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 doctors expected this to happen, but I didn’t expect it to happen so early on in treatment.
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!
How is it possible that you look so beautiful despite everything? I am truly in awe!
Making friends with Chemo, such a wise move and realizing that the poison has to be there to kill cancer! Eve Ensler had a similar epiphany as she describes it in her book IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD. Here’s a quote. It’s a message she got from her dear friend and former therapist… ” Ride the Lion with all the strength and love you have found in your new community. Though this anguish is very lonely, there is a new infant being born… The life force within you is being released. Kali is being purged from your cells, so that your cells run clear of cancer… Washed clean, you are finding your original goodness.”
Oh, Suzan! I don’t think beautiful describes how I look right now! But, I’ll take it! I do have a life-force that feels reborn. It is being tested at every turn, but I’m believing in its power to survive. Thank you!
YOU are the one who knocks, you know it! I love that you found a way to mention Walter White in your blog.
Well, you know I was a bit obsessed with Bryan Cranston for a while, so I’m using that for good.
Allison, so good to hear that things are looking up! Embrace that chemo and let it go to work for you!
Thank you, Kim! Enjoy your travels!
Allison: Thank you so much for the update. You are strong, brave, and insightful. I am sending you all of the best thoughts and wishes and prayers and karma and all good things that the universe has to offer — and that you deserve. Much love, Katy
PS — look for a package from me arriving in a few days. Some amazingly tacky things are enclosed!
Thanks, Katy! Tacky is the best antidote to sicky!
Yay for that t-shirt your brother sent you, which you wear with gorgeous attitude, my dear. Yay for those toxic chemicals that are going after the cancer with such power. But the biggest yay is for your grace, spirit and wisdom as you take this journey. Your decision to make way for the treatments, inviting them to do their job for you has clearly helped this round. So yay for better days than last time, too. I am thinking of you daily, Allison, and sending you much love.
Thank you so much, Carol! Yes, I think the t-shirt had something to do with it!
You Rock. So glad it went so much better and I was there to hold your hand. Love you so!!
Yes, you were, Roo! Thank YOU!
I know you choose Greece over chemo. And truly I’d rather you were in Greece. Anywhere, really rather than in that chair. And yet, there you are, sitting there in your badass t-shirt, figuring out how to lean in to rather than against this treatment. I’ve always been in awe of your ability to find humor and beauty in whatever situation you find yourself in. Hang in there, sweet friend. I am so glad that your doctors are being responsive, creative, and thoughtful — taking their lead from you, no doubt. And please tell me that last photo is from a while ago and you don’t STILL have snow on the ground?! xxoo