Monday, December 14, 2009

Chemo cycle 8, Part A, days 3-4: Toughest of all

I remember, not long ago, posting an update during either cycle 4 or 5 and saying that I'd experienced my most difficult part of chemo yet at that point. I remember feeling a bit defeated - disappointed that I'd been experiencing that rough patch after having such a sense of accomplishment from sailing through it so well up to that point. Each time I have gone in for a chemo infusion, my doctor has looked at me and my numbers, raised his eyebrows and smirked at me and said things like "you are doing extremely well", or "you are handling all of this extraordinarily well" and I feel a surge of pride and accomplishment when I hear that. And I remember the horrible sense of failure I felt both times that I went in for cycle 5, part B, and was told I would not be getting part B because first my WBC count was too low, and then my platelet count was too low. The doctor and nurses had to convince me that it is a common occurrence and that it was surprising it took 5 cycles for it to happen to me. I remember thinking "but I'm an exceptional patient so why isn't my body cooperating?" (for those who are thinking that is awfully conceited of me to think/say, I want you to know it's a reference to a specific patient type described by Bernie Siegel in Love, Medicine and Miracles). I guess it's true that I'm an over achiever haha. Many times I hear from friends, family, colleagues, strangers even, that they don't know how I'm managing this while caring for a toddler and have a spouse that is away more than he's home due to his job, and working (albeit part time temporarily) - all while on a very aggressive chemo regimen. When I hear that I immediately think to myself "what choice do I have?". I suppose I really do have a choice - I could do what I've been doing which is look on the bright side, make every day/hour/minute count and do my very best to not let the situation negatively impact my life and that of my family's, or I could let the negative thoughts and feelings take over my mind and my body, allowing it an opportunity to manifest itself in many more side effects, keeping me feeling awful all the time, taking out my fear and frustration on those around me, etc. To me, that's not much of a choice - that last option just isn't an option for me since that is not who I am. When this cycle (8A) nearly brought me to my knees with the nausea, exhaustion, shortness of breath, burning belly and related digestive issues, and all over body aches and pain, I did my best to ignore it but it wasn't wanting to be ignored, unfortunately. I kept my commitments and I kept the anti-nausea meds close by at all times. I took extra naps whenever the opportunity arose, and I forced myself to eat even when I felt like I could skip food for a week. I was so glad I'd done the majority of my holiday baking and gift gathering and packaging before receiving this cycle because I doubt I would have gotten it done otherwise. The worst days were this past Thursday and Friday (days 3-4). Everything I did felt challenging, particularly because of the shortness of breath from the anemia - I was completely exhausted all the time. I didn't go out unless it was necessary or I had an appointment or support group scheduled. When home, I stayed off my feet, forced myself to eat and rest, and sought out distractions for times when I couldn't sleep to keep my mind off of how I was feeling. I had trouble drinking water and found myself giving in and drinking more ginger ale and fruit juice dilluted with water. I still felt crummy on Saturday but I was very happily distracted spending the day and evening with my "little sister" and her older sister who I took out for a day (had a sitter take Cooper for the day) and had the girls spend the night for a girls' night of homemade organic pizza, movies, and baking cookies :). Then Bob came home on Sunday and everything seemed/felt better by that point. I feel fairly confident describing those days as being the worst of my entire chemo regimen since this is my final cycle and Part B has always been easier to take than Part A - now let's hope and pray that continues to be true as I finish out this cycle tomorrow with my FINAL CHEMO INFUSION! =). However, Dr.B did warn me that the anemia could complicate things tomorrow if my red blood cell count dips down to an 8 (I was at 9 last week - he said my "normal" was trending 12-13 based on my numbers at the start of chemo) at which point a blood transfusion would be likely. I've been eating some spinach the past couple of days in hopes that it would help out here but we won't know until tomorrow when I arrive and they draw blood. I praise God for carrying me through this challenge and opportunity. Yes, I did say "opportunity", as crazy as that may sound. Love, Julie


  1. Wow, I can't believe you are already to the final cycle. I pray that it does go better. And also that all of your numbers are good tomorrow so you can receive your infusion of liquid gold.

    You are truly proving a statement that I try so hard to hold onto when times get rough: If God brings us to it, He will bring us through it. Remember, He never hands us anything we can't handle without His help.

    Love you!

  2. Julie - you're amazing. Have you thought about becoming a counselor working with cancer patients after your experience?

    I always appreciate this quote by Victor Frankl -
    "...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way". Your post makes me think of that.

    Hang in there - we're all praying for you.

  3. Julie, this is such a difficult journey ... sending you strength and courage.