Sunday I was strong enough to get out of the house and instead spend the afternoon on my parent's living room recliner watching Dante's Peak and USA vs. Canada. I got to see my little bro, which is nice and he even accompanied me on my short walk around the neighborhood. I still felt nauseous and weak but nothing compared to the days prior.
Monday, I drove myself to the Hartford Cancer Center for an appointment. It was a balmy 45 degrees and I had the car sunroof open blaring a Judy Garland Broadway compilation CD a friend had dropped off for me. I felt great in big part due to the fact that I had a good, solid bowel movement. I thought that the moment was deserving of trumpets and fireworks. Though they didn't come, they did play in my head. I felt a million times better. And after the puke, when I suddenly came out of that nausea cloud, it felt as if I'd found my legs again after months at sea. For four days straight it felt as if I had just stepped off the ride at the amusement park that spins so fast it makes you stick to the wall and the floor drops out from underneath you. I always hated that ride. It felt like my stomach was not in my abdomen, but instead in my throat, and that what was in my abdomen was churning through my intestines in a radioactive manner. No. Sudden. Movements.
I even wore jeans and a cute top to Monday's appointment. I showered and put on mascara. These were big steps. I certainly wasn't feeling 100%, but I'd say 65%. Today, we're up another 10 or so percentage points. I joked and laughed with the ladies in the lab. We talked about Justin Timberlake and his Soupville SNL skit. Denise, my favorite, was there to take my blood and she was so concerned about what I was going through. She gets all teary-eyed and always tells me that she loves me. I found out that she's no longer out at the Avon Cancer Center where I'll now be having most of my appointments since it's much closer for me. This was sad news, but I know we'll pass each other.
I met with Dr. Dailey and told him about my weekend escapades with the constipation, the nausea, the vomiting. He was sympathetic and we talked about some new options that we can try for ICE round 2 that might help things, including more steroid and a medical marijuana-like nausea blocker (oooooooh) that he says works well with a lot of young people. Despite my weekend symptoms, he thought that I was doing very well with everything, considering. This was encouraging. My blood levels were still holding okay. I'm a bit anemic but he wasn't too concerned. He wants to continue to check my blood every other day. He expects the big drop to happen this weekend and for my white blood cells to stay low (nearly non-existent) for at least a week when the marrow stimulating effects of the Neulasta shot wear off and the chemo effects really kick in. From this weekend forward I'll have to really confine myself to home and controlled environments. No movies. No restaurants. No big crowds. Definitely no contact with anyone who is remotely sick. If I catch a bug of any sort not only could it delay my treatment schedule but my body might not be able to fight it off. I am not going to let that happen so I plan on heeding his warnings to the extreme.
Then it was time for the Lupron shot. This shot will serve to shut down my ovarian functions in hopes to protect them during the high-dose chemotherapy and to eliminate monthly bleeding as my platelets will be low and there is a risk of hemorrhaging. I'm told that it will also give me menopausal symptoms like crazy mood swings and hot flashes. Depending on how my body reacts I might go on a low-dose estrogen to counteract things. Basically, I'm just a human beaker bottle. A little of this potion. A little of that toxin. Let's get me to gurgle just enough, but not bubble over ... . And let's see what different colors I can turn while we're at it.
My oncology nurse whom I had all during the ABVD, Diane, opened the door with a box in her hand. She had a look on her face like she was a little kid who just spilt a whole gallon of milk on the floor.
"I have a really big shot for you," she said, scrunching up her nose and lips. "I'm sorry."
"That's okay," I said back. "I just won't look at it."
"Oh! You're so good! Can I just take you home with me?" she exclaimed and came over and gave me a big hug. "You're just so good. I don't know how you guys do it," she said.
I realized that she felt so awful thinking that the shot she had to give me would add to the pain I was already going through, but to me, it was just part of the process. If it was going to protect me or make me better, just stab me with it. I can take it. It also made me realize that other patients might not react that way. I wonder if others would fight back at her begging her not to come at them with the needle, refusing their treatment. I'm sure it happens. This is why oncology nurses should be considered on par with angels.
I didn't look at the needle, but I believed her that it was big when it seemed like it took forever for the drug to go in. I had to pull out a cheek and she shot me in the upper behind. It really wasn't a big deal at all. Diane is very, very good at giving shots. It just went deep and there is still a dull ache in the injection area today. I zipped back up and was on my way with a slew of follow-up appointments over the next few weeks until my next ICE infusion - March 15.
Until then I'll continue my walking. I have not missed a day yet no matter how shitty I've felt. Sometimes the walks are longer than others. Sometimes they're slower than others. But it's important to me to move every day. I also get outside every day which is getting easier now that it's finally not precipitating. Fresh air does wonders. I have so much paperwork to focus on and administrative work to be done that I am not working, I still get a sense of accomplishment completing all of those tasks. I'm eating pretty well. I can keep most everything down now and my appetite is strong. I'm instructed to be on a "high-calorie, high-protein" diet. This is much different than my usual low-fat, lean-protein regimine. Basically right now I am just eating as much as I can when I am feeling up to it as I know how much my body needs the fuel for this fire inside me. I'm still focused on raw, non-processed foods, though I make the exception for peanut m & m's.
I hope that these improvements continue and that I'm out of the dark when it comes to the nausea. The achiness and weakness that is expected to set in in next week is something that I can deal with - napping is easy. Trying not to vomit is not.