I know today has been Thanksgiving day for most of my friends and family. Most except for a very few live in the states which is what makes my current situation so difficult. I live in Canada even though I spent the first 42 years of my life living in the US. Many might think I don’t have much to be thankful for, and yet I know others who would say I have a lot to be thankful for and the latter would be correct.
I maybe fighting a disease, one in which it is difficult to believe will have a positive outcome. I, however, am doing my best to be positive.
Yesterday, I went for my first chemo treatment. The night before was one of the worst nights I’ve had for sleeping. My cat lay curled at the top of my head all night. If you knew my cat you would know how unlike this was of her. She rarely sleeps with me. She will at times curl up on my lap and when she first came to live with us she would try sleeping with me but I’m not one for having a cat licking me or snuggled up so tight against my head or neck. I had a cat that did that once and it gave me nightmares about snakes because she would curl her tail around my neck and I’d dream of snakes in my house wrapping around my neck. I don’t mind them sleeping lower down my body at my back or stomach just not up around my head. But that night that was the only place she would lay and I didn’t fight her on it only told her to stop licking or whatever she would be doing that bothered me. All in all I probably woke a dozen times or more throughout the night and no I cannot blame all of it on the cat.
By the time I arrived at the chemo room, I had taken a half diazepam the night before and another half about 6am due to getting the shakes. I was calm upon my arrival but it wasn’t long before I was starting to shake so I asked for the medicine my oncologist told me about that they could give me to help with my nerves. They got it for me after I took my anti-nausea meds and they went over the possible side effects of the chemo. About a half hour later they started the injection of the first chemo drug into a port on my IV. The medication was red and I was told it would make me pee red or pink. The more I hydrated myself the faster it would flush out of my system. My first pee about 45 minutes later was indeed red. The side effect I experienced was cold. It was cold going in and my arm felt like it was in ice water and it began to itch. All she had to do was wrap it in a nice warm cloth which took away all the symptoms.
The second chemo drug was attached to the IV and dripped slowly over 60 minutes. The side effect I felt from it was about 30 minutes into it I started feeling numb around my eyes or as if I had a snorkeling mask on. They said that was normal and would go away which it did before the treatment ended.
My friend L came with me. She brought the service dog she is in the process of training and we were happy to find out they were receptive to allowing the dog to be in the chemo room with us and even let L take the dog from patient to patient if the patient wanted to pet her they could, most of them did. In fact, we were told quite frequently they have service dogs come in to sit with patients.
All in all my experience was exceedingly pleasant if not a bit nerve wracking. I did try to knit and did for a while until the first chemo drug and they wrapped my arm in the hot towel, so I ceased the knitting and just watched L take her dog around and sit and talk with her and some of the women working in the chemo room. One woman thought the dog was my service dog and I told them no that L was training her. They gave me an option of drinks and I got some hot tea. a warm blanket and they served pumpkin chocolate chip cookies which were great. Everyone was exceedingly nice and wonderful and when they found out it was my first time they did everything they could to reassure me and help me feel comfortable.
I took with me a wrap for around my shoulders which helped a lot since I tend to get cold easily. I also brought slippers so I could take my shoes off and put the slippers on to help keep my feet warm since my hands and feet tend to be on the cold side. I brought a book which with all the activity I didn’t touch. As I said I did pull out my knitting and work on it a bit. I carry with me all my medical papers since I was first diagnosed that has copies of all the test results. I also took with me all the medications they prescribed which was the anti-nausea medications, 4 in all, and then the medication I’ll be self-injecting which meant I had to wrap it with an icepack to keep it cold. I actually didn’t need that one. I have an appointment Friday to learn how and to give my first injection. I will be doing them from day 3 through day 10. The injections are to encourage my body to make white blood cells. This will enable me to go in every two weeks for chemo and shorten my treatment time from 6 months to 4 months.
Once the chemo treatments are done then I get radiation treatments. I haven’t received details of those yet.
I can expect my hair to start falling out by the end of two weeks from now. I was told I would feel a tingling sensation on my scalp before it would start. I cut my hair into a pixie cut so I wouldn’t have long strands of hair everywhere and long large clumps coming out. I can only imagine that would be rather traumatic to deal with. I’ve worn my hair short like this before over different times in my life and like it. I most likely will keep it short even after the chemo is done and my hair grows back in. The cancer clinic has a wig room where we can choose a free wig and 2 head covering. I found a wig that matched my hair almost exactly other than it had more highlights and I plan on finding out if my insurance will cover a wig and if so how much and get another one. Finding out how easy it is to care for a wig and not having to style it after washing, I could keep my hair short and wear a wig whenever I wanted a new style.
I’ve had such tunnel vision over what cancer means in the negative, that to find all these things that are coming into my life as a positive is rather refreshing. I cannot imagine what it must be like for all the nurses working in the chemo room. I imagine they have good days and bad days. I just hope they have more good days than bad. And it must be rather uplifting when they find out a patient is cured and never returns, however it must be especially hard for them when they find some patients returning again and again and eventually given a short term prognosis where nothing can be done but help them live as long as possible and as comfortably as they can. I don’t think I could do that for very long.
The family counseling session my daughter and I had on Tuesday at the clinic was good. In fact, he helped us to both see that what I was doing was all very good, in fact what both of us was doing was all very good. I wished he could have gotten my daughter to talk more about how all this was making her feel but he did tell me that knowing that takes abstract thought and it is something they have to learn, some learn it quicker than others and some take longer but what I was doing was good in that I check in with her and ask her how she is doing, how her day went and so on. This helped ease my mind greatly and we talked about it on the way home. Even so today, my daughter ended up staying home from school. I think it was due to all the stress from the family counseling to the chemo the next day and this being my first day at home alone, I think she just wanted to be here with me and so I didn’t push her to go to school. Tomorrow I think she will be fine for going to school because today she could see I was doing well other than being a bit tired.
On Monday I went to see my plastic surgeon and he did the first injection to start the expansion of my expander. It was also a lot less traumatic than I envisioned it to be. Normally I look away when someone pokes a needle in me, even the small ones. This one was huge. It reminded me of the needles in a cartoon, where it looks ten times bigger than they need to be, however it has 60 cc of saline to inject so it had to be big. The needle looked to be about three inches long. I had to look because he was showing me how to do it so I could see if my family doctor would want to learn how to do it to save me an hour trip one way to see him when it is a simple procedure. He showed me it was simple enough for even me to do at home but I knew I couldn’t do it. I got squeamish just watching him. Here is how it works. They use a small magnet similar to a small stud finder. The expander has a resealable port and behind the port in a metal plate which keeps the needle from going in too far once you poke it in through the port. Then you just slowly inject the saline. It was not painful at all. Now instead of having an oddly shaped flat side it is slightly enlarged and softer to the touch. I hope to get some new pictures. Oh and the injection needs to be timed with my chemo treatments, they have to be done either a day before, or day of chemo because they don’t want to insert a needle if my white cell count isn’t high enough so if I’m strong enough for the chemo, I’m strong enough for the saline injection.
Tuesday was my CT Scan in the morning and then in the afternoon was the family counseling session. Now Friday I have the class to teach me how to self-inject the meds I need to take on days 3-10. It has been a busy week. To top that off Friday is Black Friday and L and I want to do some shopping. I just hope I have the energy for it.
This has taken me a few hours to write due to interruptions and being tired. I can feel my eyes wanting to close even now so its time to close and seek my bed.