Tag Archives: nausea

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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My Secret Fear

Two weeks ago, I had a dream that an old family friend and his wife from Costa Rica, now living in Missouri, came all the way to Corpus Christi to pay me a surprise visit.  The dream was so vivid and  I awoke with tears running down my face from the joy Willy and Zully brought me by their visit.  I was young when they moved away and I haven’t seen them for years.  They’re very special to my family and I but that wasn’t the reason their visit made me so happy in my dream.  You see, a few years after they moved away, Willy himself had battled lymphoma (mantle cell), was close to death, and WON.  He’d come to visit me in my dream to reassure me that I’d be ok and to be strong.  After waking up, I figured I’d had this dream because I’d spoken to him and his wife on the phone a couple of days before and I very much value their spiritual advice.  During that phone conversation, Willy gave me this bible verse in Chapter 1 of Joshua which had given him much solace during his battle:

9 Mira que te mando que te esfuerces y seas valiente; no temas ni desmayes porque Jehová tu Dios estará contigo en dondequiera que vayas.

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

He didn’t know it, but that was one of the verses my mother had always repeated to me in Spanish growing up.  I love that verse.  That conversation with them had really gotten to me since Willy knew exactly what I’m going through and Zully knew what our marriage was going through.  After my parents, Willy and Zully are the most faithful and spiritually-connected people to God that I know.

I’m about to Quentin Tarantino this story.  I started from the middle and now I’m gonna rewind to the beginning.

I’m about to reveal the fear I’ve been keeping a secret since I first received my diagnosis.  I’d been harboring this fear for almost nine months.  You could even say I was incubating it which is very ironic considering the fear.  It had grabbed a hold of me and started growing like a weed; ugly and unwanted, and hard to get rid of.  I’d kept this fear a secret from everyone, including my husband.  I think I didn’t even want to admit it for fear of it coming true.  Praying about it was done in silence, in my head.  When my doctor in Houston reiterated to me that infertility after the high-dose chemo I was now facing was a very possible outcome, I became numb.  I’d almost started to accept the fact that I would not be able to conceive.  Almost.

Fast forward to two days ago, my parents informed me that Willy and Zully were driving to Corpus to visit me and spend Spring Break here in town.  I’d already told my parents and my husband about my dream.  I didn’t bother to ask my parents if they’d told Willy and Zully about my dream but I figured they had and that’s why they had decided to pay me a visit.  In the meantime, my baby fever was growing by the day and so was my pain at the thought of possibly not being able to bear one.  The Sunday morning of Willy and Zully’s impending arrival was baby dedication day at my church.  Instead of baptizing our babies as in the Catholic church, we Protestants dedicate our children’s lives to the Lord and promise to raise them according to His word.

My cousin decided to dedicate her 3-month-old baby boy that morning and brought him dressed up in the cutest tuxedo suit with tails.  Dressed to impress.  I watched from the stage at my usual spot among the band as our pastor began to pray for him.  Baby B smiled at him in a way I’ve never seen a baby that young smile at anybody.  His gaze was fixated on Pastor Mike as if he knew what was happening and royally approved of it.  My heart melted.  A couple of hours later, we went out to lunch to celebrate as a family and Baby B was being passed around among all the women, doted on and hugged and kissed.  It was soon my turn and although I was ecstatic to have this baby in my arms, it was bittersweet.  He smiled at me with his double-dimples and I made him laugh when I nuzzled his little face over and over.  As he cooed, I kept thinking, “I hope I can have one of you someday.”

Willy and Zully arrived at my house later that night with my parents along with their four teenage kids, only one of which I knew since they’d moved so long ago.  After the standard hugs, how are you’s, and how have you been’s, we settled into our small living room.  Zully began to tell us how she and Willy had been led by God to come see me and pray for me and they were merely being obedient to His will.  They said that they felt an innate need to do this and that they made the decision to come about two weeks ago after our phone conversation.  “Oh wow,” I said.  “So my parents told you about my dream?”  They looked at me like I was crazy and I looked at my parents, “You didn’t tell them?”  My parents shook their heads no, “We haven’t spoken to them about anything; your aunt is the one who told us they were coming.”  After my initial surprise, I proceeded to tell Willy and Zully how they’d visited me by surprise in my dream.

“That’s confirmation from God that we were supposed to come here,” Zully said.  Of course, I was floored.  I think we all were.  But God does things BIG and He wasn’t done with the surprises.  There was still that pesky secret fear I’d been dealing with and I had no idea I was about to be discovered.  After giving me the words of wisdom and support I needed to hear and relate to, they asked to pray for my husband and I.  Willy, Zully, their kids, and my parents encircled us and Willy began to pray aloud.  Instead of praying for the usual like healing and strength, he began to prophesize that we would hear the laughter of children filling our home, not one child but ‘children’.  He said that God wanted me to know that I would be a mother and for me not to be afraid.  I was a broken heap at the sound of those words.  I had not uttered a word of my fear to anybody, not even to God but He’d heard me anyway.

I was relieved, elated, and completely surprised of course.  There it was.  That was the surprise God had shown me in my dream.  It wasn’t the visit that was going to be the surprise; it was the message He had sent them to give me that was the surprise.  I’ve never once feared for my life since this ordeal began.  I feared the process of getting to that point.  I feared not being able to experience a baby in my womb and giving birth to the miracle that is new life.  Now that the Lord was so merciful to tell me that the desire of my heart will come to fruition, the process doesn’t matter anymore.  Chemo, needles, nausea, hair loss, stem cell transplant:  its a small price to pay for the love of a child and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

When he was done praying, I confessed through sobs that I’d been keeping this fear a secret, telling not a soul, tucked away deep inside my heart.  I told them that I hadn’t even expressed it to my husband whom I tell everything, even things we call TMI (too much information).  Willy said he knew in his heart that that was what was instilling fear in me.  I didn’t need to be afraid anymore.  Us women tend to keep such things to ourselves sometimes in order to not upset our loved ones or “worry” them if we feel it unnecessary.  We feel it’s our cross to bear and no one else’s all in an effort to save the people we love most from any grief.

Its no accident that Willy battled lymphoma before me and went through the same treatment I’m facing now.  Its no accident that the people I regard so highly were precisely the ones to bring me the message God needed me to hear.  To think that the Maker of the universe and the stars took the time to orchestrate all of this just for me, a mere speck in His universe, simply mystifies me.  But I don’t need to understand it.  Most of all, it lets me know just how much He loves me and that all this is to serve a greater purpose I’ve yet to see or understand.  I am no longer afraid of what’s to come because I know who’s in charge and I’m so glad its not me.  The Maker of the universe has got this.

Willy & Zully

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Chemo Week – Part II

(cont. from Chemo Week – Part I)

As I’m writing this, its the Thursday right before Halloween and I just had my pre-chemo treatment today.  Tomorrow is Friday, the big day.  Its the ‘big day’ because its my last round of chemotherapy.  There’s an ominous feeling of nervousness in the pit of my stomach being that this weekend is All Hollow’s Eve and the last round of chemo was really hard on me; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  BUT, although there’s butterflies in stomach, there’s also a beautiful, bright light at the end of the tunnel that I can finally see.

I lift my hands to believe again,

You are my refuge, You are my strength.

As I pour out my heart, these things I remember,

You are faithful, God, forever.

Let faith arise.

This song has been in my heart, its been my anthem and my inspiration throughout this whole ordeal.  I even made it my ringtone!  I was lucky enough to be able to see its songwriter, Chris Tomlin, sing this live in concert last night, the night before my last round of chemotherapy.  No coincidence, I know.  God has a beautiful and grand way of letting us know that He loves us by arranging things perfectly, just in time.  I’d been struggling mostly emotionally and spiritually over the last couple of weeks and this concert was like I’d been thrown a lifesaver at a critical moment while trying to keep my head out of water in the roughest sea.

I was liberated of the heaviest weight on my shoulders I’d ever felt in my entire life.  The night’s speaker, Louie Giglio, spoke of a time in his life where a dark cloud plagued him, resulting in many sleepless nights.  I knew it in my heart when he said it:  I’d been dealing with my own dark cloud.  Like I said, just in time.

Friday is chemo day and I get my big, purple Zumba bag ready:  Kindle (check), tabloid magazines (check, because I HAVE to keep up with my Kardashian news), headphones (check), I-pod (check, complete with the latest Zumba tunes), and my new lime green blanket (check, courtesy of my thoughtful friend Mariann).  Its gonna be a LONG five hours at the cancer center.  I’ll give you the short version.

Since the needle is already in place from the day before from pre-treatment, I don’t have to worry about another needle-stick.  Whoop uh dee doo.  The nurse flushes it out again with the skunky stuff and hooks me up to my first of about 5 different IV bags of chemotherapy.  I joke with the nurse that they’re giving me rat poison, just enough NOT to kill me.  They start me with anti-nausea medication because who wants to see THAT on the floor?  Or anywhere for that matter.  The whole process is really not that bad until we get to the fourth bag about 2-3 hours into the treatment.  My favorite!  Its set at a very fast drip and its the only one that affects me the moment it gets going.  You know that awful feeling you get when you snort too much water accidentally up your nose?  The one where it hurts your nasal cavity and travels up your forehead and over the back of your head?  Yeah, that’s the lovely effect I get EVERY time from this particular IV bag and it lasts for about a week thereafter.  I wish my pee would just turn pink like it does when I get the Kool-Aid red bag…I could live with that.

The mood of the chemotherapy room depends on the day and who’s there.  Sometimes its quiet, sometimes its full of laughs, but it’s always full of hope.  We smile at each other even though we don’t feel like smiling.  We encourage each other because its like we’re encouraging ourselves.  My buddy Albert always comes by my recliner to say hello and tell me everything is gonna be alright and I know he’s right.  Everything is pretty ho-hum throughout the whole process and I’m ready for it to be over when the nurse comes over with the blood pressure gauge.  YES!  Time to go home and EEEEEAT!  Instead of losing weight, I’ve unfortunately gained it due to the insane amount of prednisone steroids I have to take after each chemotherapy session.  Oh well, I would much rather gain weight than have my life cut short.  I can always lose the weight, but I can’t come back from the dead.  I’ll leave those miracles to the Son of God…I’m not that talented.

The nurse flushes out my chestport again (skunk)  and takes the dressing off my chest.  SWEET RELIEF!!  The itchiness can finally be scratched and my skin can breeeeeef!  The nurse gives me an order for lab work that I need to have done before my next treatment along with an appointment card for my follow-up with my doctor.  I high-tail it out of there with my posse (my one visitor I’m allowed) and head for the nearest exit!  Being that tomorrow is my LAST treatment, I have no idea how tomorrow’s session is gonna end so my curiousity has been peaked.

I go to my parents’ house usually as the effects of the day are too much for me to be alone at home.  I try to keep ahead of the nausea with medication but it sneaks up on me.  That snorted-water feeling remains for the entire week along with the nausea.  My fifth round of treatment resulted in the most instense case of chemo brain or brain fog since I started the first treatment.  I walked around in a complete zombie-like daze for an entire week with my husband and friends constantly having to repeat themselves.  And even then, all they got in return at times was a blank stare.  God bless their patient hearts!  Try as I might, I could not make my way through the fog that clouded my mind.  I have two words for you to describe chemo brain:  Patrick Star.  If you’ve ever watched Spongebob Squarepants or have a child under the age of 10, you know exactly who I’m referring to.

Patrick Star

This is your brain on chemo drugs.

I think I’m gonna start a campaign to make Patrick Star the official spokestar for chemo brain sufferers everywhere.  Believe me, I can relate to that guy.  After about eight days of nausea, snorted-water head, and chemo brain, I finally start to feel like myself.  The nausea eases, the snorted-water feeling goes away, and the fog begins to lift.  But my head is still bald.

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