Our “chemo eve” date went very well. Maybe it was just the knowledge that it was my last sushi for awhile, but the sushi that night was some of the best we ever had and I enjoyed every, mouthwatering bite. *Sigh*. However, I’ll try not to dwell too much on the “what I can’t have’s” during chemo. My oncology nurse made a good point that chemo tends to ruin foods for patients, so its better to avoid your favorites anyway. This way sushi will be untainted by chemo memories.
My first ever chemo session took place on Thursday. I was very fortunate that Rene was able to take the day off work and he hung out with me and kept me company the whole time. We also got a visit from our “first” friend at church, Jennifer, complete with puzzles and cookies.
The experience really wasn’t too bad. The chair was super comfy and I got to partake in my favorite part of hospitals– the heated blankets. Other than an initial poke in the power port, I really couldn’t feel anything. I had planned to use the numbing ointment they had prescribed for the power port, but had issues getting the cap off and then Rene got a long phone call from the embryologist right as they were processing me. It was a comedy of errors. However, the nurse assured me that it would be fairly painless and it was. I might not even bother with the numbing ointment next time.
The whole process took about 5 hours. It will normally be a little shorter around 4 hours, but they had to do some testers to make sure I didn’t have any major reactions. Again, I have plenty of good company and entertainment (and there’s worse things than sitting around in a comfy chair.) I’m taking a form of chemo called ABVD, which is short for Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine. If you’re really interested you can look up how they work. Essentially they work together to kill rapid, new cell growth. ABVD is the standard treatment for Hodgkin’s, and assuming it works out well, it’s the only chemo I should have to have. I’ll have six sessions, every other week, over the course of three months followed by a month of radiation.
I took a photo of the Adriamycin since it’s red and looks a bit like Kool Aid. The others pretty much look like your standard clear IV liquids.
The day after each chemo session, I go back to the doctor’s office to get a Neulasta shot, which helps boost my immune system. After my hormones shots due to egg harvesting, I was hoping to be done with shots for awhile but that was not the case. But at least I don’t have to administer them to myself, am I right?
The side effects all in all have not been as bad as I would have thought. However, they have predictably not been very predictable. Along with the ABVD, they also administer a steroid to help prevent nausea for three days. So I thought that I’d be okay in terms of nausea the first three days and then get sick around Sunday. It ended up being the opposite. I was sick the first two days after, and then started getting my sea legs back around Sunday. However, it wasn’t the constant nausea I had feared, but more like isolated incidents that seemed to pop out of nowhere. The downside to that is I couldn’t really identify a pattern or trigger, so I just tried to snack throughout the day on bland foods and keep up with my nausea medicine.The life and times, right? The most prevalent things I’ve noticed is difficulty concentrating and fatigue.
I hear conflicting things about what the expect from future rounds. Some say that it gets worse over time and that its cumulative. For a lot of young cancer patients it starts off worse and ends up better because our bodies are young and adjust to it fairly quick. At this point I’m just kind of playing it by ear and am avoiding pigeonholing myself into expectations.
One thing that did help cheer us up over the weekend was that we had four embryos successfully make it to the blastocyst stage. While it was disappointing to end up with four embryos after the initial 17 eggs, and 9 embryos, the embryologist explained that human reproduction is actually surprisingly frail. Often times embryos “get to page 37 of the mystery novel and a page is missing” and just don’t know how to progress past that point in development and dissolve. This happens to about half of embryos, even in natural pregnancy, which totally blew my mind. However, he said that four was a very good number and we’re very grateful. Also, the chances of viable pregnancies from embryos at this stage tend to be very high, so its definitely good news all and all.
Today I felt well enough to go back to work for about half a day. It was so nice to go to work and do something normal and routine. Unfortunately, I hit a wall around lunch time and had to leave early. However, my coworkers managed to give me an extremely thoughtful and generous card and gift before I left. It made me feel completely loved and humbled.
I’ve also had several people offer to donate hair for me, and a few even offered to shave their head “in solidarity.” Seriously, this is not necessary by any means! I hope one day that I’m able to return the generosity of spirit everyone has shown me during my trials. I’m still working with TRICARE to figure out how to get a wig, so once I figure that out I’ll pass on the info. I doubt a custom wig will be feasible, however, I really appreciate everyone’s willingness to donate their locks!
Team Laura never ceases to amaze me.