Tag Archives: chemotherapy

Back on the Road to Canaan

The last two days have been great.  Actually, they’ve been pretty perfect and today was just the culmination; the cherry on top.  I’m floating high above the world on cloud nine and I don’t want to come down.

My husband, German, and I left Corpus Christi for Houston on pins and needles on Tuesday night.  We headed there with high hopes for good results from the scans that I was going to have on Wednesday.  We arrived in Houston, checked into our hotel, and made our way out to dinner with a couple of good friends.  We ate dinner, had some pie, and laughed with our buddies to keep our minds off the impending tests the next morning.  Tuesday had ended successfully despite anything Wednesday had in store for us.

Wednesday definitely had it in for us but it failed miserably in stealing our joy.  We made our way to MD Anderson right on time for my first appointment at 9:30am for lab work in the Main Building.  Fifteen minutes later, I was done.  Since my next appointment for a CT scan was not for another hour and a half, I decided to take German on a tour of the MDA campus to kill some time.  We stopped in the gift shop and I got an MD Anderson hoodie that I had been eyeing.  We took the Skyway shuttle over to the other side in the Mays Clinic since I figured we would be back in time for my CT.  Wrong.  This is where Wednesday decided to try to get us.

As we hung out by the Tree Sculpture in the Mays Clinic, I took a look at my schedule just to make sure what time we had to be back.  I noticed that my schedule listed an address that was not the address of the Main Building.  I walked over to the information desk and the volunteer informed me that that address was not the Main Building and that we would have to catch the patient shuttle to get there.  “Oh and it looks like it gets here in three minutes downstairs,” he added.  German and I looked at each other and without a word, we made a run for it.  Unfortunately, we arrived downstairs just in time to see the back end of the shuttle leaving around the corner (insert ‘Saved By the Bell’ theme song here).  We shrugged it off and sat down to wait for the next one that would come around again in about 20 minutes.

It was after about 10 minutes waiting there that I realized that I no longer had the bag from the gift shop in my hand.  I’d left my awesome new hoodie upstairs by the Tree Sculpture in the whole shuffle to get downstairs!  Cue German running back upstairs to see if he could find it.  He came back a few minutes later, bag in hand with my hoodie, safe and sound.  Phew.  The shuttle finally made it’s way back and we almost left the bag a second time on the bench we were waiting on.  Forgetful much?

We arrived 30 minutes late for my CT but we made it.  Still, we were in a great mood.  I drank my berry-flavored contrast, got my I.V. (not without it burning), and got my CT scan.  Three hours later, we were leaving the clinic but not before I noticed German’s wallet on the seat where he had been sitting.  Wow, Wednesday.  Really?  Nice try.  Unphased, we hopped back on the shuttle and went back to the Main Building to get our car.  We spent the rest of Wednesday at the Houston Zoo and went out on a dinner date  complete with live music and great food.  We went to bed completely exhausted yet content from spending the day together.  Even though Wednesday had tried to sabotage our day, it was sadly unsuccessful.

It was unsuccessful in stealing our joy because we’ve learned.  We’ve learned not to worry about what tomorrow brings.  We’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff.  Worry doesn’t change anything but attitude can.  Worrying is a ginormous waste of time and we had instead opted to spend that time enjoying the beautiful weather and each other.  We went to bed fully expecting good results and nothing less.  That’s exactly what God gave us.

My first appointment this morning was with my stem cell doctor, Dr. S.  His sunny face as he walked into the exam room left no doubt this time.  I’d never seen him smile so big.  This time was different.  This time it was great news.  He immediately let us know that the radiation had done it’s job.  The mass in my chest was gone and he could now proceed with the stem cell transplant!  Talk about the weight of the world off of our shoulders!  God has begun to lead me out of my desert and back onto the road to my Promised Land, my Canaan.

My second appointment with my lymphoma doctor after that was more of a continuing celebration rather than a follow-up.  He came in with his assistant, both of them beaming from ear to ear.  They’d never met my husband and after the introductions and required jokes about German being a figment of my imagination, all we did was rejoice and bask in the awesomeness of the news for the rest of the appointment.  His assistant printed out copies of the before and after scans as a souvenir of sorts.

Before radiation: This CT scan view is as though you’re looking through the top of my head down into my chest. The mass is circled.

After radiation: Yesterday’s scan shows the mass is almost completely gone and there is now an empty space where the largest part was. The ‘X’ marks what’s left of the mass.

“I fully expect to see you back here in a few months in remission,” my doctor said as we were leaving.  So do I.

At this point, my father and I are expected back in Houston by Wednesday, Oct. 24th to begin preparations for the transplant.  My father will undergo extensive testing and surgery to harvest the bone marrow I need.  Since my father is a half-match, they need to use his bone marrow instead of just his stem cells to give me more of a chance for success.  Meanwhile, I will undergo chemotherapy that will stop my own marrow production in order to replace it with my father’s.  Dr. S. expects to have the transplant done within the next two weeks.  I will be spending at least the next four months in Houston starting Wednesday.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s will be spent there but I’m ok with that.  What comes next is not going to be at all easy, but it’s a means to an end.

After being on pause for almost two years for this, I’m on fast forward all of a sudden and it is WEIRD.  German and I cried tears of joy and almost disbelief at our good fortune as we drove away today from MD Anderson.  I will enjoy every minute of my last weekend back home with my husband, my family, my friends, and my dogs.  I am back on the road to Canaan.  I better pack my big suitcase this time.

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A Whole New Monster

Wow, do I feel crappy.  This is really the best word to describe how I feel right now.  CRAPPY.  I’m sorry if the word offends but my body is feeling rather offended with the feeling of crappiness so I think I win.  These last few days after my tenth round of chemo have definitely been the hardest since I started treatment.  It’s beginning to take it’s toll on my body and it shows.

The doctor told me this would happen.  It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming but it’s still hard.  I guess I thought because the first six treatments hadn’t been so bad with the side effects, I was special.  But alas, I am not special.  At least not in the way that I would be spared all the side effects.  Here comes the list of all the things wrong with me right now and be warned; it ain’t pretty.  I suggest you stop reading right about here if you really don’t want to know.

Of course, nausea.  Oh, nausea!  We all know the feeling.  Although I have a big stash of Zofran at my disposal, it still creeps up on me.  The feeling washes over me and it’s all I can do to not lose my cookies.  If you’ve ever had a bad hangover, this is the feeling except its extended by a few days.  Fortunately, the meds do the trick in the end (although too slowly for my taste sometimes) and I’m saved from hugging the porcelain throne for a week.  That’s all I have to say about that.  It makes me feel sick thinking about it.

Then there’s the exhaustion.  I’ve always felt exhaustion after every chemo treatment but this one is a whole new monster.  You see, although I’ve been exhausted after treatment, I never found myself gasping for air like I did this time.  I’ll never forget it.  It was Friday, the day I left the hospital for home.  All I wanted was a long, hot shower in my own house and to slip into some clean pajamas.  I went to take said shower and noted that I felt a bit out of breath just standing there.  I put it out of my mind and proceeded to take the longest shower that ever lived.  As I got dressed afterward, my heart began to beat so fast I had to stop.  A mere walk across the room had made me feel like I’d just run a mile in 3 minutes and I was suddenly gasping for air.  My husband walked in on me panting and asked me what I’d been doing to be breathing so hard.  Absolutely nothing.

My doctor says I should exercise.  Ha!  How the heck am I supposed to do that if I felt like I was gonna pass out after walking across the bedroom?!  Exercise is gonna have to wait until treatment is OVER.  ‘Aww, was it the cancer that killed Cristina?’  ‘Oh no, it was the exercise.’  I can almost hear it now.  No thank you.

This exhaustion also makes me feel like I haven’t slept in days.  I trudge around the house dragging my feet only to plop myself down on the couch to try to take a nap.  Although I am tired, I can’t sleep because with the exhaustion comes restlessness.  My life would be complete if I could get a nap in sometime during the day but that does not happen.  I go to bed at 3am and wake up at 8am.  Not the best night’s sleep but at least it’s something.

There’s also this overall feeling of ‘ick’ that I just cannot shake.  It’s hard to describe but I’ll try.  Do you know that feeling you get when you know you’re getting sick and it’s gonna be the big one like the flu?  That’s kind of what this feels like.  Throw in some nausea and achy bones from an injection I received the day after chemo and voila!  Insta-Flu.  Just like the flu except none of the sneezing or oozing.  Unfortunately, I did get fever after my ninth treatment complete with the chills and everything.  So, it was exactly like the flu that time, but I digress.

My appetite has suffered a bit but not as I thought it would.  I thought at least I could lose a few pounds out of this but it looks like I’ve gained them instead.  The enormous amount of steroids I’m given during treatment is the culprit for both my ginormous appetite and my restlessness.  I eat and eat and still feel like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors.  The problem is that even though I can eat, its not a very enjoyable experience.  Food tastes different.  It feels different.  Certain foods I considered my favorites are no longer that and some textures simply make me sick to my stomach.  Food doesn’t have the same allure it did before like in the cartoons where the smell is a hand beckoning Tom & Jerry to come hither.  I eat to live right now, simply because I have to.

Feed me, Seymour!

It’s officially the third day after my tenth round of chemo and I’m counting down the minutes to the moment I feel somewhat normal again.  It could be one more day or it could be seven more.  At this point, I just don’t know how long it will be.  It feels like an eternity.

Oh by the way, my eyebrows are officially gone now too.

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Chemo Session #10: Are You the One?

Its 6am and I’m in my hospital bed but I can’t sleep.  The hospital never sleeps.  There’s a constant stream of shoes squeaking up and down the hall, nurses coming in at all hours of the night to check my vitals and change out my IV bags of chemotherapy.  They’re just doing their job but it’s messing with my beauty sleep.  The steroids they give me are messing with my body and my sanity.  They make me so jittery like I just drank 10 cans of Red Bull and so my mind begins to race with all sorts of nonsense.  Some of it is silly like I was contemplating asking for another blanket on the intercom in a British accent. Should I use a cockney accent or something more regal like the Queen of England?  Or maybe something like Merry or Pip from Lord of the Rings?  I watched it before I came to the hospital so that explains that.

Anyway, there’s also more important things my mind begins to run away with.  I can’t stop thinking about this chemo session.  It’s the 10th cycle and the most aggressive one I’ve received to date called R-HyperCVAD.  Woof!  It sounds like a part for Artoo-Deetoo.  That’s the little robot from Star Wars and now I’ve made references to not one but two ultra geeky movies so now you know I’m a full-on geek.  I’m going to get on with what I’m trying to say now.

Preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

You’ve heard that expression before, right?  That’s me right now.  Preparing for the worst but placing hope against hope for the best.  You see, doctors are vouching that this session will finally put me into remission which will then allow me to receive my life-saving stem cell transplant at MD Anderson.  If I’m not in remission after this, then I don’t get my transplant and God only knows what these doctors have planned for me next.  I hate to think about it but its an inevitable possibility staring me right in the face like a snarling, salivating pit bull.  I have to clarify something. Just because I’m preparing for the worst doesn’t mean I don’t have faith and hope in God that I’ll be in remission.  It only means I’ve learned that I don’t know what God has planned for me.  Too many times in this journey have I not prepared for the worst and the worst happened. That can’t be good for anyone’s sanity.

Still, I hope and pray with urgency to God that this be my ticket to the Promised Land of MD Anderson where it floweth with stem cell transplants and world-class doctors.  I plead with Him day in and day out that this be one of my final hurdles in this never-ending nightmare they call non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  And so I ask:  Chemo #10, are you the One?  Are you gonna be the one to grant me the news I’ve been waiting for?  Will I hear the ever-beautiful word ‘remission’ soon?  So many questions but I try to pace myself.  I try to remind myself that this is not about me.  There is a plan for my life and what it is, I still do not know.  My goal right now is just to take all this one day at a time.  Like that old PSA said, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste,” and I don’t plan on wasting it on the could have’s and would have’s of life.  That’s for chumps.

Instead, like I said, I shall look forward and prepare for the worst but hope for the best.  There’s a hurricane a’blowin’ in the gulf of my life and I’m sure as heck gonna board up my house. Hopefully, it’ll pass by my house unscathed.

Hurricane Cancer

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