I started out pretty pathetic when it came to my super-hero fighting ability against this thing. I let my fear get the best of me numerous times. But one of the biggest fears I encountered was chemo. I have a love-hate relationship with chemo. I wanted it so badly to start, yet it freaked the crap out of me to start it. This is rightfully so. I mean they make you go to a 1 hour long class just to hear about all the scary side effects. They range from extreme nausea, terrible muscle cramps, sores that coat your entire mouth, fatigue so bad you can’t fix your bed (true story, it was on the video), and even your finger nails falling off. The night before I got my first treatment I took it upon myself to learn more about what I could expect. I went on some cancer blogs and read some internet message boards. I can now say that that was a dumb idea. Don’t do it if you are in my shoes…it doesn’t help! It just freaked me out worse. Those that post typically just want a place to bitch. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep the night before chemo.
They nickname it the “Chemo Lounge”. Oh how they try to make it seem so inviting and comfortable! The chairs look like you could sit down and get a pedicure in them. There are snacks and big TVs. And yet, this is still the least inviting place I have come by. I tried hard to not show my overwhelming anxiety as we walked in. You’ll have to ask my mom and Ben if I did a good job concealing that. They have to hook me up to the IV that they will be administering my drugs through. I had a portacath placed in my chest a couple days before that hooks up to my main artery- this is what they hook the IV to. It pumps the chemo right to my heart. Getting it inserted was not fun. There was an 80 year old man at chemo class that said it was a breeze. I don’t know what he was smoking but that was not my experience. Maybe it’s different when you have lots of hangy skin around there!They first pump you with some anti-nausea meds that are comprised of some type of steroid. If I’m Batman this is my Robin. They are my first line of defense against the awful side effects from the chemo. They work wonders and I’m very happy that I’m going through this in the era of advanced medicine- they’ve come along way with these. They also provide their own set of side effects but nothing too bad. Next comes the Adriamycin – the “Red Devil”. They have to slowly insert it with a syringe. It’s red so they can see if it accidentally spills out of the vein or port. That would be a very bad thing you see because it kills any tissues it comes in contact with. Really? I can’t believe this stuff is ok for my baby! (I do the research again and yes there are studies that confirm this). Next comes the Cytoxan. This can burn your sinuses when being administered and leave a metal taste in your mouth. I didn’t experience either but I could feel it pumping in my veins which completely gave me the heebie-jeebies! And that’s it. It takes about 2 hours to complete….now you sit back and wait.
And of course I waited for the worst.
I should have known…the chemo wasn’t what I had to worry about. The steroids would be the thing to do me in. That night I felt like I could jump out of bed any second and do 100 jumping jacks. I didn’t sleep a wink. I also felt like there was not enough water in the world to ever subside my thirst. Which as you can imagine turned into its own problem; I was up constantly to use the bathroom. The next day I felt great. I was thrilled. I went to the gym and had to actually slow myself down on the treadmill. I’m sure this was the steroids but hey, I’ll take it. I found myself yelling at Cancer in my head- I’ll admit I may have used some obscenities and lots of trash talk (pulled what we now can call the “Sherman”…ok no, I wasn’t that bad). My run was exhilarating. Talk about a runner’s high. Two days before and I would have never thought I would be doing this….running after chemo, pregnant…cool! While running, I started to think about how important it is for me to stay strong, not just for myself but for my baby. We are in this together. This motivates me even more. I will come here and get this internal pep talk every day (and talk smack to Cancer) until I physically cannot do it anymore; this is important to my fight. Running that day was a small victory. I still get to do what I love, even if it’s just for now. I feel strong. I gained back some control. The evil Cancer can’t take it all….Athena: 1, Cancer: 0.
It’s now been 2 weeks since my first treatment. I have had minimal side effects. I get some nasty headaches early in the morning and late at night. I wonder if this is my body telling me I’m fatigued. What is fatigue? I’ve never really had it….this word has never been in my vocabulary. It scares me because I am constantly doing something. I don’t want to lie down and be sick. “I’ve got things to do!” Headaches, slight fatigue, cotton mouth, constant bathroom breaks, inability to get a good night’s sleep…and of course…chemo pimples! (Almost sounds like a hangover to me!) That’s about it. I can’t complain. I have to give props to all the prayers, God, my healthy lifestyle, and my baby. I believe the baby gives me my appetite. If it’s anything like its father this is something it can easily contribute to. In my head I work to not focus on these side effects….again, this is something I can control. In order to not give Cancer any of the credit I simply tell myself this is all part of a normal pregnancy….Athena: 2, Cancer: 0.So now that I have you all believing in my Super Human Power and ability to kick some Cancer-you-know-what (sorry, no swearing, gotta keep this PG, my kid’s going to read this someday)… I have to be honest, there is nothing super about it. It is not all positive thinking, rainbows, and gumdrops that float around in my head. As I mentioned in the beginning I rather not reflect or talk about the negatives. There are enough blogs that do that out there. Yes, I agree you need to address some of it and I will. I don’t avoid it or live in denial. Yesterday was particularly a really tough day. My hair started falling out, my blood work came back and my white blood cell count has tanked to a serious low, and at the gym I felt extremely out of breath. There are many times death creeps back into my head, I will admit it. It should. I need to respect my opponent to fight it. This disease is not pretty. It kills. You can think you get it all and then it sneaks back in….Stage 4…that’s scary. But, why allow it to steal my thunder. Whether I have a couple days, a couple years, or a long lifetime- Cancer does not deserve to own my thoughts or my day. What I think and what I allow myself to believe is yet again what I have control over….Athena: 3, Cancer: 0.
Bump #1: this is the port that will save my veins from being poked too much. It grosses me out and I hate to touch it!
Bump #2: Everyone's been asking so here it is. This is the 1st picture taken of my baby bump (18 weeks!) and the last picture to be taken with my own hair. I told myself I would never do this pose but we wanted to accentuate "the bump". Thank you to my beautiful and talented friend, Hilary Handahl, for taking these!