Chemo #1 - ✓✓✓
In this post...
Chemo 1 + done
Double whammy - then some relief
Chemo 1 + done.
FIRST I HAVE TO SAY: I AM BACK. Man. What a torturous week. I was offline because I just couldn't handle the freakin tornado of side effects that sucked me up into some lifeless vortex. Thanks to a last minute procedure Friday, I feel like a fraction of myself. I thought my Lyft driver's hat today summed it up well:
Now rewind: Thanks to a weird turn of events, I actually got out of the hospital early. I was supposed to undergo R-EPOCH which is five to six days of straight chemo but:
- My mass in the chest area prevented me from installing a port (a way to deliver chemo drugs in the chest area) and forced a PICC line installation up my arm instead.
- The doctors didn't feel they could deliver the R-EPOCH chemo safely through that PICC line.
- So they decided on R-CHOP chemo regimen instead which is just two days instead of the five to six.
Saying I am relieved is the biggest understatement. I don't think I could last another day in the confines of that hospital room. It's funny - I wanted so badly to claim one of those cancer ward beds - beds that seem to be constantly in hot demand, unfortunately.
I was told I'd have to wait and I didn't actually get a room until the next day. That was also only after I was told by my doctor to go to the Emergency Department to "fast track" getting into the system. Didn't work - just a whole lot of waiting around in the lobby for hours and hours. A big thanks to my sis and to Tim for being by my side the ENTIRE time.
Tim told me and Christina to wait in the main hospital lobby as opposed to the Emergency Dept. room where it was crowded and a lot less pleasant. It was strange sitting there - it is every time. You know people are all dealing with something and it's like you're all part of this exclusive club that was once invisible to you. I couldn't help but wonder why everyone was there.
Hours passed and finally we got up to my room. Finally being there threw a myriad emotions at me: relief, anxiety, straight-up fear, and then... claustrophobia. The room was more narrow than I'd expected (smaller than the one I'd stayed in a few weeks ago). It did have its own bathroom but it just felt so restricting. I knew I wasn't headed to the Four Seasons but I couldn't help the disappointment. How was I going to manage an entire week in this tiny place?
NOTES ON PICS:
- Check out my big o' belly as I lied in bed. That's a result of a combo of some OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) from the IVF but mostly the cancer. I've been like six months pregnant for days now.
- Giving you a look at the PICC lines dangling from my arm. There's like a foot-long cord that goes from the elbow up into the chest area (Tim took a pic after they removed it if anyone's curious ;p ).
- My dad's friends were so gracious enough to buy me something called "LimbO" which I would highly recommend for anyone getting a PICC line. You can't get it wet so if you want to shower, you've got to find protection. This was it. Thank you to Aunt Louise and Uncle Vincent for such thoughtfulness. I truly, truly appreciate it.
- My sis was the ultimate caretaker in the hospital staying with me both nights. There are shots of her helping me with the LimbO and putting on my socks haha. I'm so lucky.
While lying in bed, I also wondered who had just left and how they were doing. Was s/he also feeling what I felt? And would I meet other cancer patients, finally? Would we become friends and all take part in group chats like I'd seen in TV/movies? (Answer: no.)
Turns out you just stay in your room and with your own peeps. You might see some others on the floor as they walked around for exercise but that would be it. I did see a few family members of patients in the "Family Room" on the floor when my friends threw me a...
Chemo Party. Haha!
My gfs are the best. This last weekend was supposed to be my bachelorette party (Tim canceled his, too :[ ). My bestie from NYC, Christine, and her husband, Ben (who was going to Tim's party), instead accompanied us at the hospital whenever I felt up for it. Another bestie, Sherry, lives in the South Bay but got a hotel room to do the same. I was in such a bad spot that I didn't see them as much as I had wanted to but they made sure to let me know... no pressure. Whenever you need us, we are here. That is the ultimate kind of support (similar to what my family and Tim have all given me).
I recorded my second ever UCSF hospital exit. This one felt even better, more like breaking out of jail than anything else. It's truly not the most exciting video you'll ever watch but I wanted to document the sights/sounds of those long, sterile hallways.
Double whammy - then some relief.
I'm going to dedicate an entire post to this later because I don't want to misconstrue symptoms following IVF (which is amazing - I'm such a proponent). I will say this much:
If you haven't heard from me (and that should be everyone), that's because I had a bad reaction to the chemo while in the hospital while experiencing terrible symptoms from a combo of the cancer-chemo-OHSS (check last post for deets on that). All of that has persisted 24 hours a day. 24. No break. So for anyone considering IVF before chemo:
- I still passionately encourage you to do it if you want that peace of mind.
- It's also perfectly fine not to - after all, you have to take care of you first. If fertility is on the fence, don't worry about it. It's such a personal decision but I knew I wanted to preserve that option for me and Tim.
- If you do it, just prepare yourself for likely more hurdles. It was tough for me to stay positive through the first round of chemo because I was scared. Honestly, just scared. I didn't want to be sensitive to the side effects but I experienced all that I had been warned about (including vomiting, the one I really wanted to avoid). So you might imagine throwing on all the OHSS-ish symptoms just really threw me for a loop. I don't want you to feel the same: just be prepared and it'll be fine.
- Again, I'll devote an entire post to this later!
As for the RELIEF portion... it came in a procedure today known as "tapping." My awesome UCSF doctor and nurses helped me drain a lot of abdominal fluid. It helped me feel a lot less pregnant, down from six-months to maybe one or two! I took a picture of the upshot but... I'll spare you hahaha.
POINT IS... now I can walk around without having to hold my belly. I can sit down, lie down, stand up without aches and pains seeping into every bone, muscle and cavity. I tried to capture this in an audio blog I recorded after the procedure.
The relief is fleeting: the fluids are supposed to come back but at least I get a break. Now the chemo after effects are hitting harder, but I'll take this over the last week. Any. Day.
Next up for me to confront: the shaved head. The whole thing. I have a hair prosthesis appointment for Saturday afternoon and boy is it $$$. If you want the real human hair that looks passable as the real deal, get ready to cough up > $1,000. I'm excited to look at options but still unsure how ready I am to see myself in the mirror with no hair.
Let's leave on a bright note. My boo has had to go back to work, of course, so he set up a little system to help me keep track of all my am/pm meds. He takes such good care of me and that love helps to fill those empty moments where I start to feel real blue. #winner