Thursday, January 10, 2013

High-Dose Methotrexate

It's official: I survived the first round of chemo! I am 1/6 of the way done! Wow. Saying that actually makes the finish line seem really far away. So I am going to stop thinking about that ridiculously small fraction and focus on the fact that I made it through an entire round, the world hasn't ended, and I haven't felt ANY pain in my leg since I started chemo. Since I have finished a whole round, I now have some sort of idea what the next many months will look like for me (I know some of this is a repeat).

Day 1- Get chemo for 7-8 hours
Day 2- Get chemo for 7-8 hours
Day 3-9 Feel really sick
Day 9-20 Feel good, but get tired easily and sometimes a little queasy
Day 21-25 Check into the hospital and stay for 5 days while I get pumped full of poison/other fluids
Day 26-27 Feel okay, still a little sick and tired
Day 28-32 Check into the hospital and stay for 5 more days
Day 33-36- Feel okay
Start over

I know, I know. I didn't blog about my hospital stays. I guess I can catch you up. I had to stay in the hospital twice for high-dose methotrexate. These weren't emergency hospital visits, they were a planned part of my chemotherapy and will unfortunately be happening every round. Methotrexate is very effective in killing cancer cells, but could be devastating for many of my good cells if it wasn't followed up with a "rescue" 24 hours later. So they give me this other drug called leucovorin that rescues me from the poison they just pumped into me, give me lots of fluids to flush it all out of my system, and monitor me very closely until the methotrexate is out of me. That's the short version anyway.

I doubt you want a play-by-play of the 10 days I spent in the hospital (most of which consisted of sleeping, watching way too much TLC, and knitting) so here are just my most favorite and unfavorite things about staying in the hospital.

-The fun bed
-I could ask the nurse for a sack lunch any time I got hungry
-Walking around my floor while pushing around my IV stand
-Watching football games and movies with Michael
-Nurses from my first visit hearing I was back and coming to say hi
-Visits from family
-Having food brought to me for all three meals- this was an unfavorite for the first visit, but by the second visit I figured out what foods were safe to order
-Having lots of time to knit

-Nights--between having to use the bathroom every 2 hours and nurses coming in to give me meds and draw blood every 2ish hours, sleep was hard to come by
-Nurses coming in while I was sleeping in the middle of the night or morning, flipping on the light switch, and trying to hold a conversation with me
-Being tethered to an IV at all times
-Trying to change my shirt with tubes going from my chest to an IV stand. I had to get pretty creative sometimes.
-My face getting really chubby from all the fluids. At least I think it was the fluids. I'm going to say it was the fluids.

K, I'm just going to apologize for how wordy this post is. I can't think of a single blog I like to look at that isn't 75% pictures, at least. I will make a conscious effort in the future to take pictures of everything. And just so your click over here to my blog isn't totally in vain, here are two random pictures I just took of myself on the webcam so you could have pictures. Be grateful because it was super awkward to sit here in the infusion clinic and take pictures of myself.
Finishing knitting my second scarf
Me pretending to be smiling at something on my computer
screen. What? Me taking a picture of myself on my laptop?
No no no, there's just something funny I'm reading online.

Friday, January 4, 2013


That's what I am now. From the time I was diagnosed with cancer, I never really thought I would care about losing my hair. That might sound dumb or untruthful, but there were much more significant things I was worried about than losing my hair. You might remember it was one of the things I joked about with my students to lighten the mood when I first told them I had cancer. We laughed about my baldness and joked about what color my hair would be when it came back.

"Then I will look awesome."
"That would be so cool. I will definitely come show you guys if that happens."

And since I'm going off on a tangent about funny student comments, I HAVE to throw this one in. The whole class was telling me I need to visit, they were making supportive comments, etc. etc., when one of my students said, "Um, Mrs. Christensen, if you do come visit will you PLEASE wear a wig. Bald people, like, really freak me out. Especially bald women." I had to suppress my laughter. "Yes, I think maybe I could wear a wig." "WHEW. Ok good." One thing I love about 5th graders is the wide range in social development. But that is totally a topic for a different day. This was supposed to be one of those DEEP posts where I, you know, talk about emotions and stuff.

My doctor told me I would probably start to lose my hair around Day 14 of treatment and by Day 17 it would be gone. We left to go to my in-laws' house for the holidays around Day 14, so we were sure to bring all my hats, scarves, and my wig with us. I was lucky because my hair didn't even START falling out until around Day 17. Let me tell you though, I had no idea the emotional toll it was going to take on me. My poor husband. Often at night I would just go to bed and cry. And really, it wasn't about the hair. It was about saying my final goodbye to the life that I had wanted for myself. I can't run, I feel sick a lot and tired most of the time, I'm unable to teach, Michael and I can't have children right now . . . it seemed like nothing about my life was normal and cancer-free except for how I looked on the outside. I truly felt like my appearance was the last normal thing I was clinging to, and now even that was leaving me. Michael was so good though. I would be sad and he would just tell me how much he loves me and how beautiful I am and how he was excited for me to shave my head. I look back and am still impressed by him. There were so many wrong things he could have said to me, but he didn't say any of them. I love him.

Anyway, as I ran my fingers through my hair, strands started to come out. It started just a few hairs at a time, but by Day 20 it was a mess. We're talking almost handfuls of hair coming out. It was weird. I was losing so much hair, but because I had so much hair to start with you couldn't tell that my hair was thinning. Despite continuing to look normal, I decided to shave my head just because of the mess my hair was starting to make. My sweet mother in-law first shaved my hair into a mohawk, then just left a nasty little patch on the front of my head, and finally finished shaving it all. I feel pretty proud that I kept it together the whole time she was shaving my head and made it all the way up to the shower before giving in to a good cry.

Then you know what? An amazing thing happened. I got out of the shower, spent an extra long time putting my makeup on, put on the new J.Crew cardigan I got for Christmas, and felt good. I didn't feel hideous, I just felt bald. I then went and put on my wig. It turns out the wig looks better than my natural hair. Amazing. I still totally covet people with hair attached to their heads, and Michael was making fun of me as I frantically wrote down the phone number on the infomercial promising "a full head of hair" to middle-aged men with receding hair lines (Just kidding. Sort of). But I really am surprised that women shaving their heads isn't more popular.

Ladies, let me tell you the benefits of shaving your head:
-Amount of shampoo used to wash hair: I use a bean sized dollop of 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner
-Time to dry hair: 3 seconds to pat it dry with a towel
-Time to fix hair: 0 seconds
-Time spent throughout the day worrying if your hair is in place: 0 seconds
-Points for being "edgy": At least 6
Love this man.