We wake up. Bah! It’s the Monday of Trish’s first chemo week. Our pleasant dreams of the fun weekend dissolve away. It’s pouring rain outside, with a few thunderclaps. Our neighbor kindly agrees to drive Lily to the bus stop in the rain. Emma was excited to be a big sister and walk her the 2 blocks, but not in a thunderstorm. That’s a lot ot to ask of the ten-year-old. (She did walk herself to school though, in the rain.)
Trish has difficult veins to find anyway. But she can’t have any needles in her left arm because they removed lymph nodes on that side the last time she had cancer. And her right arm broke years ago, leaving many of the veins collapsed. To top it off, she has severe needle phobia (trypanophobia) and will scream, cry and pass out if they can’t find the vein quickly enough. In fact, she’s here in the medical center to get a needle port that stays under her skin for easy needle access because she wouldn’t survive the regular injections from chemo.
The nurse, a nice guy, begins to slap and poke at her skin. He knows she’s nervous and takes a confident stab at the elbow. He tries again there and fails, but with a sincere apology. He looks rattled now. Eying her wrist, he sticks twice more before he calls the hospital specialist. Trish is clenched in a ball, weeping in my arms, and shaking with fright. The specialist also fails twice before acknowledging defeat. The six needles have Trish in a hyperventilating panic.
After 20 minutes of shaking and tears, the Dr orders a super-size Valium. (Seriously, I have never seen one that big.) Trish relaxes a bit and they form an alternative plan to use ultrasound to find a vein in her upper arm. Trish is wheeled off, fairly sedate, behind the closed doors of the operating room. An hour later, she’s eating a tuna fish sandwich that she claims is the finest thing she’s ever eaten. The ride home is smooth, and Trish passes out on the couch cradling the incision.
The first Chemo treatment.
The point of Chemotherapy is to kill cells as they divide. The logic is that malignant cancerous cells are dividing rapidly and are vulnerable to this type of poision. Of course, cells in your mouth, intestines, skin and hair also divide rapidly. They too are vulnerable, making the common side effects hair loss, consipation or diarreah, mouth sores, things taste terrible and general fatigue. Trish is having neoadjuvant TAC, which is a combo of three drugs (Taxotere, Adryamicin, and Cyclophosphamide) given before surgery to help shrink the tumor.
Trish drinks her last cup of coffee for the week on the way to the Chemo place. Chemo makes everything taste horrible, and she won’t want coffee again for a while. The nurse is pleasant, and reviews the bad news she had called us about yesterday. They were unable to get us into the special chemo program that would have used a somewhat better cocktail of drugs. The week before we were told it was a sure thing, but Trish was excluded because of a few technicalities. Bummer.
Trish is bouncy Tuesday night, playing video games with the boys and joking around. Even Wednesday, she seems fine, until late evening when the nausea comes on. her mouth begins to taste metallic. The cancer site in her breast burns and tingles. She has trouble with constipation, gas and heartburn.
Chemo recovery is slow
During chemo week, she takes over 20 pills a day. Most of them are over-the-counter things to combat the side-effects of the treatment. But some, like ativan, are hardcore, mind-altering drugs. She’s always drowsy, and dozes a lot. She doesn’t remember much. (We had to watch an episode of ’24’ twice because she didn’t remember it at all.) The routine for the next few days is take the drugs, try to find something she will eat, put on a movie and hope she passes out. Rinse and repeat all day long.
By Saturday, she’s exhausted from the constant nausea and bursts into tears with frustration. It’s not just the nausea itself, but the uncertainty about when it will end. We really hadn’t expected it to be this bad. I call the baby sitter and cancel. We’re not going anywere tonight. I make her a baked potato that she says is the best thing she’s ever eaten. In recovery one focuses on the smallest of things for comfort.
Sunday brings a little relief. The nausea dissipates somewhat. We have plans to go to a rock show, a band we like called Local H at the Rock and Roll Hotel. I’m excited to go, but nervous because neither of us are confident she can handle it. We make a last minute decision to skip the show, grab a simple meal at the local diner and go see Iron Man 2. It doesn’t matter that the movie and food were meh, she’s out of the house for the first time in five days. It feels like a victory.
Happy cancer! The next five surprises.
If you read last weeks post, you know my goal is to spoil Trish so well that she wants to have cancer again next summer. Against the harsh side-effects of the chemo, I don’t think I was very persuasive this week, but not for lack of trying. Here are 6-10 of her 101 summer surprises.
6) Rock and Roll heels: These are trend-tastic heels from Rock and Republic. Chains on heels, and 80’s hair-metal fashion, is coming back hard. But, no matter how trendy, it still takes a tough chick to wear these bad-girls. Amazingly, I got some matching, one-of-a-kind, chain earrings too. Nice, right? I hope she sports them at her next chemo appointment. The nurses will adore her.
7) A massage every week: We were told by one masseuse that massage stimulates the lymphatic system and can spread the cancer further. So Trish missed out on the first week of massages until we checked with the Doctor. (The Dr. laughed at us.) We have a sweet massage therapist ( Leslie Sapp) right down the street, but she will have some special ones too.
8) Alexander Wang Donna hobo: Trish is a one-purse girl. She just can’t be bothered to move her stuff between purses as often as she changes outfits. The last one, a cheap purple one, wasn’t my favorite. So I fixed that and bought the current purse favorite of pop diva’s like Fergie, Riahnna and Christina Aguilerra. It’s got incredibly soft leather and can be trashy or classy.
9) Nexus One Google phone: Neither of us like Apple products very much. So we’ve been using wanna-be phones for the past few years. Until now. The Google phone is awesome and Trish loves it, which is amazing. Because she hates mobile phones. The music features are great and she has 16 GB of rock anytime she wants, plus Pandora and Rhapsody for even the longest of chemo treatments.
10) Subscriptions to US, People and entertainment weekly: One of the medical offices had magazines so old that the women were laughing with each other. Funny, I guess. But what message does it send when the cancer place doesn’t think you are worth a recent issue of US weekly? If you’re going to survive cancer, you need to know what happens to Heidi Montag, right? Well Trish is going to survive, so we get the important news delivered to her door, ready to grab when ever we go to an appointment.