Monday, 22 August 2011

Not Just a River in Egypt

Happy Chemo Day!

Today will be treatment #7. Chemo days don't make me anxious anymore. In fact, today I'm looking forward to the nap I'm going to get. That's about all I'm looking forward to though. I was not amongst the happy 50% of people that Gabapentin works for. The joint and bone pain wasn't any worse in severity, just more constant and lasted a full week. I know what I'm in for, and I'm not looking forward to it.

I'll just go ahead and tell you that it's depressing to be in pain for that length of time. By day three of no help from the drugs I was a sorry sap of a human being. I finally felt like I was a sick person. It's a hard feeling to avoid when you're too exhausted to do anything about your appearance and you keep catching glimpses of yourself in mirrors around the house. There were a lot of, "How is this my life?!?!" moments that week. So one night I finally admitted to Corey that I felt like a cancer patient. "Oh honey, no you're not". Uh, ya actually, I am. That was the worst I've felt in a long time. I sat in bed and had a good long cry about it.

Don't worry, I got over myself pretty quickly. Any woman reading this knows how cathartic a good cry can be. Actually one time I felt my friend Susan needed a good cry, but I knew she just wasn't a cry to her friends kind of girl. I also knew she'd never seen Steel Magnolias. So I recommended it as a good chick flick and giggled to myself all night just knowing that it would get her to bawl her little head off. Wow, that sounds cruel doesn't it?? Don't start yelling at me, she loved it! I actually called her halfway through the movie and she answered the phone, "What is WRONG with you???? This is the worst movie EVER!" I couldn't help myself, I was laughing so hard, "But you love it right?" Ya she did. Best cry she'd had in a good long time. You see, Steel Magnolias is to women what Rudy is to men. If you don't tear up when Sally Field has her breakdown post funeral or when Rudy finally rushes out onto the field then I'm pretty sure there's something wrong with you. But I digress.

That little anecdote was just to remind you not to feel sorry for me for having a bad night. I needed it. I needed to get good and emotionally exhausted so I could finally have a solid night's sleep. And I suppose I also needed to come out of the denial phase of this journey. I do have cancer. That nagging little feeling I had that kept telling me I wasn't taking this seriously enough? It knew I was still at least partially in denial and that needed to change.

How could I be this far into my treatment and still be in denial, you ask? Well, the thing about "active chemotherapy" is that it can be a very passive experience. You just sit there and take it. You curl up and take the nausea. You do whatever you can to handle the pain. Plus the doctor's orders to not overdo it on anything diet wise lulled me into this place where I didn't feel like cancer had really changed my life all that much. But I know that it needs to.

I learned a long time ago that denial serves a very real purpose. When you're world gets turned upside down, first shock, then denial that anything has changed, allows you to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. So thanks Denial, it's been a slice, but I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to accept that my life has been forever changed and that I need to make some changes because of that. It's good timing really. With chemo ending soon, I can start making plans. I like making plans. I may not like the plan, but I like making it. I've got about a month before I head to the naturopath. That's probably how long it's going to take me to figure out how I'm going to make adding kale to my smoothies taste good...

Time to head to chemo. Seven down, one to go!

Much love,

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Taxol Effect

6 down, 2 to go!

Yesterday was chemo day. It was the second treatment of the Paclitaxol. It was also Lyla's first birthday. Talk about not exactly what I wanted to be doing yesterday. I'm always the youngest person I see in the chemo wing of the BCCA - although I happen to personally know someone else my age and someone even younger both going through this as well. I wonder if they get the pity stares as well. The pity stares force me to act almost bubbly in the chemo unit. Like I need to demonstrate to these people, hey don't worry about me, I'm fine! Most of the time I am fine. Like I said at the beginning, I've put a lot of faith in that chemo is what works best against my particular kind of cancer. So although I don't necessarily love going, I do feel like I take it in stride... needle-poking, pity stares and all. The only time the stares get to me is when other patients hear that I have a young child at home. They somehow think that it makes me even more pitiable. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. I don't know how anyone else goes through this without a baby at home. I'm just going to go ahead and be a braggy mom here, but my baby is the best! She's so deliciously cute, is almost always happy, doesn't make strange around new people and is a constant source of laughter for me being the total goof ball that she is. Because of her I don't have the time or the cause to feel sorry for myself. She's my therapy and support group all-in-one. Well, she better be, because she's also the reason I don't have time to go to any of those things, not to mention blogging...
But back to yesterday. I got the biggest pity look of all from my nurse when I told her it was my daughter's birthday. And for the first time I just went ahead and joined her and gave myself a moment to feel good and sorry for myself. Her training kicked in mighty quick though and got me talking about the good stuff, so thankfully my Debbie Downer moment didn't last too long.
So on to the latest news in Ashlyn's cancer journey. The first round of Taxol started off really well. Awesome actually. The main worry about this stuff is having an allergic reaction to it. So before they get started with the chemo, they give me a whopping dose of Dexamethazone (steroids) and then an even bigger dose of Benadryl by IV drip. Thanks to the Benadryl I slept through the entire treatment. All 4 hours of it. That was the best nap I've had in YEARS! Corey kept having to readjust my head because I was so out it and slack jawed that I was snoring up a storm for the rest of the chemo patients to hear. I was way too groggy to feel embarrassed about it when I woke up, so score 1 for the Taxol treatments, this was going to be a cake walk.
Day 2 was great. It was such a relief not to have any nausea. I had been getting really good at recognizing the early signs of nausea from the first four treatments, and got it front of it as they say, but it was awesome not to have to be taking a bunch of pills all day long. Day 3 started off much the same, and summer had finally showed up in Vancouver so I was pretty much in the best mood ever. Chemo-schmemo. I laugh in the face of chemo. Muah ha ha ha. Then having written off the chemo effects in my life, at dinner I legitimately couldn't figure out why it felt like I'd run a marathon. What was up with these shin splints? And why are my knees on FIRE???

Dear chemo gods,

I TAKE IT BACK!! I TAKE IT ALL BACK! I wasn't laughing AT you, I was laughing WITH you. K???
Be nice please. Did I mention I have a baby girl at home? (ya that's right, I'm now using my daughter to induce pity from the heathen chemo gods)

Respectfully yours,

Well, just like most of my letters to cancer, this one fell on deaf ears. I wanted to avoid ever getting too preachy about getting everyone to start living healthier, (for example, eat your greens or you WILL get cancer!!) but I've just had a sneak peak of some serious arthritis and osteoporosis pain. So start taking your calcium people, because honestly that pain is the WORST! My knees took the brunt of the constant intense aches and it felt like the worst shin splints I've ever had. It was like a non-stop game of roulette with the rest off my bones and joints. Spin the wheel, bang! Intense wrist pain. Bang! There goes my toes. Ankles, Hips. Knees, knees, knees, knees, knees. I couldn't get more than an hour of sleep with these intense bone attacks. When the Aleve didn't work, it was off to my narc drawer. Tylenol 3's didn't come close to helping. One oxycodone, nope. Two oxycodone? Still nothing. Two oxycodone plus an oxycontin? Well, at least I fell asleep with that cocktail, but 2 hours later, nope! This went on from Wednesday night through Saturday. By Sunday I was better but seriously considering asking to go back to the first kind of chemo. I'll take the nausea over this.
I had my check up last Thursday and the shrinking has started again, not as drastic as the first round, but some shrinkage nonetheless. Now we're dealing with a mass of about 4.3cmx3.2cm. So there will be no going back to the first stuff. Instead my doc has prescribed something called Gabapentin to take preventatively that helps with the pain in about 50% of chemo patients. I guess I'll just have to take those odds.
So fingers crossed for me please on this one. If the new meds work, I can sail through this, then it's only 2 left and I have an entire month break before I have to have surgery. I can see the light at the end of my chemo tunnel. Thanks again to everyone who have been seeing me through this.

As always, much love,