Chemo Eve

So I admit I was overly cocky about the Novarel (HCG) shot. If you recall, I had said I would give the HCG shot to myself at “exactly 8 p.m.” on Saturday night. That didn’t quite happen. I had it prepped and all ready to go. I watched the how-to video several times, I even invited my friend (Pastor) Amy over for moral support. And I just couldn’t go through with it. At one point I had gone so far as to get the needle up to my skin, but since it was an intramusucal injection in my hiney as opposed to be subcutaneous (fatty) injections in my tummy that I was used to, the needle basically just bounced back. Despite watching the how-to video where it talks about using a fast “dart-like” motion, I was convinced I could just slowly put the needle in like I had done with my other shots. Knowing you have to inject yourself with a 1.5 inch needle and actually looking at it (and being in a very unnatural position while doing it) is all very different than watching the how-to video.

So Amy was a gem and started making phone calls to all the healthcare professionals she knew in the area. About an hour and a half later, she drove me to Florence (a town about 25 minutes away) to meet up with our friend, Jessica. Jessica is a nurse and was a friend from our former church in Copperas Cove in the Fort Hood-area. She basically had me drop trow in a church parking lot, while Amy stood guard, and was done in about two seconds. I could barely even feel it at all, but she was nice enough not to make me feel like a huge baby for not giving myself the injection. We were convinced we would get arrested for drug dealing or something, but luckily our late night church parking lot injection went unnoticed by the people of Florence.

I proceeded to freak out because at this point the shot was about 2 hours later than it was supposed to be, but I was convinced by the on-call nurses and my friend, Victoria, that it would be fine and wouldn’t affect the egg retrieval on Monday, and luckily it did not. All in all, the egg retrieval went pretty well. We had to be in day surgery by 6:30 a.m., so we opted to stay in Temple the night before so we didn’t have to worry about oversleeping, potentially hitting I-35 traffic, etc. I’m all about limiting stress as much as possible. Unfortunately TRICARE doesn’t reimburse travel unless its 100+ from your residence and the Temple hospital is only 48 miles away, but c’est la vie. I won’t complain since TRICARE covers so much compared to other insurances.

Thanks to everyone’s comments, I was very vocal about having adhesive allergies and they gave me paper tape this time instead of the regular bandages. I didn’t have any issues from the bandages this time, thankfully. They did, unfortunately, stick the IV in my hand. However, since I was very vocal about my distaste for hand IVs, the nurse numbed be up really well beforehand. So other than the initial shot, it wasn’t too bad. I’m learning that being vocal pays off!

They doped me up for this procedure more than any other. From the initial shot in the IV, I started feeling dizzy. I remember them wheeling me into the operating room and chatting with the nurses. I remember that one of them told me she was pregnant with twins, so I shared my story about the psychic and gave her baby name suggestions (Aidan spelled backwards is Nadia if anyone is interested). I remember moving off the gurney to the operating table and after that I was completely out. I woke up in the recovery room seemingly seconds later. After waking up, I continued to lose time quite a bit. I kept thinking I had gone back to sleep, and Rene would tell me that no, I was just talking to him 30 seconds before that. It was pretty humorous. The doctor came in a little while after the procedure and told me they had gotten 17 eggs! That I definitely remember.

On Tuesday, the embryologist called to tell me we had 7 embryos. Today we had 9, so that was very exciting news! According to the embryologist they were “tarty for the party!” It’s very likely we’ll lose a few over the next couple of days but that’s definitely a good number to start off with. Much more than we had hoped or dreamed we would have.

The recovery hasn’t been too bad. I was a nauseated the first day, but that was might have been my fault since I was overly confident in the anti-nausea medicine and decided to eat left over Chinese food. Again, I’m still learning. Now that we can cross IVF off our to-do list, I went to the dentist for my 6 month check up. Unfortunately you can’t have dental work done while you’re on chemo due to infection risk, so I wanted to get a good cleaning in beforehand. I also met with my oncologist to touch base yesterday. My chemo starts on Thursday and I think both Rene and I benefited from having a talk with her. Since we’d been so consumed with IVF, I hadn’t seen her since my bone marrow biopsy more than 2 weeks before, and Rene had never met her.

One of the most frustrating things about chemo is that I have to give up all raw foods, including fruits and vegetables. I can still have them canned, frozen, or cooked, but the risk for bacterial infection is too high with raw. That also means I can’t have any sushi, which is basically an entire food group in our family’s diet. So as part of a pre-Chemo celebration, Rene took me to Chik-Fil-A yesterday so I could enjoy my usual grilled chicken sandwich complete with lettuce and tomato one last time before chemo. We then went to Walmart to stock up on some chemo friendly snacks. That proved a bit too ambitious for me, and I got pretty cramped up on that trip, so I took it easy the rest of the evening and re-watched some of the episodes from True Blood last year to pump up for the new season.

Today, Rene went back to work and I mostly relaxed. One of my other favorite “meals” that I won’t be eating during chemo are the soft-taco supremes from Taco Bell, so I ventured out to get those at lunch. This also proved to be too ambitious, and from a combination of my recovery, the Texas heat and waiting too long to eat I got a bit dizzy and nauseous while I was out, and didn’t enjoy the meal as much as I wished.

While I was out, I also retrieved my prescriptions from the pharmacy. Luckily, I’ll be getting a numbing cream so I can prep the port area before chemo starts tomorrow. They also prescribed me a pain killer. While I’m on the chemo, I’ll be immuno-suppressed and they need to know about any kind of infection I might have, so I can’t take any Advil, Tylenol and basically any over the counter pain medication because they can mask fevers. They also gave me anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medicine to help assuaged some of the other chemo symptoms as well.

I get asked a lot about what kind of side effects I’ll have. I’m honestly not sure because chemo is different from person to person, session to session. The main things to watch out for are fatigue, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite, lethargy, light sensitivity, proneness to bruising and infection. I will probably lose some of my hair, if not all.

People always seem really fascinated and horrified with the hair loss aspect. Losing my hair is honestly the least of my worries. I just got in a multi-pack of turbans I ordered from Amazon, and they seem like they’ll get the job done if/when I lose my hair. Part of me is really not sad at all about the prospect since I’ll get a break from bad hair days and expensive haircuts for awhile! I’ll also potentially lose body hair which means I’m not plucking my eyebrows until further notice. Why put myself through such torture if I’m just going to lose them anyway? I’m still shaving my legs because, I mean, a girl has to have some standards. But honestly, hair loss is not something that bothers me a whole lot. Watch me freak out in a few weeks when it does happen, but right now I feel okay with it.

From extensive Googling I also found out that TRICARE will pay for one wig. I called my primary care manager and she’s going to figure out how to navigate that system to get that paid for, so I’ll keep you posted on how that process is works. Right now I’m planning just to wear the wig for special occasions and maybe to work, otherwise I’m going to turban it up or go au natural. As an Alias fan, I’ve always had a penchant for wigs anyway, so I might just stock up on some cheap costume ones with bizarro colors just for funsies.

I’m the one in the bright red wig dressed up as Sydney Bristow from Alias in this Halloween 2005 photo.

I also learned from Victoria that I qualify for a temporary disability tag, so my PCM is also helping me out with that process as well. Apparently it has to go through the tax office and not DPS or the DMV, who knew? Victoria also told me about this amazing program called Cleaning for a Reason, where maid services volunteer to clean chemo patients houses for once a month for free. I’ve already been approved and have my first session coming up in mid-June. I’m super ecstatic about this, and my house, pets and husband will also benefit greatly!

The actual chemo process starts tomorrow morning. So Rene is taking me out tonight for sushi for a “chemo eve” date, and then we’ll be in the hospital for more than four hours tomorrow while I receive treatment. I’ll keep you posted on how that process goes!

Edit: I also can’t have fresh flowers due to chemo. Quite a few of you have been amazing and have ordered some for me the past few weeks. Starting now, I won’t be able to have them in the house. If for some reason you’ve already ordered some for me, don’t worry, I’ll have Rene get them to a nursing home or some other deserving purpose.


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