Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bendamustine Cycle 2 Recovery

It's been a week-and-a-half since treatment and I'd say that things have gone relatively smoothly. I have been functioning much better than I did at this point after the first cycle. That could be for a lot of reasons: the dose was reduced, I had seven weeks to recover, there aren't the cancer symptoms to deal with, and I know what to expect.

Thanksgiving was a bit of a blur. It was so nice to be surrounded by family, but it felt like I was wearing beer goggles and moving in slow motion. I don't really remember much of my conversations. I was very woozy and very tired and incredibly chilled the entire day despite wearing two long sleeves under my sweater dress.

However, I picked at more food than I expected to and made it to two out of the three family Thanksgivings that we were scheduled to hit up. Albeit, I did a lot of napping in the couch corner wrapped in a borrowed Tinkerbell fleece at gathering number 2 at my Aunt and Uncle's house. Despite what the embroidery on the pink fleece says, I was certainly not feeling "Flirty." Too chemo dazed to be behind the wheel, my brother drove me and my car to my parent's house where I slept on the recliner, then the couch, then their bed under many blankets with the heat blasting, until Craig returned from Thanksgiving number 3 to pick me up and take me home. I'm lucky to have so many escorts.

The next evening was my 10-year high school reunion. I had been looking forward to it for months and had promised myself that if I was in the state I was going to be there. We had a great graduating class full of many fun, intelligent, caring people and I wanted to be a part of the celebration. I slept the entire day in preparation and somehow got myself dressed up and there. It was so fun, as always, to spend time with all of my close friends and a trip to catch up with people I haven't seen in forever. I had to sit down – a lot – and every tissue in my body was achey and wildly sensitive to the touch. I felt like a walking bruise but I balanced and made the rounds – on heeled boots no less. I was very proud and very happy that I made it there and then equally as happy to be back home and in bed.

Every day since has been an improvement, but it wasn't until yesterday that the body tissue aches and bone pain subsided. The tissue aches are something unique to the Bendamustine for me. It's like my tissues are filled with fluid and therefore very bloated, swollen and inflamed resulting in a lot of tenderness. No bear hugs were allowed.

The Neulasta shot also really did me in this time. It takes a lot more work for my damaged bone marrow to create new blood cells these days and I could physically feel how hard it was working. My bones, especially in my upper back and hips, were constantly pulsing in pain from the inside out. At night especially all I could do was find a position that was minutely comfortable and not shift from it. To move my bones was very painful. The aches have woken me up from sleep several times this week and that's tough to take when sleep is so hard to come by.

Each morning when I wake up I feel as if I'd stepped in as a stunt double for one of the Bourne films and was dropped from a high rise building window to land flat on my back on a rusty dumpster lid. The hour of 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. is usually spent laying there trying to get my bearings and get my strength to get out of bed. The good thing is that each morning the height of the window from which I fall has been reduced. This morning was equivocal to only a slip on the ice.

All that said, it really is an improvement from last time. The bone pain has subsided. The figurative body bruising is gone. The aches are more sporadic and much less intense. Right now all I'm dealing with is red raised bumps on my face and random dry skin patches everywhere – one right on my bottom lip so it looks like I lost a fight. This happened to me last infusion as well. Apparently Bendamustine wrecks havoc on my skin. And then there's the fatigue ... but what's new?

The holidays help for sure. I freakin' love Christmas. I could barely lift my right arm last Sunday, but darn it, we went out and cut down a fresh white spruce and covered her in white lights and mementos. I love, love, love the smell and watching the glow each evening. Saturday we made it to our town's holiday festival and bundled against the cold took in a fantastic fireworks display set to the intense carols of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. There are lots of holiday parties and outings in our schedules and everything is made better by the Mariah Carey Christmas album.

Mentally, I'm in a very happy place right now. Physically, I'm getting there, one day at a time and am just so, so grateful that I'm still able to yoga, to hike, to breathe in this incredible December air. There is a lot of healing happening every day.

December 15 is the next big milestone: PET Scan day. We'll see if this Bendamustine has been doing its job. The hope is for an all clear, no cancer report. That means on we go to transplant – new year, new immune system. While all of those logistics happen I'll get one more cycle of Bendamustine chemo, currently scheduled for Dec. 23 and Dec. 24: Ho! Ho! Ho! Looks like I'll be putting the beer goggles back on for Christmas.


  1. I'm so glad you're feeling better Karin! Your writing is genius....and HILARIOUS! I am cracking up over here (if only it weren't for the durn cancer....nonetheless). Take good care of yourself and I'll talk to you soon!

  2. Always following you closely in your courageous journey. You hang in there, precious girl. You will come through this. Sending love and prayers to you. Irene

  3. hey hey, good luck with everything and I'm crossing my fingers for your PET scan, 6 days after mine!!!
    and happy to hear that you're enjoying the holidays, for some reason they've been especially heartwarming to me this year too :)