Sixth chemo: behold my poisoning, and reconnecting with an old friend

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Trying to keep this message in mind as chemo progresses. But when I’m not falling asleep sitting up, it’s my nature to try and cram in as many activities as I can. Thank you to the Keep Calm-O-Matic for endless Keep Calms…. (http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-relax-294/)

Complain, complain! I am really hating this paclitaxel. Right now my legs are aching so much I can barely think, or think very effectively. I take over-the-counter Claritin—weird but true, women all over take it and report that it works—for the bone pain from the Neulasta shot, but this is a different pain that the Claritin doesn’t touch. So, I have a couple of yellow pills on board now, and hope to be feeling better (or asleep!) in a little while. [N.B.: did not fall asleep, in fact stayed up until 5:20 a.m. watching episodes of Fringe on Netflix with Luka. Yay March Break and complete irresponsibility for following a sleep schedule]

My sixth chemo was three days ago. It’s March Break, so I thought what a great thing for Luka to do on his holiday: accompany his mum to the medical day care for eight hours or so. Hardly! I left him at home, snoozing, and I went to St. Mike’s for 8:30 a.m. (Tessa had an overnight babysitting job), so I was flying solo. But the flying solo ended when my longtime friend Kelly walked into the exam room. We hadn’t seen each other for an embarrassing length of time, but like the old friends and kindred spirits we are, we picked it up like it was 2004 (that’s when we last worked in the same office, but we’ve remained very good, if often silent, friends). It’s a weird thing to call a friend and say, “Hey! How were your holidays? I got a cancer diagnosis from Santa, yeah, what a drag. What did you get?” So I chickened out from telling friends I’m not in constant contact with, and who’s kidding who? With a single-parent household, full-time job, kids, pets, etc., who can keep in constant contact with friends? And no suggestions to get on Facebook, please. I find it far too Big Brother for my privacy threshold.

This was my second round of Paclitaxel, my sixth chemo.

  • The hand-foot syndrome, with its burning, swelling and blistering, seems to be over (bang your knuckles against anything made of wood, please), to be replaced by
  • koilonychia, the gross prospect of my nails lifting off the nailbed and possibly falling right off. It’s starting already, with the nails flattening out and foamy-looking guck underneath.
  • My white count is double what it should be, but with the steroids and immuno-boosters, and this cough/cold/pink eye/laryngitis thing I’ve had since the end of November, who knows what it is. So I continue to take my temperature every four hours and will know when to head to the hospital (that’s a fever above 38°C or 100.4°F, which I’ve had four times, but it has always retreated after 100.7 so I stayed put. The last thing I want is to go to emerg to get hooked up to IVs unless absolutely necessary.
  • Nausea. Im pretty sure this version of Taxol I’m getting is not supposed to cause any nausea, but I’m getting waves of it, chills, sweats, etc., so I’m taking those meds.
  • Exhaustion. I got it. I slept two marathon sleeps between the fifth and sixth chemo: from 10 a.m. Saturday (I’d just driven to Toronto from Stratford at 7:30-9:30 a.m.) to 7 p.m. Sunday (with breaks for coughing, drinking, sleep-eating) and from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. the next day. When it hits, there’s nothing I can do to stay awake.
  • I’m going to lose my hair!!!

I got crap from my chemo nurse, with Kelly as her witness, that I am “doing too much.” I have to say I was feeling really energized having Kelly there for the day, and of course we were talking nonstop and laughing, and for the first time my nurse put me in a single room with a bed for my chemo instead of one of those chic beige naugahyde lounge chairs, but I could not lie down because I was having too much fun catching up with Kelly. Plus my nurse heard about my driving to Stratford and London and back.

She said that I need to sleep, relax, let my body be sick and heal. She says she sees women like me who keep pushing and don’t listen to their bodies and let their brains lead the way. After six chemos, she said, I have to stop and heal. I am trying to take this to heart as I sit in a basement parking garage waiting for one of the kids to finish an appointment. “Sure, I’ll drive you, and I’ll post to my blog while I wait for you,” I said. Hmmmm, so do I resemble my nurse’s remarks?!?! Yes. As soon as I post this entry, I am going to relax (after a quick trip to Dollarama, Sobey’s for a prescription, and a couple of groceries 😉

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10 Responses

  1. Hi J: I’ve been following your blog and I must say how much I admire you. It must be so difficult for you to be in such pain and still able to joke about your situation. I was laughing a few times while catching up on your blog. I can’t believe how much energy you have to do anything. And I must say I agree with the nurse who said you must rest so your body can heal. I signed up to follow your blog every day so I’ll be checking if you are resting 🙂 your Auntie Karen

    • Hello!!! I’m so glad to hear from you! I have your real address for a real thank-you note for your contribution to my wig—if I do say so myself, it looks wonderful.

      Like I said, I’m really glad you’re reading. Say hi anytime, and comment all you like. It keeps me going (that plus a who;e lot of medications and creams!).

      • Don’t worry about getting a note to me. Your daughter thanked everyone and I think it was more than once. So I think all of us know that you and Tessa were grateful. And you can say so yourself, you look beautiful in the picture when your hair was starting to come out and you got your mohawk, in the short hair picture, and also in the pictures with the new hair.

        I notice you are wearing a lovely neckpiece – could you let me know what it is and if it has special meaning for you. It is very pretty.

        Hope you are having a good day 🙂

      • Thank you for the compliments on my original hair and the wig. And thank you again for helping me to buy it. I made the necklace I’m wearing out of sterling silver wire. It’s twisted to look like a bird’s nest, and inside are three eggs, representing my three children, made of amazonite from Russia, where my boyfriend is from. So it has lots of special meaning for me—how intuitive of you to think so!

  2. You do what makes you feel good! And if that’s running around, so be it! Chemo sucks and if you are able to make it go by faster by keeping you mind and body busy then that is the best thing for you. I got told the same thing, the next day I dragged my beach chair and a TON of sunblock and an umbrella to the beach to watch my son surf. And truthfully it was the best medicine for me! To feel the wind on my bald head was a little strange lmao!

    • Thank you for the advice! I find it hard to lie back when I have the energy to be moving and doing. When there are days like yesterday, when I got up at 7, got my youngest on the school bus and went back to bed until he got home at 3:30, wasting days when I have energy to move seems a waste.

      On the subject of bare bald heads, it was -8 degrees last week and I went out to chip ice with nothing on my head. It felt great!

      • I love it!! I’ll tell you what secretly I sometimes miss my bald head! Especially with the gosh darn hot flashes or days i judt cant be bothered. My son at the time was 11 and his friends would run in n out of my house with no warning so they got used to my bald head, kids are great like thatlol but my hair came back twice as thick, soooo curly( it was straight before). So the one thing I can thank cancer for is a great head of hair lmao two years out its past my shoulders so something to look forward to.
        But like I said if it feels good to you do it! Whatever is going to get you through it xo

      • I know how hard it must be to keep still when you want keep going. Glad to hear that you had a day of good rest. You will benefit from it for sure. You must have “Murrant” in your background!!! I didn’t learn to relax until I retired. So you have lots to look forward to of running around and keeping busy!!

        Your grandfather was bald and had the hair around bottom of head. So I grew up with a bald headed man around and I love bald heads! I think you really “see” the person and I personally think people look beautiful because you can see their features so well.
        Your two first cousins have bald heads. Michael was in his 30’s when his hair left and Bruce had a receding hairline in his 20’s and made the decision to shave it all off.

        Keep keeping on ………

      • I feel encouraged by the bald stories! I want to love my baldness, but it hasn’t happened so far. Tessa has tried to take photos, but I look so, well, bald, that I haven’t seen one yet that I can put on the blog. We’ll keep trying…

      • Your neckpiece is beautiful from what I can see and has such special meaning to you. Nice!
        Maybe one day you’ll embrace your bald head. You have lovely facial features so I’m sure you look great bald. Guess I’m not attached to my hair much. I’ve had it so short the wind couldn’t blow through it. It felt a little weird but I liked it.

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