The First Chemo!
It’s time. The crying, the prepping, the wig locating. Nothing left to do but to just begin the fight. My friends were heading back to college, the best times of our lives, and I was headed to the chemo room! ugh how morbid! I was ready, my port was in, my wig was bought, my anti-nausea pills were filled, my prednisone was ready, but my brain was not. 20 years old and starting chemo! ok so enough of the pity party, it was time to go. I honestly can’t remember what I was thinking or feeling that morning. I think a good thing about being 20 is that I didn’t really know anything so I really had nothing to compare this to and didn’t fully understand the incredibly dangerous scary side effects of chemo like I know now. I got to the clinic and my mom came with me. The cool thing was that it was not that busy, I had a recliner chair and my own tv and it was around noon, so guess what time it was! Time for days of our lives to come on! Lol. My port site was still sore from getting it put in just a day before, so I was kinda nervous about how that would feel. I am pretty sure I started on a Tuesday. they cleaned my skin on top of the port, which is like a quarter size bump under my skin. They had me take a deep breath and when I blew out they stuck a needle right in the middle. It didn’t feel great, but it was not too bad. Once the needle was in that was it, then they started some saline and prepped me to get my chemo ready. The first things they put in were medicine to help with nausea, and then each drug was given one at a time to make sure I did not have a sudden reaction. The first thing that went in was the drug called vincristine. It was in a small bag and didn’t take that long to drip in, then for the red devil drug called adriamycin it was in a syringe and the nurse sat there and pushed it through my IV over a few minutes. Then the last drug cytoxan took the longest, about an hour. This was a nasty drug, during the infusion it gave me a horrible headache even my eyes and jaw hurt! I was glad when that was over. The whole thing took about two hours, and then I was unhooked and ready to go home. I did not feel that bad other than the headache, but I knew what was coming. They say the first 3-5 days after can be the worst in regards to side effects. I remember coming home and then being hungry and eating a big plate of spaghetti. The thought did cross my mind of how that would feel getting thrown up later. I think that was my biggest fear was getting sick like that. Again remembering that movie Dying Young with Julia Roberts. Good movie but what a horrible name! I started taking my prednisone, which was 100mg daily for 5 days. For people who don’t know much about prednisone that is a huge dose! Prednisone can make you jittery, nervous, eat more and have crazy energy, but its supposed to help with side effects of treatment. I took all my anti-nausea meds as directed regardless of having nausea or not. I remember that night when I was ready to go to bed my mom put a trash can by my bed “just in case”. I know she meant well but that just reminded me that I will probably wake up and get sick in the middle of the night. I am kinda surprised I even slept with prednisone on board, an emotional mind, and this sore port that was now forcing me to sleep on my back. The next morning I surprisingly woke up and did not feel that bad. Huh, I thought, I am not sick to my stomach. My goal was to eat really healthy, but I was also told to eat real food, not the time to be on a diet or exercise regimen. I also wanted stuff to do, so I started taking two courses from TCC, which is a community college in my area, but they were on the computer so I didn’t have to go to class. People were constantly bringing food, cards and stuff over which was awesome, but also a constant reminder that I was sick. The next couple days I was not nauseas, but my jaw hurt, like I had been grinding my teeth all the time, and had a mild headache and tired. It had also been days since I pooped. That was not cool. For someone who is very regular, that was different. I think it was about five days before I could actually go and it was like little hard balls. All that crap stuck up in there for sure makes you feel bad. Once that got moving about 5-7 days after I started to feel a little more human. I thought it would be good to do some walking so I remember my dad and I went for a walk on this trail in solana by our house. I looked down and thought huh, my thighs looked small, like I had lost some muscle mass. I had to go in about day 10 for a blood check to make sure my white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets were normal. That is called your nadir count, when the chemo is killing off cancer cells and your good cells and day ten is when they can drop the lowest before your body starts to rebuild. This is one reason my chemo was every three weeks. you get enough time to recover but not enough time to allow cancer to grow. Once I made sure my counts were ok, my parents allowed me to go to austin to visit my friends. This was my first trip post chemo! More on that later!
One thing I forgot to mention was that my incision before chemo had never healed b/c of the cancer growing there. They were concerned about starting chemo with an open wound due to risk of infection, but figured I needed to get started in order for it to even heal. The cool thing about having a big mass under my arm that was a constant source of pain is that when the chemo started working it started shrinking and the pain went away. This occurred with just the first treatment. It is like the tumor just melted away, and so finally I did not have any more draining fluid from my arm and the pain that I had been dealing with for two months had finally left me just as quickly as it started. That made me feel like all this treatment was worth it and I saw small steps in a direction of getting my life back on track.