Cancercoma

When we moved from Russian Hill to the Mission, the thing I missed most was hearing the sound of fog horns. Only on rare occasion (read: really foggy days) do we hear the ships’ siren song down here.

This morning must be one of those exceptionally foggy days because I woke up to the delicious sound of fog horns. I love me a foggy SF morning!

I feel like the horns are calling out to me to get out of the cancercoma that I’ve been in the past few days. So here I am….

This week marked week 1 of my Taxol infusions. I’m happy to report that, so far, all is going well. We went into Garrett’s Tuesday morning. As usual, we went in an hour early so that I could get a massage prior to my infusion. For me, getting a good rub down relaxes me and puts me in the right state of mind to face the infusion. I highly recommend this if your onc offers integrative services.

Garrett explained that he would be giving me an IV bag of benadryl before chemo because some people have an allergic reaction to Taxol. He said that they would be dripping the IV very slowly and monitoring me closely.  If I had a reaction, they would take care of the symptoms and move me to Taxotere instead of Taxol. If I couldn’t tolerate Taxotere either, there was a third chemo drug they could move me to (I can’t recall the name of the third drug). He patiently explained the side effects we could expect with each of the three drugs. With Taxol, he said that I may experience peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of the hands and feet) and/or muscle pain. On a scale of 1-10, the pain would register around a 3 or 4. He likened it to working out really hard, and waking up sore the next day (ie. the day after your very first Bar Method class!). Other than that, I could expect general fatigue. He gave me a shot of B-12 to help counteract the muscle pain. In addition, Natalie (my nutritionist) told me to take my Glutamine powder twice a day on days 2-5 to help counteract neuropathy.

I told Garrett that I’d been fighting a killer headache for about a week or so, so he gave me two big IV bags of saline as well. I was amazed at how well they worked, and shocked at how dehydrated I had been. I thought I was doing a good job of drinking lots of water — guess not!

When they gave me the benadryl bag, it knocked me out almost immediately. I slept for hours (pretty much through the entire infusion)– it was heavenly. Paul later confessed that he wished they could give him some extra bags to take home with him to feed me when I get to be too much 🙂 lol

In any event, here I am at day 3 and no side effects so far. I’m still keeping up with PT twice a week. If there is one thing that I can stress to anybody out there who is about to go through this process, it’s to find a good PT. I am so grateful to Julie Wong and the work she and her team do for me. Julie really focuses on opening up my gut and getting my digestion and drainage working. She believes that opening up proper drainage helps your body to better navigate all the nastiness of post-surgical recovery and chemo.

I am so blessed to have such a great team working on my behalf. Between Garrett’s personal attention and integrative practice, Julie’s hands-on manual PT AND my amaze surgical team at PAMF, I am in really, really good hands!

Final tidbit for you all. My scalp has been really stubbly of late, so I sort of got it in my head that my hair might be starting to grow back after AC (I’ve met survivors whose hair has grown back during Taxol), but alas, it was only wishful thinking! I asked Julie about it at PT yesterday and she said that when my hair grows back post-chemo it will be like peach fuzz.  So if it’s still like a five o’clock shadow (which it is) it’s just that chemo hasn’t killed all my hair follicles just yet. That sounds about right to me because my nails are still growing too.  All I have to say is this damn medicine had best be doing it’s job. If I have to suffer through months of chemo — it better be killing any lingering cancer inside of me. I don’t need stubble or nails — just kill my cancer….

Attached is a cute pic of my niece and I the night of the Superbowl. I haven’t sported the bald look in front of her yet. Not sure how she’ll react just yet. So I suffer through my hot flashes with my head encased in fleece around her. At the onset of my diagnosis we sat her down and walked her through everything (diagnosis, surgery and chemo) — my brother led the conversation and eventually got to the point where he told her that I would have to take medicine that would cause my hair to fall out.  My heart broke watching her process all the information.  Her eyes got really, really big and she couldn’t really look at me.  She just looked at her dad and quietly asked “all of it?”

Through all of this, she’s been a trooper. As drugged up as I was post-surgery — when she came to to the hospital, basket of flowers clutched tightly in hand, I could tell she was really scared to see me with all the wires, monitors and acting dopey in general.  At our next few visits, hugs were a little less forthcoming! But, as you can see below, she is settling in well.  Perhaps it’s time to rip the bandaid off and show her my head. I think she’s ready!

Apologies that this post is sort of all over the place — but it’s my first after a self-proclaimed cancercoma, so please cut me some slack! Alright, I have to run, lots to do today. Ciao for now.

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2 thoughts on “Cancercoma

  1. You know, kids are much more resilient that we sometimes give them credit for. My nephew, who is I believe a little younger than your niece by the look of things, think my fuzzy head is quite cool. I have hair shorter than him now 🙂 I am sure she will handle it well and I have found that allowing people to touch my head (well friends, not random strangers of course!) have helped them. It is weird that it has been harder for them that it has for me. I can’t stand wearing a scarf myself but I still have some hair. Some people even thought this was a fashion statement on my part…funny. Good luck with it all. You are lucky not to have felt the side effects. I was on Taxotere (or Docetaxel) for 3 sessions and the first one was “OMG I have never felt pain like this before!!” for 3 days. Session 2 was less painful and session 3 was barely noticeable…I have switched medication now for my next 3 cycles and with session 1 just behind me, I have suffered the nausea for 3 days but nothing more than that…phew. Take care and keep on fighting!

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