Okay, so... I'm one week into the second round. And here's what I have to say about it...
I DON'T LOVE IT.
It's been different than round one. The smaller doses have, I think, changed how some of the side effects have hit me. One of the sort of bummers is that I'm awake more than I was in the first week of round one, which makes me (painfully) aware of how crappy I feel. (My guess is that I felt this crappy last time, too. Only, I couldn't stay awake last time to really have any awareness of what was going on inside or around me.)
Today has been a day that I can hardly get out of bed. I'm not tired in my blood (at least, I don't think so... we'll find out next Monday), but I am flat out tired. And my throat hurts. And my head hurts. And I slept funny last night and somehow pulled a muscle in my neck that hurts every time I open my mouth to take a bite of my PB&J. (Waaaa, waaaa, waaaa.)
Today, I'm just really grateful that I have a bed that I love, and access to Hulu and Netflix in the same room as said bed.
Here are the side effects I'm currently dealing with:
The Return of the Mouth Sores
So far, it just hurts a little to swallow... I'm hoping to keep them at this point in development, so they don't get worse and spread through my entire mouth and/or down my throat this time. I can handle a little twinge when I swallow, but I live in fear of the stabbing pain that would literally make me cry when I'd have to force down food. Having mouth sores that render you unable to articulate well enough to carry on a conversation is sad enough, but when a girl has to cry her way through a bowl of chicken noodle soup, it's too much.
My Weirdie Skin
Remember the pic of my toes? I swear, it's just gotten worse. My entire body is covered with a film of what looks like dead skin cells that have flaked off and just need to be brushed/blown away. Uh, false. These dead skin cells aren't going anywhere. They seem to be stuck to me by a flat, clear, glue. (Basically, what I'm telling you is that my skin looks like I'm a leper and am shedding cells by the thousands. But when you touch my skin, it feels like waxed paper. Like there's some sticky substance between my actual skin and the skin cells ALL OVER MY BODY that aren't sloughing off.) I feel like I've been caught in a fly tape. It's revolting. And it's everywhere. Crusties in my eyes. Weirdness in my ears that 1,001 (or at least 7 actual) Q-tips can't get out. Whiteheads all over the tip of my nose that aren't actually whiteheads at all, but are skin cells that are just hanging on for dear life. Baaaaaah!
And I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that all chemo patients get nausea. And I'm sure that's true. But the nausea this round is something else compared to what I had going on in the first round. In the first round, as long as I stayed medicated, I was good. I didn't puke, and I didn't feel like I was gonna. ... Not so much this time around. I live with a weird baseline of nausea these days. And it varies. Sometimes I have to stop to think about it, and then WHAM!, yep, I want to puke. Other times I have to sit completely and perfectly still and try not to even take deep breaths, because the nausea is lying in wait and all I need to do is move and I'll almost lose it. (And this is medicated. On the same dosage as last time. It's surreal!)
The Return of the Bones Aching
I had about four days reprieve there (when I was in the hospital, and one day after) where my spine didn't feel like it was going to pop right out of my body and go find itself a new owner. (Those four days were good days, btw.) So, here's what makes the bones ache... The day after chemo ends, they give me a shot of Neulasta, which stimulates the bone marrow and helps the body start to generate white blood cells. Sounds like a great idea, right? And it is... but it has a wicked side effect of making your bones HURT. Last time around, my spine started to hurt in week one, and by the end of week two, the pain in my hips and pelvis made it almost impossible to sit still. So far, it's just my spine and my shoulder blades, but oooooh myyyyy wooooord. The pain. It's indescribable. (The good news? It helps if I sit still. Which also helps with the nausea. So, that's a double win. ... Just call me Pollyanna.)
You heard me. Con-sti-pa-tion. On chemo. (It usually makes people's bowels run in the other direction. But not my special bowels. I swear, they live and breathe just to complicate my life and make me miserable.) And, I'm sorry to say, this is probably the worst bout I've ever had. (And, not to make anyone gag, but... that's saying something.) Usually, I get constipated post-op and I know it's a combination of the pain pills and the process of healing from surgery and I can dole out the stool softeners and laxatives in a way that will offset what I know is happening inside my body. Enter Chemo and its special kind of nastiness, AND I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA WHAT IT HAS DONE TO ME, SO I'M JUST GUESSING AT TRYING TO REGULATE MY $&@#! SYSTEM. This entire week has been a misery. (Who's kidding who? In retrospect, last week was, too. It just wasn't this bad.) I was managing that end of my life... until I went in for round two, and whatever they pumped into me just wrecked any sort of system I'd had.
The Emotional Rollercoaster
Okay, fine... I get it. I'm tired and I don't feel great. Because I have cancer, and I'm going through chemotherapy treatments. I have, pretty much, the best excuse in the whole, wide, world. But still. You'd think I could get through at least one conversation a day without bursting into tears. I've been a Class A Crybaby since Monday. And I cannot stop. Sometimes I can predict a topic that'll make me burst into flames, but for the most part, I'll be going along, minding my own business, having a benign conversation about Harry Potter or Easter Eggs, and then WHAM! Water works. It's insane. And exhausting. I swear, we (and yeah, that was the "royal we") go through more tissues than our fair share. (But the good news is Judy's here and she buys the good ones with lotion, so my ugly white-head-y nose isn't also red and swollen and chafey.)
I mean, I'm fine. Things could be worse. (Hi. They have been worse!) And I know it. I'm super grateful for all the pre-meds and post-meds that chase my chemo bags, because I know they make my life easier than it would be without them. I'm grateful for all the OTC and prescription meds that help me keep my nausea and anxiety in check. I'm grateful for so very many drugs that allow me to manage symptoms, and my heart goes out to all the cancer patients who went before me who didn't have the blessings of chemically-enhanced living with chemo.
This is NOT easy, and it is NOT fun. But it is something that I have to do, and I know there are friends and family out there who read this blog who want to know about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not that there's much "good" in my current state of affairs, but I do what I can to find the humor ("cheep, cheep, cheep", anyone?), but then there are the days that I feel like it's important to document the ugly, too. So, today I did. Thanks for reading. And for caring. And for all the love and support and prayers that I feel coming at me constantly. I'd say that "I love ya more than my luggage", but that feels like a Pioneer Woman rip-off. (Oh, and I paid $30 at Target for my carry on. Like, 5 years ago. And refuse to replace it, even though it's literally coming apart at the seams. .... So, not much love there.) You'll just have to settle for thanks, and I love you. More than I can say.