Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Now I Look Like I Have Cancer

At the end of the second week of chemo I was running my hand over my hair but none of it was coming out.  With my hair cut down to stubble I thought I might start seeing it come off on my hand as I massaged my head, but not at that two week point.

But that same day I pulled on some of the hair on my head and it came right out.  I had to pull, it didn't fall out, but I didn't have to yank and there was no pain.  So I knew I was right on the edge.  On Monday I had to go for my third Bleo treatment (the end of my first course, this coming Monday starts the second course with the full week of all day chemo treatments) and again I had a terrible reaction to the drug.

I had told the nurse how I'd been chilled and feverish for 9 hours after the last dose, so they gave me tylenol and told me to keep taking it and benedryl if I continued with chills.  This time they gave the benedryl in a pill rather than an IV so I wasn't asleep in the chair like before.  The pills take hours to make me sleepy, and it never gets as bad as via the IV drip.  The treatment again only took about an hour so Julie and I were back home by 10:30.  She picked up chinese food at my request (for a few days sesame chicken and white rice was calling my name) around 11:30 and I ate a pretty good amount, feeling pretty good and sleepiness just starting to kick in.  And no chills or fever so I thought I might be safe.

But around 12:30 the chills started, and then it was a repeat of the previous week.  Miserable chills for about two hours.  Very much like having the flu, because it's not just chills but chills with body aches & pains, and the emotional instability that comes with the flu.  A polite way of saying I was off and one crying, wailing really, like a baby.  With the chills and pains the pity party went into full swing, the "why-me's", and the "I don't want to do this anymore's" etc.  It wasn't pretty.   A few hours of the chills and the rest and it again transitioned to a big fever.  Started off at 102.5 and slowly, over the next 5-6 hours went down to almost normal.  But this time it never quite broke, hoovering around 99-100 degrees all night.  Well not really all night, I only slept about two hours and was up at 1:30 am I'd already taken 6 extra strength tylenol by that point but took two more since the fever and aches were still present.  I stayed up on the couch watching really bad tv & movies (Burt Reynolds in Copy and a Half... filmed in Tampa at least) and around 4:30 fell asleep.  The alarm went off at 6, Julie came out to see how I was and since it was thundering (Bica's not going out in lightening) we all went back to bed until about 8:30.  After that I was much better physically, but emotionally I was still depressed.

Around 3:30 pm I finally got out of pjs and took Bica for a walk (don't worry, Julie had taken Bica out several times before that).  That and a shower seemed to snap me out of the depression I'd been stuck in.

My hair on Tuesday started falling out faster, although still not noticeably so when you looked at my head.  And I was always curious about this so I'll let you know, it's not just your head where the hair falls out, but so far it's not everywhere.  My facial hair isn't coming out yet (beard, eyebrows, eyelashes) nor is my arm or leg hair.  But my chest hair and pubic hair (I hesitated to write that for modesty's sake) are falling out faster than that on my head.

This morning the hair on my head is coming out in earnest, although still in strange patches.  My sideburns and the sides of my head are losing the most hair, almost bald in those areas really.  The very top of my head (like what a yamaka would cover) has lost most of the hair too, according to Julie.  But the very back and front are only thinning, not yet patchy.  I look like a dog with mange.  But the speed with which this has gone from having to pull hair out (Sunday) to hair falling out (Wednesday) tells me that I won't look mangey for much longer.  A few more days and I'll probably be completely bald.  This morning in the shower I put soap on my hands and massaged it into my head.  When I looked at my hands they were covered in hair.  I think hairy palms are a sign of lycanthropy.

I've talked about hair-loss a lot during these updates I know, but I really don't mind this part.  I know it's temporary and I lived much of my life with really short hair.  So I'm not bothered by my scalp (normally) or baldness.  I'd take baldness over cancer any-day.  But I do mind baldness when my head is covered in acne blemishes like it is now.  In fact I would have shaved my head this morning to get it over with but there are so many open and/or painful sores on my head it seemed like a really bad idea.

The other side of baldness is now everyone will know something is wrong with me.  Living in a condo you have 160 other neighbors, plus the people who work the front desk in the building, and then the various people who I see and say hello to everyday on the street. Going from long to extremely short hair already got a lot of comments, and I did tell some people what was going on.  I've told most neighbors who I know reasonably well, and a few of the front desk workers.  But sometimes I've let comments about my cutting my hair go with just a smile and a "yeah, it's all gone"  kind of comment.  Sometimes I don't feel like dropping the depressing cancer bomb on people I barely know.  I know that over the next few months they'll have plenty of time to see me without any hair and will figure it out.

I expect this week to be a lot like last week, so far it's proving to be.  A rough Monday & Tuesday from the bleo treatment, and then feeling better the rest of the week.  Certainly my nausea has been greatly reduced these last few weeks.  I'm only taking medication once a day, sometimes skipping a day all together.  But my fatigue level is much worse.  I generally get up around 6 or 7 am, shower and have breakfast, and walk Bica.  When I get back I relax for a while and try to hydrate, take Bica out again around 11 am, eat an early lunch and then I'm wiped out and go to sleep.  I wake up hours later and it takes me another hour or to to really get moving.  But this is all much easier than the big chemo weeks, I'm really dreading the start of another big week on Monday.  In particular now I'm terrified about the bleo dose I get that day.  If I have the same reaction as the last two mondays it will be really rough having chills and a fever for hours while an IV line is stuck in my arm feeding even more medicines into my body.  I hope the steroid they give me Monday will counteract these effects.  I see the doctor on Monday prior to treatment so I plan to let him know my concerns prior to treatment.  Maybe they can make Bleo the last medicine I receive so that I can get home before the bad effects take hold.

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