Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Treatments 7 and 8: Christmastime

It was the Christmas season, and I had completed treatment numbers seven and eight.  Most other years would've seen the seven of us piling into the mini-van for several days of road-trips to visit friends and family across the state, but not this year. 

Chemo pushed forward, regardless of the holidays.  I was on a two-week cycle, and my oncologist was committed to ensuring that I did not deviate from it unless it was medically indicated.  Since there was no predicting if I'd have any "good days" between treatments, we decided to stay at home.

Christmas fell on a Wednesday that year, and because it was a treatment week for me, I was attached to the chemo pump.  I worshiped at morning Mass regardless, but it was tough to focus.  Surrounded by fellow parishioners, the pump's intermittent chattering sounded louder to my ears, though I'm sure its volume hadn't changed.

With the clinic closed due to Christmas, Patrick accepted the responsibility of removing my harpoon and pump himself.  Weeks earlier, in anticipation of "pump off" day falling on Christmas, my oncologist had suggested I go to the E.R. for detachment.  We didn't like that idea, so Patrick campaigned for the job.  Granting him her permission, the doctor emphasized that it would be, "For just this one time."

Patrick is a keen observer and not the least bit squeamish.  I was sure he would follow the protocol to the letter and that I would escape any harmful consequences.

Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 2:35 PM

We spent Christmas Day at home, where Patrick repeated our Thanksgiving menu (minus the flames on the sweet potatoes, much to our four-year-old's disappointment) and the kids spent a good long time opening presents...

...near lunchtime the pump's alarm sounded to let us know that all the drugs were delivered and it was time for removal.  I'm happy to say that Patrick did an excellent job of remembering the 247 steps required to remove the pump, and no infection ensued.  Success!  Also, we saved an E.R. bill.  Merry Christmas, indeed.

Here's something I learned:  Not only does the pump have a "Start/Stop" button; it also has an "On/Off" button.  Ha!  No wonder I could never get the thing to stop beeping by pressing "Stop".  However when "On/Off" is pressed, then the thing shuts off.  Brilliant.  What can I say?  I avoid looking at that thing as much as possible.  ...and anyway, two separate buttons is overkill if you ask me.

By now I was starting to really dread "chemo Mondays".  Most Sunday afternoons were spent trying  to beat my husband at cards; spades specifically.  Playing cards until I couldn't keep my eyes open was a great way to avoid thinking about the next day's chemo infusion.

My blood counts were getting worse.  Even after three neupogen injections, my white blood cell count was too low for treatment number eight.  Additional steroids were administered on the morning of treatment, and the count was boosted.  Number eight would proceed on schedule.

By now I knew to expect the creepy, sickening feeling of benadryl going into the port.  The nurse injected it, and three seconds later my vision went blurry and my eyes rolled back.  Remaining alert was not an option.  No wonder chemo patients receive their infusions in recliners!    It was "lights out", but only temporarily.  After a few minutes I was able to read or hold a conversation again.  It was disconcerting though because I knew that benadryl hadn't always had that affect on me.  The drugs weren't different; it was my own body that was changing.  Bouncing back got more and more difficult.

Results from yet another CEA draw offered more hope that chemo was doing its job.  Enduring the final four treatments would be well worth the pain and nausea, if it meant a cure.

Doc drew more blood for another CEA test.  Still low!  Wooooo!!!  She said it is 0.8 now.  Great, great news.

Looking SO forward to being done with chemo!  March 3 is scheduled as the last treatment.  There will be maintenance drugs, and probably other infusions, too, but the regiment I'm on now will be over, and I hope that my hands/fingers will be back to normal soon after, not to mention my brain, and my energy, and...and...everything!  Can't wait!

The above excerpt was written over a year ago.  I was filled with enthusiasm and hope.  Chemo was stealing my health even as it worked to restore it, but I would win.  Cancer would lose.  I just needed for chemo to not kill me before cancer did.  Once I recovered from chemo, life would be back to normal.  Oh, how I loved the thought of that!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Celine! I've been reading all your posts, although I'm often on my phone so I can't easily comment. Although I read your posts on "the board" it's nice to get a closer look at how you actually experienced this journey. You have such a way with words!