Chemo N°5

Things chugged along from chemotherapy rounds one and two, delivered simultaneously with external radiation, to solo chemo number three. My blood levels went down prior to chemo four—which means the chemo is doing its job of killing cells—but with a modification to the dosage, I got it on schedule.

The day before chemo I went to the blood lab as per usual. Since I had my port inserted, and my blood drawn from there and not my arm, the techs ask whether or not, since I’m having chemo the next day, I want to leave the needle in my port. It just hangs out from my chest, under a bandage, and means I can start chemo without another port access (they hurt a ton more than a needle in the arm). While the thought of sleeping all night with a needle sticking in me creeps me out, not having to do a second port access in as many days sounded good, so I said yes, and I left the blood lab with the needle still in place.

An hour later, I read my own labs on my patient portal as I was waiting to see the nurses, resident and my oncologist. From my experience as mum of a kid with cancer who saw labs daily, weekly and monthly for 30 months, my levels were not better than those for chemo number four but worse. My doctor told me my chemo would have to be delayed to give my blood time to rebound from chemo number four.

Disappointed doesn’t touch how I felt at that news. Angry, terrified, betrayed—way too much emotion with no outlet. My small plan was to get chemo number five on Friday, drive to my brother and sister-in-law’s cottage on Saturday feeling artificially good with the steroids and anti-nauseants, then crash on Monday and spend the rest of the week taking it easy to the sounds of the water and the loons. Being sent home Thursday with no chemo appointment for the next day, feeling betrayed by my body and abandoned by cancer science (why did we not see this coming? can’t I get a white-cell-growth booster like I had with my breast cancer chemo?), and the freaking needle in my chest, well, things were at a new low.

New plan

Proceed to cottage as planned, feeling exhausted but now knowing why. Come back for new labs in 12 days. Levels of platelets came up, so chemo number five happened 14 days later than originally scheduled.

Side effects thus far

Hair: all gone, about one quarter of eyebrows left, thank God they’re blonde because they look weird and I’m too chicken to pluck them.

Intestinal distress: continues, unfortunately.

Peripheral neuropathy: feet, toes and ankles, numb, yet burning, swollen and tight, hurts like hell to walk, prickly feelings, cramps in feet, legs and hands. Could be hand-foot syndrome too, but milder on the hands.

Ankles and lower legs: these have blown up bigger than when I was pregnant. This has led to a referral to the lymphedema clinic later this month. I have lymphedema of my right hand, arm and trunk from my breast cancer treatment, and am dreading that radiation to my surgical site may have caused lymphedema of my legs. Fingers crossed for this to be negative.

Joint pain: lots of it, apart from the trouble with feet and ankles.

Nausea: I got a small extension of the best anti-nauseant, and then pile on the second-tier one plus ginger Gravol. The problem comes when I think I’m past the need for meds and don’t take them, and then I feel sick, and by then the meds don’t work well. So now I’m keeping ahead and taking them regardless.

Energy level: pretty low most days, some days I have almost no activity other than bathroom, kitchen, back door, daybed—no cooking, no cleaning, no crocheting. Other days, I drive with Graydon, Luka, Tessa and babies to grocery stores and little errands. I had a fabulous deck visit with friends-since-uni Shelagh last Saturday, three hours passed like 40 minutes. That was fabulous. Then I slept for the rest of the day!

Chemo brain: really feeling the effects of this, from being unable to retain more than three numbers at a time in my head, to recall of plots, inability to read much of anything, and word recall (SO annoying for me), to forgetting not just passwords but the answers to security questions. I have been locked out of accounts on a daily basis, leading to even more reasons to shut down communications.

Emotional lability: my doctor’s term, something I have been experiencing a lot, and has led me to talk to a psychiatrist at PMCC.

Taste changes: basically over for the cycle by day 7–10.

Chemo No°6

Bloodwork this Thursday, chemo on Friday, that’s the plan.

2 Responses

  1. Hoping chemo #6 (LAST SESSION!!) proceeds as planned.

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