My favourite movie of all time is Rocky. I love the story of the underdog fighter who is given his big shot to take on the world champion. He has to change his habits, train hard, and beat some of his own demons, but in the end he takes on the Champ. He doesn't win though. I think that's the best part of the whole movie. The fact that he stepped into that ring with the reigning world champion, knowing full well that this guy could knock his block off and that he probably didn't stand much chance of beating him, but he entered the ring nonetheless and went the full 12 rounds against this guy. He eventually loses to Apollo Creed by judge decision, but that can't take away the fact that he went in there and surprised himself and his opponent. He went the distance.
I find it funny that I am doing 12 rounds of chemo. I feel like I've entered the ring with a very worthy opponent and am about to find out how hard it can beat me up. I just finished, and survived, the first round. Only 11 more to go. I can do this. It actually wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Granted, some of the symptoms can get worse through the treatments as all the drugs start to build up in the system. I have a lot of people asking me about my chemo treatments and how I've been feeling so I'm going to do my best to describe what I'm going through.
I went to the hospital on Thursday morning and they accessed my port-a-cath. I call this being plugged into the matrix, except my portal is located on my chest instead of the back of my head. I'm still bruised and sore from the insertion of the port-a-cath, so I kind of stiffened up with the pain when they pushed the needle into the portal, just like in the Matrix movies. It made a weird "click" sound too, so it sounded like I was being plugged into some device. Once I was plugged in, they filled me up with 2 bags of sugar water, 1 bag of Calcium/Magnesium, 1 bag of Oxaliplatin (one of the chemo drugs), 1 bag of Leucoverin (a chemo drug aid), another bag of Calcium/Magnesium, and lastly, 1 bag of Flourouracil. There was a lot of liquid to get in me. I was there for just over 4 hours and peed the same amount of times. I couldn't believe how quickly it filled my bladder! Once the last bag was done, they hooked me up to a small portable pump that would then continue to pump more of the Flourouracil into me over the next 46 hours (which I keep in this nifty fanny pack thing attached to a belt). The pump is controlled by a white device that had to stay taped to my skin because it's my body heat that controls the speed of the drip. Ah, the wonders of modern science! Once I was hooked up to the pump and had been given all my instructions for who to call if I was having problems and schedules for my anti-nauseant drugs, I was free to go. I couldn't help but think how funny it was that they were letting me out into the world with these toxic chemicals. All the nurses had to pretty much deck themselves out in a HAZMAT suit every time they came close to one of the bags that contained the chemo drugs, and here they were letting me roam free with them in my fancy little fanny pack.
As I was receiving the drips at the hospital, I started feeling quite fatigued. I had only brought reading material with me and I was having trouble focusing on the words, so I ended up watching TV the whole time instead. I experienced some numbness and tingling in my right hand that was making it difficult to text on my phone (the horror!), but it was gone before I left the hospital. I couldn't feel the drugs when they were entering my system, but it did feel like my blood was on fire and that I was burning up from the inside. I kept feeling hot and couldn't figure it out. I've been cold for so long because I lost so much body fat and all of a sudden I was having no issue at all heating myself. It was odd. I also had a metallic taste at the back of my throat that went away after a few hours. I think the symptom that ended up annoying me the most though was the sensitivity to touching cold or hot items. I was told to watch out for cold objects because the Oxaliplatin causes neuropathy and can make it feel like you're touching an electric fence when in fact you are simply pulling something out of the fridge. Fortunately, mine wasn't that bad, but it was bad enough that it felt like I had grabbed onto a metal pole in -20 C (-4 F) weather. It also felt like I had frostbite for the next 10-20 minutes after I touched something cold. I was so sensitive to cold that the metal on my computer was hard for me to touch. I ended up wearing leather gloves around the house. This phenomenon didn't just affect my hands though. All my skin was sensitive to cold, just not to the same extent. I took a drink of my room temperature water and ended up feeling like it was burning my esophagus. Apparently, drinking icy drinks or taking a breath of cold air can cause the muscles in the esophagus to spasm and feel like you can't breath. I was warned of this symptom and told not to panic. They said to find some steaming liquid and inhale the steam or to take a drink of a warm liquid and it would stop the spasms. I hope to never have this occur in the first place.
The only other symptom that I can think of is that I was craving a big, greasy, juicy burger afterward...with bacon. I've had that symptom several times after my most recent hospital trips, so I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's just an intense craving and no real symptom at all. Or, maybe it's a symptom of being raised in Alberta by beef farmers. Perhaps I should just go make myself a giant bacon cheeseburger and be done with it! So much for my no red meat, low fat diet. C'mon, Will Power! Get control!!!
I spent the next two days living on my couch. I just didn't really feel like doing anything. I probably could have gotten up and done some stuff, but I was feeling really wiped and thought I deserved a bit of rest. Maybe I was taking advantage of the fact that I had toxic chemicals coursing through my veins, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do- and I had some TV to catch up on! I've had a mild state of nausea hiding in the back of my mind since I started this round of drugs, but the anti-nausea drugs are doing a good enough job that it is in no way interfering with my life. I woke up this morning feeling pretty refreshed (by then the pump had finished giving me my dose), and I continue to feel pretty lively. I got some laundry done (washed, folded, and even put away!), I heated up lunch for my husband and child, Mom and I took Gwen and Pebbles out for a walk in the sunshine, and I even chased Gwen around the house. I had to have a nap halfway through the day, but overall I'd say I was feeling pretty normal. Even though it may be hard for me to gauge what feeling normal really is for me anymore. I haven't felt like myself in well over a year, so my memory is a little foggy as to what my "normal" is. All I know is that I feel some energy returning and I need to do my best to not push myself too hard because of the excitement of having it back.
From now until my next round, I sit back and try to stay away from germs and any other form of infection. I was warned by the nurse that most deaths during chemo are caused by infections that are not able to be fought off by the body because of the compromised immune system and the patient didn't take enough care to get to the hospital quickly. I have to monitor my temperature closely and at any sign of a fever (even a low grade), I have to march myself to my local hospital ER immediately. I skinned my finger when getting some laundry out of the dryer and it was bleeding. I had to wash it with antibacterial soap and then put polysporin on it and cover it up. I can't risk any infection of any kind. I feel like I need to be put into a bubble. That could be fun. Watch out, John Travolta and Jake Gyllenhaal, I'm taking over the bubble! "Bubble Girl" will be coming out next year. Check out your local listings for showtimes! Haha!