January 11, 2009

All’s quiet on the chemo front – it’s gone both easier and harder than what I was expecting, but nothing dramatic.

My blood pressure was high when they took me back for my visit with the doctor, as I’ve been stressing about if I was going to have an allergic reaction to the Taxol solution – somewhere between 25 – 33% of people do. If so, typically slowing down the drip and increasing the steroids and antihistamines will take care of it. Sometimes, though, it is such an intense reaction that Taxol cannot be used in the patient.

The Avastin can also cause a reaction, although it doesn’t sound as if it is nearly so serious.

At any rate, when the nurse tried to pull my blood for labwork it wouldn’t come out of the port, so she had to stick my arm. No problem with flow into the port, but either there are some clots or perhaps the tube into the vena cava is creating a suction against the other side of the vein, causing it to allow fluid into the vein, but not pull any out. Next week, the nurse will put an enzyme in the port that will clear up any clotting and we’ll try again – however the important part is working, that fluid goes in.

I was there for 4-1/2 hours, got to visit a little with my two favorite chemo nurses and see the surgeon who did my ovary removal (all three are sweethearts!), and had some Reiki (a Japanese spiritual healing technique which involves a laying-on of hands to circulate energy through the body).  I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of what the Reiki woman (as opposed to Stevie Wonder’s Reggae Woman) intended to do, but I can certainly say that it allowed me to focus on my breathing and relax significantly, and that was a major bonus.

No major reactions of any kind; indeed, perhaps because of the steroids beforehand and during, I felt pretty good afterward, and we stopped by a friend’s birthday celebration for a little while that evening. No significant nausea Friday, just hints, but I took pills that night before bed as a precaution.

Saturday morning I woke up after sleeping solidly for eight hours, and was surprisingly awake. That lasted for about 5 hours, then I really felt myself run down hard, although I kept struggling with trying to focus on what I was doing. Finally I gave it up, and lay down in my recliner and slept hard for over an hour. Woke up, had something to eat, and was “on” for another four or five hours. But by the time bedtime rolled around, I was right there.

Today was more of the same – not really much in the way of side effects except for the “puppy face-plant” kind of tiredness that hits hard and fast; and the worst thing for me – the onset of chemo brain. I don’t remember it hitting this quickly last time; and I actually thought that since this was a low dose, maybe it would not happen at all until later in the process. But as I sat at my sewing machine trying to figure out why my top thread keeps breaking even though it appears to all be threaded correctly and that I’ve set the various tensions/pressures/etc. as appropriate for free-motion machine quilting, I realized that I must be missing something completely obvious, but that I can’t figure out *what*! I’m frustrated, and it doesn’t bode well for being able to drive myself to and from the train station on work mornings. Bah!

I’ve also come to recognize, well, I was going to call it a fallacy, but I’m not sure that’s quite the right word – maybe it’s just a poor strategy, in how I have chosen to deal with this second bout of cancer (bout – doesn’t that make it sound like I’m duking it out with cancer using the Marquess of Queensberry Rules?).

I haven’t purposely avoided telling people about it, but I haven’t gone out of my way to tell more than a few people about it, either. I made clear that it was not a secret, and that it was fine to pass on the information. I have sort of been relying on word-of-mouth and the blog to get the news out there, because I haven’t really wanted to talk about it and tell the whole sordid story to every person. I think there are several things behind this – partly because I’ve been wanting to pretend that everything is all normal and not have my life be all about having cancer again; because I’m starting to feel like a drama queen – “Ooh, look at *me*, I’ve got cancer, *again* – I’m so special!”; because I have been angry at my surgeon, my oncologist, my self, my body, that I have cancer again; and because everyone is so nice, most of them either are upset because they’re worried about me, or they’re upset because they’re angry for me (there have been a couple people who have offered to deck my surgeon for me ;-}  ).

But by pretending that it is just normal life, I can see myself falling into the trap of allowing the way I feel both emotionally and physically to become the new “normal” – leading me to forget that the outcome this time is supposed to be what was intended last time – no cancer, and an end in sight. This has stretched on so long since I found the recurrence last June, and sometimes it just seems easier to think of it as normal life rather than as “The Year of Living Cancerously”, because then I just look at each day, rather than focusing on “it isn’t over yet, and it’s going to be months before it is”.

I think I need to find a balance where my eyes are on the end of the road, but that I appreciate each day for what it gives me – so today I’m going to appreciate that my friend Cathy called, that Brian is cooking dinner, and that I’ve taken the first step on the chemo road, making the end that much closer.


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