Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Side Effects

So much of my anxiety in having cancer and starting chemo was just not knowing how I was going to respond to treatments. I didn't know what my life was actually going to look like. Would I be flat on my back and throwing up for the next 7-8 months straight? Would I just be a little bit tired? I didn't know. My doctor did tell me that my particular regimen of drugs is very hard on the body. With some chemotherapies, people can still lead normal lives. My doctor told me that while everyone reacts differently, keeping my job and living life normally was not how this was going to pan out for me. Now I feel like I'm starting to piece together what life will be like, and you know, it's bearable.

I mentioned before that I am doing 6 36-day rounds of chemotherapy. On days 1 and 2 of every round I go to the cancer center for 7-8 hours while they fill me up with anti-nausea meds, Adriamycin, and Cisplatin. On days 21 and 28 I will be hospitalized for 2-3 days while they give me high dose Methotrexate. I haven't had the Methotrexate yet, but I have successfully made it through the other 2 drugs for this round.

My life days 1-7. Michael did a great job of hooking my port
up to the fluids they sent me home with.
This is how days 1-7 looked for me:
-Constant nausea (but little actual throwing up)
-Extreme fatigue (like sleeping almost all day)
-Little desire for food and/or water

However, Day 7 I had just a little more energy. Talking to people didn't leave me out of breath and exhausted. Since Day 7 I have gained more strength and energy everyday. Today is Day 12 and I can honestly say that I feel better than ever. Guess what. My leg doesn't hurt! Not even a little bit! Michael says he can still see some swelling but seriously, there is no pain, no tenderness to the touch, it feels great. It feels NORMAL. Ladies and gentlemen, the poison these doctors are pumping into my body might actually be healing me. =]

Having energy these last few days has been unbelievably awesome. Michael finished finals last week and since I'm not teaching right now, we have been able to just enjoy each other's company. We stay up way too late watching movies, eating midnight snacks, sleeping in, taking care of things around the house at a leisurely pace, and hanging out with friends. If every week of horribleness is followed by a week of pure enjoyment and fun with my husband, I can do this cancer thing.
Eating homemade spinach dip at 2am
while watching Taken
French toast for breakfast at noon

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Beginning of Healing

Thursday and Friday I went in for my chemo treatments. They were 7-8 hours each. Since partway through Thursday I have been battling nausea and poppin' pills like crazy. Nothing sounds good to eat. Today I have eaten plain white rice with salt and half of an otter pop. I want to eat more because I know I should, it's just hard when you feel like you're barely able to keep down what's already in you. I just keep feeling my left leg (no pain there today!) and imagining the chemo already going in and killing the tumor.

It's weird how something so painful is actually killing the bad in my body and healing me. I guess that's how life is though, isn't it? It's not usually the awesome, fun experiences that mold us into better, stronger people. It's the hard stuff. Persevering through pain and trials we would have thought to destroy us actually help us become the strong, healthy, Christlike people we are meant to become.

I just know that these dark times are going to help me see the light, the good, and the happy forever. It's worth it. Even this horrible, earth-shattering trial is a part of God's plan for me to reach a currently unfathomable happiness in the future.
PS My head feels really cloudy right now. Please excuse grammatical errors/generally not making sense.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Port Placement

I wasn't going to blog today, but then I realized that if I don't blog today, I'm just going to have to make a really ridiculously long blog post later to include everything. So here it goes. The first thing I wanted to mention is that the other day I got a package in the mail from Livestrong. I realize this is horrible to admit, but when I opened up what looked like two big packets of paper, I was kind of disappointed. I was like, where's the free hat? The t-shirt? Those are the kinds of things that should come in big packages. When I started looking through the packets, however, I felt so grateful for them. I haven't looked through everything yet, but what I have read was inspiring. Here are two quotes from the packets that I love:
"We believe in life. Your life. We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being. And that you must not let cancer take control of it. We believe in energy: channeled and fierce. We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong. Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything."
"You can look at it one of two ways: You have cancer, or cancer has you."
So good. Some days I want to roll over and give up. Sometimes I want to run away to a tropical beach and pretend like I don't have cancer (and I haven't even started treatment yet. Ha!). But I feel like those quotes are really empowering. They make me want to fight cancer and live my life to its fullest, not just stumble through life until treatment is over.

In other news, I got my port today and I had a little scare. I got checked in, changed into my cute little backless gown and fuzzy socks, and was ready to go when they asked me to collect a urine sample for a pregnancy test. (Yeah, I know. TMI. Welcome to my life.) I told them there is NO way I'm pregnant. They just took all the mature eggs out of me on Sunday. But they insisted. I gave them the sample, the nurse tested it, and we continued with preparations for the port placement. A second nurse walked in and was like, "Um, did you see this test? Did you notice that second line there?" I'm sure my heart skipped a beat and all the blood must have drained out of my face. Pregnant? It's funny how something that would have made me cry tears of joy a month ago would now make me feel fear like I never have. (I was told when I first found out about my cancer that if I was pregnant I would have to postpone treatment for 9 months or terminate the pregnancy.) They did another test. It came back positive again. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized it really, REALLY was not possible that I was pregnant. Turns out, it was all the fertility meds they gave me last week that made the test come out positive. Whew. It's OKAY, guys. I'm not pregnant. I can continue with chemo tomorrow. That was just probably one of the scariest moments of my life.

K, yeah, more port stuff. They gave me meds that made it so I didn't feel anything, but unfortunately they made me feel very sick and tired for the rest of the day. A feeling I'm afraid I'm going to have to get used to. I also want to let you guys know that I was totally freaked out about getting the port and it was totally not that bad. The worst part was the sedative, not the actual operation. So if you need to get a port sometime soon, you can find comfort in the fact that getting a port will make you look awesome and brave and win you sympathy points, but really won't be too terribly painful to put in. Here are the pics:
 Can you see under my skin where the tube goes up? So nasty.
 I was happy they put it as low as they did, though. It's the
kind of thing that might show with certain shirts, but
 not all of them.
This picture, I realize, is not the most flattering
 of me or my haircut, but it gives you more
 perspective as to where the port is at.
This is just a drawing of a port so
 you can see what is inside of me.

 K, time for sleep. I have my first chemo treatment tomorrow morning. Wish me luck and keep the prayers coming! I can feel them already working wonders.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Egg Retrieval

I know I've mentioned this before, but when I first found out I had cancer, I also found out that this particular set of drugs would leave me with a 50% chance of infertility. That's not a horrible percentage, but I've daydreamed about Michael and I having kids together since we started seriously dating 4.5 years ago. We want to do everything we can to raise our chances, so we have been going through fertility treatments the last few weeks with an end goal of freezing embryos to use after treatment is over. This has involved a few things:

  1. Tons of uncomfortable ultrasounds for me
  2. Injecting myself in the stomach with medications 1-2 times a day for the last week
  3. Michael taking a pill twice a day
  4. Last night injecting myself with a medication in my LEG with a needle that was an inch and a half long
  5. Egg Retrieval (today)

1.5 inches and it had to go ALL the way in
my leg. Yeah. Pure love for my future
children right there.

Injecting myself in the leg was literally the bravest thing I've ever done. It took me a whole hour of sitting on the ground watching the tutorial video, me counting to 3 and chickening out about 15 times, Michael freaking out, hyperventilating, leaving the room, crying (just kidding, but almost), and okay, fine, me crying too, before finally doing it. Before you judge, look at the SIZE of this needle.
Anyway, egg retrieval was today. They were able to retrieve 14 eggs! We will know within the next few days how many embryos they are able to successfully create with those eggs. I was pretty nervous about the procedure, but it turns out it was actually quite enjoyable. They injected me full of some drug that the doctor described as being like "morphine and valium combined." The last thing I remember was the nurse giving me the medication and telling me to close my eyes and go to my happy place. A few hours later I woke up with no recollection of anything that had happened. The nurse told me the doctor had asked me a few questions during the procedure and I answered them; it's just hard to believe because I don't remember anything. I slept for most of the way home, then stumbled into bed with my winter coat and scarf still on and I slept until almost 4 pm. Fun fact: I had no idea I was wearing an oxygen mask until I posted this picture. Ha ha. *Michael also wants me to add that this picture was taken with his new Nexus 7 

I just want to take a second to talk about one of the blessings of having cancer. I have a unique opportunity to see just how good people are. Since I first found out I have cancer, I have received phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, e-mails, gifts, dinners, random acts of kindness, and many prayers on my behalf from friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. Things have been a little bit crazy (to say the least) so I haven't gotten a chance to thank everyone individually, but I just feel so blessed and so grateful to have such a great support system. You guys inspire me not only to get through this current trial, but to be a better person for the rest of my life. 

My schedule for this week:
Monday, Dec 3 : Mom comes!
Wednesday, Dec 5: Getting my port in; chemo class
Thursday, Dec 6: First day of chemo (should take 4-5 hours)
Friday, Dec 7: Second day of chemo (another 4-5 hours)

I will, of course, keep all of you updated!