11 Mar, 16

The real deal about Chemo

So my chemo regimen Escalated BEACOPP consists of 3 days of straight chemo week 1, one day week 2, week 3 off, then repeat. I’m not sure how many cycles I will receive, but I’m scheduled for 8. Which will make the end date of my chemo somewhere in July. NOT THAT I’M COUNTING OR ANYTHING. My first cycle was a straight week in the hospital, so I don’t remember much. I’m going to be real with you and tell you how cycle 2 really was for me.  I can’t tell you if you will experience the same symptoms, because everyone responds to chemo differently, and all regimens are different. I’m just reciting what my mom tells me.on repeat.every 30 minutes.of every hour.every day. seven days of the week.

The first day of Cycle 2, I got my labs done, went to my doctor, then straight to CTU (chemo). Basically I sat there all day in a chair and got blasted with 5 different chemo drugs through the port in my chest: vincristine, doxorubicin, cyclosphamide infusion, etoposide, and prednisone. I’m not really sure what any of these drugs are.. but doctor, my life is in your hands and I have a lot of things that I still want to do, so please don’t mess this up for me! (Seriously, I know I was rude to you in the ICU when we first met. Sorry! I’m going to play the cancer card with that one) Overall, it’s not bad while you’re in there, but it’s creepy.. because one of the chemo drugs, I forget which one, is a really strange color. And it feels weird having all of these medications being injected into your body.  It’s also creepy how you can see everyone else around you getting their chemo.  People of all genders, ages, and races fighting the same battle.  I have always been the youngest one so far in my CTU, when I look around.
I’ve read in so many blogs about nausea during chemo infusions. For me, it’s not so much the chemo at the time that makes me nauseous, it’s looking at the other people receiving it. But..in a way, seeing this helped me through the process. A lot of people receiving chemo have terminal cancer.  You look around in CTU and see people’s aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc. getting their chemo who are fighting for their lives and don’t even stand a chance. I count my lucky stars every night that my cancer isn’t terminal, and even though it seems bad right now, it could be so much worse. So so so so much worse.  I have it good compared to a LOT of other people.  Everyone always tells me that if you’re going to have cancer, Lymphoma is definitely the one to have.

When I got home from chemo was when the absolute hell began. It is imperative to drink as much water as you can and eat after chemo. Too bad I couldn’t eat or drink. My mom was force feeding crackers down my throat. The chemo also makes your heart race, so on top of the nausea, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. I like to call prednisone…predniZONE because the dose that you get during chemo turns you into a maniac, in the sense that your heart truly feels like it’s going to come out of your body 24/7.  I am already crazy, so I don’t need a medication to contribute to that!! 😉 So, I spent from about 1pm-5am on my couch dry heaving all night with a bucket next to me. When you get chemo, it kills the good cells and the bad cells in your body, so basically you feel like a zombie.  I lost feeling in my fingers already and part of my toes from neuropathy, a side effect of chemo. But hey, at least I still have my fingers and toes. And I had serious night sweats still, I had to change my clothes so many times each night.  And your body is just warm all of the time, and you’re sweating.  I was popping  Zofran like it was a paid job and trying to drink Gingerale, but nothing helped.  I just kept looking at the clock and thinking, if this is how I have to spend the next few months, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. My poor dog was so confused too, he sat next to me cuddled up all night crying, wondering what was going on. Dogs really are the most loyal animals ever. Love ya Justin!

After venting to Dr. X all night during his night shift (No seriously, the nicest guy ever, where did he come from?  Dr.X, you’re my new bestie and you need to write a book on how to be a gentleman 101 for all of the Miami boys out there) around 4 am, I came to a serious conclusion. Chemo is a lot like a hangover. Picture the worst hangover of your life, times 500. I went to one of the biggest party schools in New England AND I live in Miami, so I have serious experience with hangovers, which would essentially make me a chemo pro.  At UNH, we would play power hour with Mad Dog 20/20’s, play Edward Scissor Hands and attach 40 oz beers to both of our hands with tape, do keg stands with Franzia boxes of wine, etc. etc. (Sorry to all of my family members reading this) Just inappropriate things that you should not do and are so bad for your body, SO many times. I’m completely fine with the possibility of not being able to have kids, because I was a very, very scary kid. I was actually such a jerk in college that I’m truly lucky to even be alive. Even in Miami during my younger years..partying at LIV until 5am, then going home only to wake up a few hours later to continue the party on a boat. Or spend the day throwing up off the side of it. (Sorry Juan Carlos!) In all actuality, I thought to myself that my life is going to be a hangover hopefully only until June or July, but I can do this!! I survived all of those times, and this is pretty much the same thing right? Right. All jokes aside, going off on that “everything happens for a reason” tangent, I am almost convinced that my behavior in my early 20’s has prepared me for the beating that my body is taking right now, and that is why I am not as sick from chemo as most people are.

Cycle 2 Days 2 and 3 I’m going to bunch together. Etoposide infusion and prednisone both days. And I take procarbozine chemo pills at night every night during that cycle. Basically poison, I’m getting poison injected into me. Shout out to my chemo nurse, I can’t remember your name but thanks so much for telling me to start taking Compazine before chemo, and any time I feel like the nausea is coming on. This absolutely SAVED my life and I swear that this is the cure all for chemo nausea. I no longer really suffer from this bad boy, and if I do, I have a pill to take care of it. A pill that isn’t Zofran, because Zofran sucks! This and a boat load of water, and I’m okay. This really wasn’t THAT bad. Other than that, I have chemo brain like no other, and my taste buds are completely off.  Not a problem though, at least I won’t get fat while I sit on my butt for the next 6 months.
Even water tastes weird. If anyone needs to go grocery shopping though or has munchies, come to my house. Jackie has a bunch of garbage stocked up everywhere 24/7. Mom, please.stop.buying.donuts.i’m.serious.

Pain wise though, the initial pain I experienced was from my Neupogen shots that I have to inject in my stomach. The pain feels like a shooting pain that rotates in random parts of my body, but it comes and goes, and is definitely not that bad. 7 days after chemo, I become Neutropenic, which is tough because I can’t be around people, since I can’t risk getting sick because my blood count is dangerously low. I love my friends, but the worst part is not being able to touch my dog!  So, I become in quarantine for about a week, 7 days after the first chemo. If you would like to come to my apartment, I must spray you with Lysol before you enter.

The last chemo of cycle 2 was on a Tuesday. That was one day of Bleomycin and Vincristrine. These were push infusions. The pre-meds for this are what take so long, so it feels like you’re there forever. I think this one so far is the weirdest feeling, you just feel loopy, like you’re on another planet. Other than that, I’m handling chemo at this point like a true champion. As long as I can manage the side effects, I’m completely fine and no one can even tell that I’m sick. However, during my OFF chemo week, is when my stomach pain returns and I feel like someone is beating me with a bat. As bizarre as it sounds, most people dread chemo, but I cannot wait until my next cycle. Let’s get this show on the road!

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  1. I battled Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma this time last year, and I was 28 when diagnosed and had no symptoms besides enlarged lymph nodes when I had my excisional biopsy. Your story and post struck me and gave me chills due to the similarity of experience and feelings. I found taking Compazine and Ativan helped tremendously with nausea during chemo along with queasy drops or The Ginger People Gin Gins drops. Also, my oncologist ensured I received an extra high dose cocktail before I started each chemo infusion to prevent nausea. I also received doxorubicin, vincristine, and cyclophosphamide, and was on 100mg of prednisone for 2 weeks of each cycle (and you’re totally correct: it makes you crazy, jittery and anxious!) I took Zyrtec and Tylenol in the days surrounding a neuprogen shot, and it helps with the bone pain.
    The road to remission is painful and can seem never ending, but you will be an even more special and bad ass person on the other side.
    I’m riding in the Cycle for Survivial events in New York this weekend which benefits rare cancers including lymphoma! I will be cheering for you as I ride. Kick cancer’s ass and plan for an even more spectacular life and greater and more precious adventures after!

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