Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hell Week

I thought maybe I should start out with some good news for a change.  I have survived the second of three hell weeks, where I get chemo Monday through Friday for about 7 hours a day.  It was a rough week, but it's over and now I get a 6 days to recuperate before receiving chemo again on Monday.

More importantly, there is just one hell week left.  It is scheduled to begin April 16th, although it could be pushed back a week if my blood work doesn't come out ok.  But if that's the case I'll finish chemo the first week of May, and return to work two weeks later on May 21st.

Last week (hell week part 2) was in some ways easier than the first full week of chemo.  I knew the drill & what to expect, had a better relationship with the nurses, Julie and I were on a better schedule.  But it was still tough, miserable really.  Physically I probably felt worse, but again it's so hard to judge pain, nausea, and misery after the fact.  Or to compare it to earlier misery, for that matter.

But the week went basically as the first one did.  I was feeling good enough to run on Monday morning, but then never again exercised that week.  I'm not sure I even took Bica for a walk after Monday night.  Wednesday through Friday were the worst days, but Friday again I was loaded up with extra anti-nausea medicine so Friday afternoon and evening were much better.  But that extra medication includes steroids which meant very little sleeping Friday night, I took a pill to help combat that and did get some drug induced sleep.  But it wasn't very restful and although I made myself walk Bica a few times on Saturday, I felt pretty crappy.

One of the newest side effects I'm feeling is bruising and pain in the veins in my arms.  Having IVs repeatedly inserted into your arms to then receive hours of medication/poison into your veins apparently isn't good for you.  I've been having them put an IV in my arm each day for the last several weeks, so it's typically a different spot (usually on my hand) each day they're poking.  But these IVs can get clots and have to be removed and a new spot found.  There is nothing worse than being just about finished with chemo for the day only to have your IV blow and you get stuck 2 or 3 more times while they try to find a vein that will take the medication.

It's not all bad, sometimes they find a good vein immediately and it runs fast, the meds pour into you, and you're out of the office 30 or 45 minutes early.  This usually happens Monday or Tuesday. But by Wednesday and later in the week, your (or at least, my) veins have had enough.  You get stuck in one place and it works for a few hours, through your second or third bathroom break, then it's not good anymore.  They remove the IV, bandage you up, and start the hunt for a new location.  Last week, I think it was thursday, I was stuck 4 times while they tried to find a good vein.  I'm grateful that I now get 6 days to hydrate and let my veins relax a little before the next chemo dose.

Julie gave me another shot on Saturday, again the Nulasta (sp?) drug to help my bone marrow produce white blood cells.  I had no reaction to the first shot, but this time around I did.   You can get some pretty nasty bone/joint pain from this shot, and I woke up early Sunday morning feeling like every muscle in my body had been ripped apart the day before.  All of my muscles and joints were cramped and painful.  I took lots of tylenol which probably did help, but not enough to stop my tears and moans.  Sunday night was rough, I again took a  pill to help me get some sleep but by 2 am I was wide awake, still having pretty bad muscle pain.   I moved to the couch and played video games for about 3 hours until I finally fell asleep for another hour or so.

This made for a pretty miserable Monday chemo treatment.  I was tired from both the week of chemo, sleeping pills, and lack of sleep.  My mom was arriving from Florida that morning and we were hoping to be back home early, but everything ran slow on Monday.  Seeing the doctor took longer, the office was full of chemo patients so it took longer to get the IV and medications going, and then my veins were not cooperating.  The slowest drip my veins have had yet.  Normally the Bleo-only Mondays take about 45 minutes to complete the chemo once the IV is set.  I had the IV in my arm around 10:15, but didn't leave the office until 12:30 pm.

Bleo-only days are also physically the roughest, I've described the hours of chills, crying, and moaning that then leads to high fever for another set of hours.  So to get home and see my mom, but basically have to bypass her for the couch and numerous covers was hard on everyone.  Then she got to see and hear my misery first hand, it's not pretty.  Even the things that probably sound funny (uncontrollable flatulence, for instance) are not funny to me in the moment.  Painful and humiliating, I was in bad shape for a good number of hours.  Moaning, crying (sobbing, really), miserable and in pain.   But this was the easiest Bleo-only Monday so far.  The doctor upped the benedryl dose and I took more at home along with tylenol around the clock.  So instead of 10 hours or so of misery, it was closer to 4-6 hours.  4 really bad hours, then 2 not so bad as the fever reduced.  I could tell my mom wasn't prepared for just how bad it (I) can be, no one could be prepared, but she'll at least better know what to expect for next Monday.

But the fever broke and I went to sleep early, and woke up as usual at 2 am.  I went to the couch, apologized to my mom sleeping on an air mattress next to me, and played video games until about 4.  Fatigue took over and I went back to bed until almost 7.

So this week I know what to expect.  I feel a lot better today and things will get progressively better each day this week.  I take frequent naps after short walks with Bica (and now my mom), drink as many fluids as possible, and consume as many calories as I can.

The idea of possibly just four more weeks of chemo, and then two weeks of R&R, and then finally getting back to my normal life.  Working again (you wouldn't believe how much I miss work), dressing nicely and wearing suits again, going out to eat, drinking beer.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

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