I always blog about my treatment day experiences several days after and realize that much is probably lost in the interim. So, because for some reason I have not been able to sleep after this treatment, I will write. Forgive if this makes no sense whatsoever and is riddled with bad grammar and punctuation. I blame the drugs.
Today was number 11. One away from number 12, the final infusion in my chemo regimen. That means I can now say: "Just one more to go!" That sounds much better than the days when six months and 12 treatments were set up as obstacles ahead of me. I've hurdled over nearly all of them and honestly, it's hard to believe.
This morning I worked from home for a couple hours. In fact, worked right up until the last possible second before I had to get in the shower and pack my chemo bags. Avoiding the inevitable, I suppose.
No funny chemo t-shirt today. It was too cold out this morning so a henley and a toggle tie wool sweater were in order. It turned out to be a wise choice, though when the sun came out it was much warmer. It was a wise choice because there was a lot of action in my port site today and the button downs made it that much more accessible.
Weight was stable. White Blood Cell count and granulycytes were very low as usual, but not as scarily low as before the last treatment. Blood pressure was good but heart rate was up. This was noted both by Denise (my fav lab tech) and Dr. Dailey but to no huge concern. My nurse chalked it up to anxiety. I hate to admit it, but yes, I did have a lot of anxiety today. In fact, I may have experienced what some may call a minor anxiety attack ... . It again goes back to the counterintuitive nature of chemotherapy. I might as well walk up to one of those beefy men who pull 18-wheelers via straps held with their teeth in those Strongest Man competitions and ask him to punch me in the face, then kick me around about while I'm wriggling on the floor - a couple of swift ones to the gut and the lower back. Of course I have anxiety about arriving there. Every time I know better what the effect will be on my body but yet I'm the one walking my body in. I almost lost my breakfast in my mom's car and then in the red bin full of discarded fluid bags and bloody gauze. My chest pumping "bring it on," "eat lighting and crap thunder" attitudes I used to plow into the Cancer Center with. Now it's more like "let's get this shit over with."
Our meeting with Dr. Dailey was again very positive. He checked my lymph nodes, noting that my neck is still lumpy and asymetrical but nothing to be concerned about. Many of the lymph nodes may be scarred from being stressed so wide when filled with the cancer and this may never heal fully. He also said that I may need to see a neurologist if time does not heal the dead leg I experience in my left shin/outer leg area. That's okay, I can deal with a lumpy neck and a leg that works, despite its numbness. He seemed very impressed with how my body is still responding so well to the ABVD. I had been expecting these last few to be the hardest yet, but they've really proven to be quite manageable - or maybe my expectations of what it means to "feel good" have just been lowered. Next steps: final chemo treatment Oct. 21 (big day, very big day) then another PET/CT Scan. In my last PET/Scan, though he declared me in remission, there is one area near my sternum that showed some "hot spotting," but Dr. Dailey is doubtful that it is cancer presence. We both hope that the spot is gone altogether in this next scan.
We were then escorted to one of the private rooms where my Mom and I got comfortable. My anxiety doesn't really go down until the port needle is inserted and the meds start flowing. That's when I can breathe a little easier and the nausea subsides. These feelings weren't nearly as extreme in the beginning. I think everything is just accumulated over such a protracted treatment regimen. My nurses' sighs as she was trying to draw my blood vials led my anxiety to new heights. Try as she might, my port just was not cooperating. Every treatment she draws blood for testing, in addition to the CBC finger prick that I get. My port was flushing well and accepting the pre-meds no problem, just not giving back. She explained that there might be a fiber or some clotting behind it. Despite how much she assured me that that's very normal to happen, I was pretty shaken up thinking about a clot traveling from my port site to my brain and leading to horrible things ... . But apparently those worries are unfounded and I'll trust the experts on their word.
Because the port was taking in the meds no problem that scene went smoothly. I get more woozy from the anti-nausea and steroid pre-meds. My vision blurs a bit and my processes slow. I get giggly and goofy and everything feels a bit off. Add to that my shaky hands and tight muscles as I unwound from my anxiety frenzy and the first hour was a bit rough. But my mom held my hand and relaxed me and I just kept apologizing to the nurse about what a baby I've become because again, Karin pre-cancer wasn't someone used to anxiety - nothing could throw me into a tizzy. Thank goodness for the visualizations and breathing I've learned in yoga that helped to get me back to reality.
We popped "Confessions of a Shopaholic" into my laptop – fantastic chick flick – and that really helped to pass the time from A to B to V to D to bag of saline. When the meds were done, we tried again to get some blood from my port. It spit and sputtered a bit but not enough to clear the tube and fill a vile. She had me lean forward, lean back, raise my arms, but nothing worked, so a needle in the hand it was. Luckily my nurse is fantastically steady and skilled at getting it in painlessly so I just turned away while she kneeled on the floor and I made a fist with my very sweaty hand. The blood was taken and I was free to go.
It took me a bit to stand up and get my bearings and I don't really know what I was saying when I was talking to the secretary to schedule my next appointments. Leaving there is like waking up groggy from an unexpected nap – the reaction time and processing speed are very sllllooooowwwweeed. This is why I do not get behind the wheel and instead rely on Mom to chauffeur me to CVS to pick up my take-home drugs then to lunch for whatever I may be craving. This week it was a hot chicken parm sub, but once I saw the menu it was a Caesar salad and spinach-and-gooey cheese calzone that did the trick of absorbing all the chemicals that were making me feel uneasy.
Usually I crash once I get home but it's now 8:45pm, I've been up since 6:30am and have not slept a wink. Lots on the mind I guess? I've been glued to the couch, watching Ellen then Oprah, doing lots of Facebook stalking. Then I ate more when Craig got home - some delicious homemade chicken soup my mom brought over. I feel on-and-off hot flashes, the room spins and blurs a bit and I have to proceed with caution on any attempts to get off the couch for fear of seeing stars or inducing nausea.
The body pains have already started and that just makes me sigh. Blah. I get these pains throughout my legs especially which make them feel very heavy and very tight. My hips pop and creak and my hamstrings and Achilles' tendon are so taunt I feel they could snap at any moment. These are the same hamstrings that carried me through a 15 minute run with no breaks on Sunday morning followed by a day on my feet at the fair. These are the same hips that bent easily into the pigeon pose at yoga Monday night. For the 11th time I again feel a bit beaten and broken but I know that it will pass for an 11th time.
I looked in the mirror on one of my many bathroom trips. The only time I don't have much of a choice but to look at my reflection. I look like a completely different person than the face that stared back at me this morning before leaving for chemo. My eyes are bugged out and glazed amplified by dark circles beneath them. My usual healthy color is gone and I look like one of those drug addicts you see on the made-for-tv movies.
Luckily, I have a husband and a dog that shower me with affection despite the fact that I look like a man with a very sad hair-loss problem, with a face that's a little green, the three-second memory of a fish and the attention span of a two-year-old. Right now they're each cuddled on my hip (those are my legs under the fuzzy blanket) and watching the Yankees game and I couldn't feel more assured that it's all going to be okay no matter what.