I am two infusions into my second cycle of Gemcitabine. Today was supposed to be the last in the cycle, but it didn’t happen. Then again, there’s really no “supposed to” in my situation. I am far outside of any book regimens at this point. My doctors and I are just reacting and attacking, using my pain syndromes and my blood count levels as indicators of when we’re not using enough or hitting me with too much of the chemo drug.
We scaled down my dosage in the first cycle as my blood-clotting platelets were dipping dangerously low, disallowing me from getting the treatment as frequently as my doctors would want. Now, in this second cycle, my counts have been holding pretty well but I’ve had some bouts of wild pain set in, which makes them think that we need to whack a little harder. A little harder as in dialing up the amount of Gemcitabine I am receiving and also possibly adding in another drug: Navelbine to make sure that we are staying ahead of the lymphoma.
To my maybe not-so-secret delight, that change did not happen today. My platelet level was down to 50,000. It would be way too dangerous to treat me at that level knowing I’d drop even further and would very likely need a transfusion and be at risk for random acts of bleeding and all of that fun stuff. I get a bi-week. This works out wonderfully as I am hopping a train this weekend bound for Washington DC for some time with my college roomie. I couldn’t be happier that I’ll have no chemo symptoms to contend with (including the super swollen face look that I so adore.)
What I am having to contend with, however, is this on and off pain. It sneaks in like a jungle cat, all stealth-like, then wham – attack out of nowhere. It feels similar to having what I’d imagine the claws of a jaguar might feel like if they were scraping around in my sacral and hipbones. The nails dig in and then twist pulling all the muscles and tendons in around the pain that then emanates from that hot epicenter.
Heat helps. Pain patches help. Stretching helps. An increase in my steroid helps – though it’s incredibly frustrating to have to keep popping back up to higher doses of Prednisone (20mg currently) when I know all the side effects they come with. Even with these Band-Aids, sometimes the pain still breaks through and that’s when things really suck. A Dilaudid pill and sleep are really all that will help those times. I am grateful that it is not by any means constant and that I do have options with treating the pain syndrome.
There is no real certain way to know what is even causing the pain. My body could just be old and angry and arthritic, not at all unheard of for all the steroid breakdown my bones have probably endured, the battles going on within the bones, and how much work we’ve been asking my bone marrow to do for four years. It’s not necessarily that the cancer is growing, which is another reason why I wasn’t too keen on hitting it with more chemo today. I’d like to just ride this out a bit and see what happens over the next week. Maybe I just injured my lower back like any regular person. I mean, I was throwing kayaks around … . I kid. I was in on and off pain before that. The big reason I went kayaking was because I finally was having a pain-free day.
What’s important is that it didn’t stop me from enjoying a weekend away with Craig, Sam Dog and longtime friends at one of their Vermont lake houses. Okay, maybe we had to delay it by a night as I waited for my pain meds to settle out, but that's what flexibility means. We made it, and it was complete with a fire pit and boat, dinghy and ATV rides, blended drinks, meat on the grill, and lots of laughs, reminiscing and catching up. Everything Memorial Day weekend should be.