Chemo – Part 2 (It’s my birthday and I’ll have HORRIBLE toxins injected into my body if I want to)

I’ve been a little slack with updates here, and for that I apologise. However, with Christmas, New Years and my birthday all having gone by, and a few rough days following the last chemo, I have excuses.

I have had my second and third doses of chemo now, having had these in Day Oncology, rather than requiring a hospital stay. This experience was closer to what I experienced 5 years ago, though 5 years ago I didn’t have anywhere quite as fancy as the Olivia Newton-John centre to go to.

The process is relatively simple. You enter a big room full of comfy recliners, sit in one of the recliners, and stay there for a few (in my case, around 5) hours while the chemo drugs are pumped into you via a cannula. The set up looks like the below:-

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If you’re wondering what’s on my arm, it’s a heat pack. It’s been placed there prior to attempting to put the cannula into me, because my veins were being kind of lousy. The warmth brings them up a bit and makes them easier to get to.  You’ll also notice my new Vin Diesel look. I assure you all that I’m in much better physical shape than him.

Apart from the differences in location and atmosphere, the process is pretty much the same. A number of different drugs get pumped into you and then you go home. What happens once your home is just about anyone’s guess. Everyone reacts differently. Some people won’t have any side effects and others will be a total mess. My experience this time is different to the last time I had chemo. I have days when I feel perfectly healthy, and then I have days when it’s a lot harder than it was 5 years ago (when I pretty much just slept a lot).

Chemo – Dose 2 (December 6th 2013)

Arriving home after chemo I felt fairly tired and spent a lot of time on the couch. This was expected. What I didn’t expect was the heartburn/indigestion that would keep me up at night over the first few days. It was unpleasant to say the least. However, it only lasted a few days, and was nothing compared to what was to come. 5 to 6 days after the treatment, I grew incredibly tired and ‘out of it’. It was basically like having the flu (hot / cold flashes included). I was almost delirious, and getting out of bed was near-impossible. This only lasted a couple of days, fortunately, and in that time my temperature never rose above normal levels, which is good because if it had I’d have had to go to the ER. After this excitement, not a whole lot happened as I gradually felt healthier over the next several days until a few days before the next cycle where I basically felt fine.

Chemo – Dose 3 (December 30th 2013)

I felt basically like I always do leaving the Austin and heading home. Lethargic and ‘wrong’ in a sense, but okay. By that night however, I’d gone backwards a little, and for the first time ever I ended up throwing up due to chemo (it took 5 years, but it finally got me). This was rather unpleasant. I had similar heartburn/indigestion issues which this time I was prepared for with some prescribed Somac (I’m not sure if it actually helped, to be honest, but it couldn’t hurt). I felt fairly sick and horrible (though nothing compared to how I felt a week into the previous chemo cycle) for the first 8 or 9 days. On my birthday, the 7th, I went out to dinner and felt mostly fine until I’d eaten something and felt kind of sick. This wasn’t a nauseous kind of sick mind you, but had more to do with the indigestion/heartburn feelings from earlier. It wasn’t really until yesterday, the 9th, where I had my first full day of relative health. I also feel fine today. (Although, ‘fine’ being a relative term. I don’t exactly feel like I could run a marathon, though I do feel able to walk down to the shops at least if need be). Of course, this being what it is, I have no idea how I’ll feel tomorrow or the day after that. I just have to hope I stay this way, feeling somewhat healthy and myself, until the next dose on the 24th.

It is becoming clear that with each cycle, it’s getting harder. To know that I’m only halfway isn’t pleasant. To know that one of the doses coming up will be a ‘mega-dose’ (if you will) that will require a stem cell transplant (taking stem cells from me prior to the chemo, to put back into me later) so that they can use my own stem cells to heal my body which won’t be able to heal itself – isn’t pleasant either.

But hey, at least the weather’s good!

Bonus content!  That was meant to be the end, but I totally forgot one of the main points of this blog post, so I’m adding it below!

What I almost (totally did) forget to mention, is that I’m now injecting myself with a needle the day after each cycle. This drug in this needle is meant to boost the production of my white cells in order to help me recover faster from each chemo cycle. It’s quite similar to the needles diabetics need to deal with every day of their lives, and as the nurse told me, if 8 year old girls can do it, I sure can. However, if you really dislike needles, I’d suggest you skip over the following images entirely.

The syringe, as it comes out of the box.
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Lining the syringe up with my fat – of which, fortunately, I have plenty. What you may not be able to make out is that needle has a VERY slight curve at the tip which indicates which way you should be pointing it. The curve should be aimed towards yourself. You hold the needle in a similar fashion as you would a dart. (Note: I do not recommend practicing this by jabbing a dart into your stomach.)
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Needle goes in! This is actually entirely painless. That is to say, you can’t feel it AT ALL. It’s actually kind of remarkable. In fact, someone could be injecting you with something in the stomach RIGHT NOW and you wouldn’t even know.
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This is when you use the top of the syringe to inject the drugs into you. You actually can feel this, but only mildly. It’s best to do this part quite slowly (I haven’t tried to do it fast, but I was told that to do so might be painful).
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The cool thing about these particular syringes, is once you’ve pushed the top down all the way, a mechanism inside the casing grabs hold of the needle and then pulls it back inside itself. Like so:-
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These pills actually have nothing to do with the injections. I just forgot to write about them earlier in the post so I’m including them here. I have to have these 4 pills every morning for the first 3 days after chemo (also on the day of chemo, just before). They’re steroids and presumably, if I lost my appetite, they would give it back to me. However since I haven’t lost my appetite as of yet, they’re not doing a great deal. If anything, I’m likely putting on weight (this happened to me 5 years ago too). Sadly, the steroids have yet to make me look even MORE like Vin Diesel.
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There’s also another update which is borderline criminal of me to forget to add. My last meeting with my Oncologist revealed (via the PET scan) that the cancer within me has reacted well to the chemo and is almost completely gone already. This doesn’t in any way mean I’m in the clear, but it’s obviously a good sign and I’m sure you’ll all be thrilled to hear it, as I was.

And since I already used my closing ‘at least the weather’s good’ line, I’ll simply say that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and Happy New Year to all of you.