tachos - which are like nachos but made with tater tots.  We have someone bringing us dinner tonight, so I'm hoping I'll continue to feel good enough to eat it!

Thanks to everyone who's sent prayers and well-wishes these last few days!


Friday, September 13, 2013

I'm Glad It's Me

Cancer sucks. Chemo sucks. I'm half way through treatment and it has been an unpleasant experience that I hope none of my friends or family ever have to go through.

But I've never thought "why me?" but rather "I'm glad it's me."

I'm glad it's me and not Porter, Zach, Kate, Charlie, Mia, or any of the many other beautiful children I know and love.  I'm glad it's me and not my husband, my brother, or a parent.  I'm glad it's me and not a friend with kids, one of several friends expecting a child, or those currently trying to get pregnant.  I'm glad it's me and not someone who's had past or continuing health problems.  I'm glad it's me and not someone without financial stability, good health insurance, or a strong support group.

I'm young, strong, and healthy.  I will get through this.

Do I WANT to have cancer? Of course not.  But if cancer HAD to choose someone, I'm glad it's me.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chemo #2 Day 6: Dramatic Hair Cut

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm losing my hair... a lot of it.  I took this picture a couple of days ago after simply running my fingers through my hair:

May not look like much, but imagine that much coming out every time you touched your hair.

I took this picture this morning, it's all the hair that's come out in my hairbrush over the last 3 days:

You should see what was left in the shower this morning.  I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few tears.  I know this means the chemo is working, so I'm happy for that, but there's really nothing that can prepare you for your hair coming out in chunks in your hand.

My super sweet hair stylist Teddi (she really is amazing), came to my house today to cut off my hair.  The hope is that the shorter hair won't fall out quite as much and I may not have to shave my head after all.  I may still have to wear a hat or scarf, but at least I'd have a little hair sticking out.

Here's the before and after *drumroll, please*

I'll miss my long hair, but I do like the short cut.  And I'll definitely be growing it out long again (and I think I'll keep it red, too!!).

And in case you're wondering how I'm feeling, I'm doing ok today.  I was pretty nauseous all morning, but it's mostly passed.  I still don't have much of an appetite - nothing sounds good at all - but I'm trying to eat (and drink) as much as possible.  I'm still pretty achy from the Neupogen shots, but otherwise I'm feeling pretty good!  I worked a full day today and plan to do the same tomorrow.  I'm hoping I'll be able to travel for work on Wednesday, too (doc will approve it before I leave).  I was invited to attend a trip to St. Louis for the top performers in my department; it was a huge honor and something I worked really hard to achieve.  I'm really (really, really, really) hoping I can make it!

And here's one more picture before I sign off :)

Do my eyes look super creepy?!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chemo #2 Day 4: Neupogen Shot (in the stomach!)

When I left you last, I had just completed chemo treatment #2 (out of 4).   I had chemo on Wednesday, it's now Saturday and I'm happy to report that (so far) this round has been much kinder to me than the first!

Neupogen Injections

Before I get into how I've been feeling, I told you last time about the Neupogen shots I'll have to get every day for a few days.  Because my white blood cell count dropped drastically (which is actually very common in chemo patients), they need to get me to make some more white blood cells.  The  Neupogen shot stimulates bone marrow growth and should cause a significant bump in my white cells. Low white blood cell count means my body will have a hard time fighting off an infection, so we have to be careful with that.

The first two shots I got at my oncologist's office (Thursday and Friday), but since they're closed over the weekend, I had to go to the ER to get the shot today and will do the same tomorrow.  The shot goes in your stomach (or you can do the back of the arm but they recommend the stomach).  The needle is really tiny, so it doesn't hurt, but the Neupogen stings pretty good as it's going in!

I didn't have any side effects from the first shot on Thursday, but I did after the Friday shot - mostly nausea and some flu-like symptoms including a sniffley nose.  This morning when I woke up my joints were achy and many of my muscles (arms, legs, abs) were sore to the touch - like I had a really tough workout the day before (I didn't).  I just woke up from a nap and am feeling really achy again.  Thankfully it's not too painful - just bone and muscle aches.

Tomorrow should be the last shot for this round of chemo.  They'll test my blood counts again next week to make sure, but I expect to be back to normal by then :)

The Last Few Days

So, how have I been feeling these last few days since chemo?  Well.... I haven't had a migraine or really even a bad headache this time around.  I have some discomfort on my tongue, but thankfully it's not nearly as painful as last time.  Pain killers have been helping quite a bit, so I've been able to eat and drink without too much pain, woo hoo!!!

The nausea this time around has been worse (which could also be caused by the Neupogen shot), but it's manageable.  So far my digestive system is working well - no constipation and hope to keep it that way!  So overall, this seems like cakewalk compared to where I was at this point last time.  I hope it stays that way!

But boy am I tired.

Low white blood cells can cause fatigue, as can the chemo, the pain medicine, and the Neupogen shots.  I've been napping several times throughout each day - I went to bed at 8:00 last night!  I find it hard to even keep my eyes open sometimes!


My hair is coming out pretty good now.  Even gently running my fingers through my hair leaves somewhat large chunks of hair in my hand.  Although I knew this was coming, nothing can really prepare you for that.

I'm going to get it cut a little shorter on Monday - the hope is that with less weight, less hair would come out (and it will make it easier to clean up as it comes out!).  I'm using a silk pillowcase (a gift from Grammy), which I think helps a lot - there doesn't seem to be much left on the pillow in the mornings.  Still holding out hope that I won't have to shave it completely, but also prepared for that possibility.  Again, only time will tell.....

Before & "After"

Obviously, I'm not done with treatment, so this isn't a true after picture... but I wanted to show the progress of how treatment is working on my tumors - it's amazing!  In just a few days after my first chemo treatment, the large lump on the side of my neck was almost completely gone!  Now, you can't even see or feel anything!  The scar is barely even noticeable!  Seeing these results is incredible - makes dealing with these icky chemo side effects a little bit easier when you can actually see the chemo working.

Ok, well I'm off to bed.  It's almost 9:00 - that's a late night for me :)


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chemo #2: Die Cancer, Die!

Well today was eventful.   :-/

Today was Chemo #2 of 4 - halfway done, woo hoo!  I met with my oncologist first and got some unfortunate news.  My white blood cell counts have dropped significantly - so much that they almost wouldn't give me chemo today (but thankfully they did!).   But now I have to come in every day for awhile and get a shot of Neupogen - which is a drug to help boost my white blood cell count.  Unfortunately the Neupogen has its own unpleasant side effects - primarily bone pain.  They say it will feel like flu-like aches and pains.  The good news is that this drug should help with my white blood count and hopefully I won't have any delay in my next round of chemo.  Your white blood cells are what help fight off infection.  Too few white blood cells can make it much harder for me to fight off infection, which can be dangerous.  If I get a fever above 100.5 degrees, I'll have to go to the ER.  So I'll have to be extra cautious - no gardening (I was bad and did a little over the weekend), we have to keep the house as clean as possible, I shouldn't be around large groups of people or people who may be sick.  Ugh... so many rules!!

Well, like I said they let me get my chemo treatment today regardless of my blood work.  They didn't have any problem accessing my port initially, so I was hooked up pretty quickly.

Read my post about my last chemo treatment for more information on how they administer each of my medications.  First they give me anti-nausea medicine, then steroids to assist the anti-nausea medicine, then finally each of the 4 types of chemo, called ABVD (more on that in another post soon, I promise!).

The first type of chemo goes in via IV bag.  The last three are pushed in by a nurse through a large syringe into my port line.  Before they can push in these last three types of chemo, they have to make sure my port is still functioning properly.  They do this by pulling back on the syringe just a little bit to make sure a little bit of blood comes out - it's called blood return.  Unfortunately I didn't have any blood return in my port when they tried to push in the second chemo.  They tried pushing in some saline, no luck.  They tried flushing the port out with heparin, no luck.  They tried having me raise one arm over my head, then the other, then lay on my side, turn my head and cough... no luck.  Finally they gave me some kind of drug that is used to break up a blood clot.  Sometimes the port can get a little clogged as your blood naturally clots, so this drug is supposed to break up a clog if there is one... no luck (initially).  Then they had me walk up and down the stairs and through the halls for a few minutes, no luck but apparently they saw a tiny bit of pink, so they figured they were close.  More walking - this time we went outside and walked for awhile.  Finally I had blood return!  They were able to push in my last 3 chemo drugs, hooray!

I ate a popsicle during the chemo that can cause mouth pain and mouth sores.  Apparently the chemo doesn't like to go to places in the body that are cold.  So supposedly eating a popsicle or ice as the chemo goes in can keep it from going to my mouth and may lessen the mouth pain that I experienced last time.  More on that terrible mouth pain here.

I am starting to lose some hair :(  It's not coming out in huge clumps or anything, but I've definitely noticed a lot more hair on my shirt, on furniture, in the bathroom, etc.  My onc says I should notice a lot more in these next 7 days.  I blow dried my hair last night and noticed a lot more loss than normal.  I told Josh last night, that may have been the last time I blow dry my hair for awhile :(  I'll probably go in to get my hair cut shorter in a few days, which should help a little.  I'm still hoping I won't lose it all (or enough for me to have to shave my head), but I'm still prepared just in case.

That's about it for today.  I feel fine now, just sleepy and a little bit of a headache.  It was so nice to have my dad with me today as my chemo buddy!  He took great care of me!

We don't look at all alike, do we? ;)
I'll give you all another update soon.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Eve of Chemo #2

It's been several days since my last post, so just wanted to update you on how I've been feeling.  Thankfully I'm almost back to normal - digestive issues have been resolved, no nausea, no mouth pain. The only two lingering side effects from the chemotherapy are fatigue and headaches.  Oh, and my scalp has been really tender - no hair loss yet, just a really tender scalp which is weird....

Think about the most tired you've ever been... that's me pretty much how I feel every single evening.  I do ok during the day most days, but I wear out pretty quickly.  And once I wear out... I'm done!  We were at a friend's house over the weekend celebrating Josh's birthday.  After just a couple of hours I got really, really tired - even fell asleep in a chair outside!  If I don't take a nap during the day (which I do most days), I'm usually wiped out by 8:00 p.m. or so.

Unfortunately I've been tortured by migraines since I was a teenager.  And it's even more unfortunate that because of this I'm more susceptible to headaches and migraines as a side effect of chemo.  I've had a headache just about every day since chemo #1 over 2 weeks ago :(  Luckily they're not all bad ones - only 3 or 4 of them have been migraines.  I had my migraines managed to about 1 per month before chemo started, so I'm not exactly happy about 3-4 in 2 weeks, but my prescription migraine medicine (Maxalt-MLT) usually does the job pretty well.  I'm only allowed to take Tylenol (no aspirin allowed!) or my prescription, so I often have those dull headaches that last all day.  Lame.

That's about all that's been going on since my last update.  Well, except for a little sore throat over the weekend.  I think I was just fighting off a little cold or something.  It was really sore for a couple of days, but is all better now.

I have to admit I'm really not looking forward to tomorrow.  Now that I feel pretty much back to normal, I'm not ready to do it all over again!  But I know the chemo is working, so I'll keep plugging along!  I'll post a picture tomorrow of the progress - you can see a huge difference in the size of the tumors in my neck, I can't wait to show you!


And because I'm wishing I was on a tropical vacation instead of going through chemo, here's a picture of us from our anniversary cruise just 3 months ago.