I have given myself a couple of weeks to get adjusted to chemotherapy before blogging. Who am I kidding -I will never adjust to this. I will get through this but it will not be fun. There is nothing fun about chemo.
I had my first treatment on a Monday morning and found out that I have the veins of a redhead -funny I pay for the haircolour but the crappy veins are free. They decided immediately that I needed some type of more permanent access to my veins. They had 2 offerings- a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) or a port.
The PICC was placed on June 6th . They chose to have this in place as it is a less invasive procedure than the port placement and it could be done sooner. The procedure was not painful, but I hated the PICC. They think that I may have a sensitivity to chlorhexadine and the entire area was constantly itchy. A PICC needs to be flushed weekly which would be inconvenient after my weekly Taxol treatments are finished. The line would remain in for a year for the Herceptin treatments, but because those treatments are every three weeks I would need to have a weekly nurse visit for the flush. The PICC access hangs from your arm and can’t get wet- makes a shower very challenging. We wrapped it with a clean dishtowel and put elastics on the ends, then with plastic wrap and more elastics. We covered that with a WonderBread bag, elastics on each end again. I was careful and lucky and it didn’t get wet- Wonder Woman;)
The port was implanted on June 14th. I was given conscious sedation and was awake through the procedure. This was slightly more painful but the results are more palatable. For several days I had both lines- even more of a challenge to shower as neither could get wet. The PICC was taken out on June 18th. The removal didn’t hurt but was gross. The line was 42cm and they slowly pulled it out like a long piece of spaghetti. I could feel it all the way. As of today I have a fully functional port and even better, I can have a normal shower. My bloodwork was drawn through the port today. There was no pain and no trying to find a vein.
I have now had three Taxol treatments (of 12) and 1 Herceptin. The fastest the treatment can be is about 2 hours. I have to take Dexamethasone and Benadryl prior to treatment. The Taxol is infused over about an hour and a half. I put my fingers in an ice bucket for this time (in the hope that the drug will do less permanent nerve damage in my fingertips) so it’s somewhat boring. The Benadryl makes me too tired to do much anyway and when it’s over I need to come home and sleep. I can’t even begin to describe the fatigue. It’s worse the day of the treatment and the following two days but lasts all week. I have to rest every day or I am a complete mess, but I have trouble actually sleeping. I feel unwell most of the time. It’s not the stereotypical movie chemotherapy sickness, but just sick. Achy, sore, dry eyes and nose, headache, upset stomach, the list goes on and seems to get longer every week. There are some good moments but by the time those come around its time for another dose. This can’t be over soon enough.
My hair started to fall out on June 17th. Each day it fell faster. I learned that curly hair doesn’t fall out like straight hair. Curly hair falls and gets caught resulting in matting and dreadlocks. Each day you have to comb the dreadlocks to get the loose hair out and when you try to do that you end up pulling more clumps out. By yesterday I was down to about half my hair. Considering the amount I started with I still looked acceptable and anyone who didn’t know what it looked like before wouldn’t have suspected- but I had enough. The trauma of it falling out became worse than the prospect of not having hair, and I had it shaved. It is a huge relief, but I still hate it. I’m not sure if the diagnosis or the hair loss was more emotionally crippling, but I am grateful that they are both done. I have not yet been able to find a wig- there is surprisingly few to choose from in Barrie. This is, of course, the year that my driver’s license and health card will need to be renewed, so my search continues.
My lack of energy should result in us eating a lot of eggs and Kraft Dinner- but we are so lucky. My lab colleagues have more than risen to the challenge and have been providing us with three dinners a week. When you add to that my mom and sister’s cooking and some other family I am pretty well off the hook. I can’t imagine how we would manage without all the help and there are no words to express our thanks (Griffin still says there is nothing to eat in this house- brat). It is my sincere hope that I never need to return the favour- not that I don’t want to cook but I wish everyone the best of health.