Monday, July 25, 2011

Week One Down...

I can't even describe how I'm feeling.

In some ways, it's better than I thought it would be. But, in other ways - many other ways - it's much worse.

I've made it through week one of radiation and chemotherapy. That means I have about five more weeks of radiation and three more chemo cycles to go. Doesn't sound like much, but trust me, knowing I'll continue to feel this way - and possibly worse - for the next two and a half months isn't making me too happy.

So, where did I leave off? Right. I think I wrote about my second chemo treatment day before the third one knocked me flat on my ass and made it impossible to remember my name, let alone spell it. I figured out very quickly that the cisplatin on the first cycle day is the drug that will make me severely nauseous, but the etoposide, which I'll have all three days of each chemo cycle, will make me so tired and weak, I'll be out cold before a few drops make their way through my veins. But, whether I'm sick or tired, one thing is very clear..."chemo brain" takes over immediately and refuses to go away.

I had heard about "chemo brain" in conversations with former cancer patients, or with the doctors, but I had no idea how incredibly stupid it would make me feel. I can't form sentences, I can't spell, I can't think clearly. And for someone who's trying to pretend to be a writer, those symptoms do not bode well for beautiful and fluid prose. But, I'm going to try. This is my first attempt at blogging on drugs. Don't try this at home, kids!

Oh! Wait!

Before I begin, I should let you know that it's not just the chemo I'm referring to when I say I'm on drugs. While the IVs have long been drained into my bloodstream, the poison still continues working, killing any sneaky little cancer cells in its path. Of course, the healthy cells that may look like cancer cells, are getting zapped too. We all know that THIS is why I'm feeling so shitty. Trying to counteract the shittiness tends to make other parts of me feel even shittier.

Let me try to explain...

As I mentioned earlier, on day 1 of each chemo cycle, I'll be given IVs of cisplatin and etoposide. On days two and three, I'll only have the etoposide. But, there's much more to it that that. On days 1-3, I'll need to take a drug called Emend, prior to my treatments. On top of that, I'll need to take three Dexamethosone pills. The Emend is a super-duper anti-nausea drug, and the Dexamethesone is a steroid, also used to control nausea. I'm very thankful for each of these, but not only will the Emend hopefully keep me from puking, but it'll also probably keep me from pooping for the rest of my life, too. Highly constipating. The steroid, while it could cause me to puff up and get a moon face, probably won't in such a short amount of time. Here's to hoping.

But that's not all!

So...on the first day of chemo, after I take the two drugs mentioned above, a full IV bag of fluids will be pumped into my body. No big deal. But, on top of that, there will be two more anti-nausea drugs through the IV and one other medicine that is designed to sit in my kidneys and bladder until all of the bad stuff gets there. Then, the waiting drug will help whisk it all away. After THAT, I'll get a second bag of fluids and the cisplatin, followed by the etoposide. Yes, that's why the first day takes six hours.

Oh! And to make it even MORE fun, whenever I need to pee on day one - which is quite a lot after all of those fluids - I'm required to measure my output in a "hat" and write down the time and amount for the nurses. Humiliating.

Days two and three aren't quite as bad. Just the oral meds, one bag of fluids and etoposide. Piece of cake! Well, until later...

Ok, so, once I'm home and dealing with nausea and sheer exhaustion on my own, things get super fun! What can I do for the exhaustion? NADA! Yes, I can sleep, but it's hard to do that when not one position you try is comfortable. Plus, I'm having hot flashes from all the medicines, so it's covers on, covers off, toss, turn, covers on, covers off, toss turn all night. 

For the nausea, I have two "as needed" drugs: Prochlorper and Ondansetron. The "P" is for mild nausea every four to six hours and the "O" is for severe nausea every six to eight hours. Yes, I can overlap them if I find that one doesn't work after a few minutes, which I've needed to do each time I've taken them. But then I have a double issue of no emergency nausea drug and quadruple constipation!! 

Ok...add stool softeners.

By the way, have I mentioned that before all this cancer bullshit, I never ever took Tylenol for a headache? I seriously had to be screaming in pain before one, tiny little pill would get into my mouth. Jimmi couldn't understand how I could have a headache all day and do nothing about it, but then finally give in to meds, and it would be gone in five minutes. It's because I don't take medicines!! And now, here I am, downing about 17 pills every day.

Back to the stool softeners. So, I now have to take two Senokot each night and three Colace each day just to produce one, little pellet of pooh. But that pellet sure gets a big cheer as I walk out of the bathroom to my awaiting fans who will ask, "Did you go?" If I nod, they do a wave and set off fireworks in the living room. It's quite an event. 

And then there's the Ativan. We figured out the need for this drug a bit later in the process one night when I was feeling sick, and had taken everything else already. Jimmi called the doctor who told him to give me the anti-anxiety pill because it will also help with nausea. Ok! I'm down! Mouth is open. Just throw it in! But I probably should've gone to my bedroom first. I vaguely remember getting up off the couch and coming close to the floor as Jimmi picked me up. I felt like I was floating as my mom, Jimmi and my dad carried me up the stairs and laid me into my bed. I'm really not sure if they had even left the room before I was off to another planet somewhere, but at least I wasn't nauseous anymore!

So, that's the drug situation. Now for the weird stuff.

It's funny, I expected the nausea and fatigue, but not the food cravings. I literally feel like I'm pregnant. I HATED being pregnant! Ironic, since right now I'd give anything to have my reproductive organs back and be sick because I'm growing a little baby Jimmiette in there. But, that's not the case. So, let's compare. When I was pregnant I was nauseous all the time. Check! I was exhausted. Check! My sense of smell was heightened. Check! I was craving weird foods. Check! My skin was breaking out. Check! Hell, I even lost some hair when I was pregnant with Justin! 

But I really am confused here. Yesterday, I woke up with a craving for an Italian sub with oil and vinegar. In case you don't know, I really don't eat meat. Especially not the weird Italian meats! But the craving was there, and I couldn't make it go away. I had heard that your body will tell you what it needs, so I finally asked my mom to order the stupid sub - and chicken fingers - for my dad to pick up on his way over. I knew I wouldn't eat it when it got here. I literally haven't had one of those sandwiches in almost 20 years! Well, let me tell you how wrong I was! I ate an entire half sub PLUS a chicken finger in about 30 minutes! And I felt fine! (I even had another one for lunch today).

Another weird side effect that's bothering me is how I smell. People say I'm crazy - for a lot of reasons, I'm sure - but I feel like my entire body is oozing chemo stench. I smell it when I go to the bathroom, I smell it on my breath, I smell it on my body. It's GROSS! So embarrassing! AND my face it dirty. And my ears! It's like the toxins are working their way out into my pores and growing out my ears. I have blackheads all over my nose and two giant pimples popped up yesterday. Then, I needed three Q-tips to clean the nasty, black wax out of my ears, and I had just cleaned them the day before! I feel like a hobo!

I'm telling you, cancer does NOT make you prettier. Anyone who sticks around during this Hell will be around forever.

And I mean FOREVER.

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