Chemo Round #3: Take 2
Last post I bemoaned Neutropenia (low white blood cell count) and the effect that it had on my chemo schedule. Yes, it was a bummer. But after a few days at my retreat spot I felt better. The following week, my numbers jumped from 1000 to a whopping 1400! Still below normal (3000), but enough to push forward with chemo. The concern is that with a diminished white blood cell count my immune system is less able to handle the toxicity of the chemo.
The first 2 rounds I bloated up 15 lbs over the 3 days of infusion (IV chemo), and then lost 20 lbs the next few days from – well, let’s just say… sickness. Not great on the system. Yes, I do fit in the skinny jeans now, but the dropping 20 lbs in that short time does not give me a picture post-worthy physique.
Because they were concerned about the dehydration as well, this time we decided to get IV fluids on the 4th and 5th day as well. My usual regimen is 3 days of infusion (IV chemo 6 hrs/day) of cisplatin and 5 nights of an oral chemo (Temodar). I’m at home on the coach days 4-5 after the 3 days of infusion, and haven’t been overjoyed at the possibility of going back in for fluids. BUT – it worked! I felt terrible for several days. Headaches, nausea. But only threw up 4 times – that’s a record low on a chemo week! Yahoo! I felt worse on days 5 & 6 than I had the other days, but I bounced back better the days following.
There are a few reasons for this I believe.
#1. I wore the “Breaking Bad” t-shirt my brother Tom brought for me. Feeling a little like Walter White ain’t so bad – “I’M the one who knocks!” (Yeah, that’s me in the infusion chair hooked up to an IV through my port – more on that later)
#2: They pulled back my dose and instead of having 3 full days of IV chemo, I had 2 days. More dose each day, but still less than the 3 full days would have.
#3: I just let it be. The first 2 rounds I tried vigorously to release the toxins before they could do too much damage: acupuncture, steam room, exercise, yoga… during chemo week. Well, I think that my body wasn’t able to handle the toxins being released WHILE they were still being given. I think that is part of the reason I got so terribly ill on days 4-5. The big realization was – make friends with chemo. The chemo drugs are my warriors right now. I have been so focused on the terrible side effects and possible side effects of chemo that I may have made myself worse trying to expel the toxins. This time round, I did – nothing. No acupuncture, no yoga, no exercise except a walk around the block once or twice. AND, the fluids. I did NOT get so violently ill. I felt like I had a low grade flu for days longer, but I didn’t experience the dramatic weight gain and loss. OK, it could also be because they cut the dose.
Either way, making friends with my chemo is my big lesson this round. Surrendering to it. Let it do it’s job. This too shall pass.
As a matter of fact, it did. The second week after Round 3 my numbers popped up to 2300 for the white blood cells (neutrophils, actually) and THAT is in the normal range! Something I hadn’t been for several weeks. This is what it feels like to finally feel good again – the sun burning through the clouds, evaporating the fog. Yes, there are still shadows, but – aren’t they beautiful!