A Real Look At Chemo

It’s 3:45am and I have to get up at 8am and I haven’t slept. This is my third or fourth night of insomnia (starting to lose track) due most likely to the more scary of the anti-nausea drugs that I’m on. I can’t stop taking the drug because one of it’s more scary attributes is the very stern “take this exactly as prescribed, don’t stop early, blah blah blah.” I unfortunately fucked up and forgot to take it until almost 10pm (I usually try to take it around 5 so I can try and sleep) so I’m pretty screwed. Luckily I just have one more dose before I start this rodeo again next week.

So some of you may have noticed that I disappeared for a while after chemo, this unfortunately was not because I was cruising through the after effects and too busy to keep in touch. Chemo is in fact the worst thing that has ever happened to me. And I’m just getting started.

After I left my infusion (that’s the fancy way we refer to getting poison put directly in our veins) I went home feeling ok. I had dinner, was hanging out with my Mom and watching season 1 of the Kardashians on Netflix and laughing about how big Kim’s eyebrows used to be, when all of a sudden things went downhill fast.

By 7:30pm I had terrible nausea. I will state that I have not thrown up, but a lot of that is due to the fact that I have a very strong suspicion that it wouldn’t bring any relief. I was also coming off my port surgery and not that far away from my original big surgery that involved my abdomen, so having a very tender neck and abdomen added to my suspicion that throwing up would bring more misery. Plus I was inspired by Ted’s “Vomit Free Since ’93” on How I Met Your Mother, although my own track record is far less impressive.

When I called the hospital the next day to tell them about my predicament they told me they hadn’t planned on calling me until the next day because of all of the anti-nausea stuff they’d doped me up on when I got the chemo. They figured I’d have another day before I’d start feeling bad. Lucky me, I am not on the positive side of this particular statistic. I even emailed a friend of a friend who had the same cancer and chemo as me and she told me she didn’t really have many issues with nausea, so no helpful advice. Special, unique snowflake indeed.

I ended up on three anti-nausea medications to make it slightly less unbearable, but still pretty steady at unbearable for about four days. One of them was actually an anxiety med I already had, makes a lot of sense really that it’s an anti-nausea as well, but adds to the picture of me laying in bed, miserable, and very doped up. The most horrifying aspect to this was that I had no idea how long I’d feel like this and I have 7 more treatments to go. When I left chemo I was cheerful about counting down, laying in bed with the after effects and knowing I had that many to go was terrifying.

I lost around 14lbs in about 5 days from lack of eating, moving, and drinking. My medical goal is to always have a little something in my stomach because it helps with the nausea and to stay hydrated to flush out the chemo poisons as soon as I can. This is very difficult when you feel as bad as I did, usually I could eat a saltine or maybe a couple of bites of a banana and that would be it. For those that don’t know me well, I’m a foodie. I love food. It was a very strange feeling to be so completely horrified by food for so long. A. was a champion. He made me chicken noodle soup from scratch, various teas, very dry scrambled eggs (apparently something I want now), and anything else he could think of to try and get some food and drink in me.

Another psychological game going on through this is that my port surgery area was still supposed to stay dry which is tough when it’s on your neck. I have plastic bandages I could use, but I couldn’t handle the idea of removing the sticky parts from my neck afterwards because I knew it would hurt and I couldn’t take anymore. So I didn’t bathe for 3-4 days. I finally felt up for a very shallow bath and A. washing my hair because I was starting to smell like a thru-hiker. I stuck with this method until my week was up and I could take a shower without concern of getting the steri strips wet. This is an example of one of Cancer’s toughest aspects: reaching your limit. I reached my limit on pain/being uncomfortable in post surgery, but chemo took it to another level. Emotionally and stress wise I’m pretty much at that level too. Cancer humbles you because it is the truest lesson I’ve ever faced on what I can really handle.

But anyways, yes chemo sucks and I’m not having an easy time with side effects. The good news is that Saturday I started eating, but it was weird. I’d mentally think about good food, but physically wouldn’t have any desire to eat. It took until yesterday (Tuesday) for me to think about food and physically feel hungry. I celebrated by eating 1.5 slices of pizza. It was glorious. Today I cheated an ate cooked sushi (sushi is a no-no due to my immune system getting poisoned by chem0) and some fried wontons from A.’s chinese dinner. Tomorrow I’m getting back on the wagon as a good little chemo patient though and eating right. Mainly no sugar and low fat because apparently triple negative cancer enjoys the good things in life just like me. I was dreaming about an ice cream sunday last night. Luckily A. is an amazing cook so even when I can’t eat everything I want, I still eat well. I’ve been comforting myself with some delicious red beans and rice.

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