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Chemo – Round 2 Roundup

Okay, it may be a bit early to call this a “round-up,” but I couldn’t resist the alliteration. I really really need to get back to work on my book. Here’s the pattern that’s emerging with me and chemo:

Day 1: Get chemo. My spirits are good and I feel pretty normal.

Day 2: Go to hospital for Neulasta shot. Maybe do something while I’m out and about (This time I met my brother at the bookstore and we took a twins selfie.)

Twin baldies

Day 3: Get any shit done that needs doing in the morning because energy is going to be in short supply. This time I got my daughter off to school and then went grocery shopping. Then took a two hour nap. Then went to the marijuana store. Slept for another two hours. Cooked dinner. Passed out for the night.

Day 4. Nope. Just nope. Barely got my carcass out of bed. It was like this: Make Allison’s lunch. Lie down for five minutes. Help her pick out clothes and put toothpaste on her toothbrush. Lie down again. I barely got her little butt out the door before I was all done for the day. I got out of bed to use the bathroom and that’s it. For future reference, let’s just write off Day 4.

Day 5. Spent the first half of the day in bed, but emerged in the late afternoon for some social contact. I took a Percocet at bedtime and slept for a glorious 11 hours. It was so so so good. Did I mention glorious?

Day 6. Slept until 10am or so, but remained awake until bedtime!

Day 7. Actually got dressed and put on makeup. I’ve gotten out of the habit of giving a shit about makeup since I started working from home four years ago, but with my head all bald I feel like I have these huge alien eyes that are looking really sad and as if they are pleading with me in the mirror, maybe emitting some sort of plaintive alien sound like “bleep?” So I put stuff on the poor things. All the stuff: concealer, shadow, liner, mascara. I intended to drive up to the elementary school to take Allison her raincoat (weather app said 20% chance of precip and she’s only wearing her Darth Vader hoodie!), but by the time I was dressed I was feeling exhausted and short of breath. That may be the anemia talking, so I should probably take one of those goddamned iron pills Dr. Cap is so keen on.

WEEEEEEEEEEED

So, you’re probably wondering about that trip to the marijuana store, yeah? Here’s what: First of all, recreational pot is legal in Washington state, so I don’t need a prescription or anything. What I could have used is a little research though, because I got the totally wrong thing and the dude behind the counter was as derp as I am. What I purchased was a dropper bottle of marijuana “tincture” for putting under one’s tongue or adding to edibles. Since I’m massively barfy–much more so this time despite having two different meds for nausea (Zofran and Compazine)–I am not interested in edible anything. My thinking was: if these weed-drops make me feel like eating again I will scarf hella brownies no matter what’s in them.

full_spectrum_tinctureThe dosage for the drops was “approximately 10 drops.” The bottle contained four “servings” and cost 45 dollars. I put about 4 drops under my tongue and swallowed. I didn’t get a flavor because all the available varieties would give me heartburn. So it tasted like liquid weed. Then of course I read the instructions and it said to put the drops under your tongue and hold for 60 seconds before swallowing. So I did another 4 or 5 drops. Remember, we’re still in the recommended dose range of 9-10 drops, so don’t get all fluffy with me. Then I got tired and slept for a couple hours. When I woke up, I was stoned. I haven’t actually smoked pot since E3 2007, so I’m practically a newb again. Here’s me, stoned. Squinting and tired. Like my eyes would barely open. I cooked dinner with my eyes at half-mast and wolfed down two servings of pasta and a fudgsicle. And a piece of pie. Then I passed out. So, I’d say it cured my nausea, but it was not worth the squinty-stoner effect.

I’ve come to find out that the variety of weed I used was exactly the wrong thing. For nausea you want something high (hehe) in CBD not THC. But what am I–a weed chemist? I’m not sure I want to try again and will probably give the remainder of my drops to my mom so she can see if it helps her rheumatoid arthritis.

CANCER PERK: If you’re gonna get chemo, do it in the summer! My legs are as smooth as a baby’s ass with zero effort! Hooray for sundresses!

HAIR

The novelty of being bald has pretty much worn off, which is a pity because this is going to be the state of my head for quite a while. If my last chemo is in, say, August, I might start to see baby chick fluff in late September or October. I’m kind of used to being bald around the house, but I put on a hat when I go to the bus stop or when the pizza delivery guy comes to the door so I don’t shock anyone with my chrome dome. My mom came over yesterday to take Allison for a play date and while she’d seen photos of my head on Facebook, this was her first time seeing it in person and while she put on a brave face I could see her heart breaking just a little. I’d feel the same way if it was one of my kids. It’s one of the slides in a PowerPoint of horror that goes through every parent’s head: your kid sick, mangled, molested, missing, dead. That carousel of terrible eventualities that you can never erase.

The good news is that I wore that sassy purple wig on Day 2 and all the ladies at the hospital loved it. So did people at the bookstore. One woman crossed the store to tell me how much she loved the bright color.

STICKER SHOCK Each round of my chemotherapy medicine costs sixty-one thousand dollars!

CANTHER THUCTH

My youngest has been singing a series of songs with a common theme: she hates cancer and it sucks. Normally, I’d probably tell her not to say “sucks” but cancer can kiss my ass. She’s missing her two front teeth so her song is sung with an adorable lisp. Sample lyrics:

Toothless AllisonOh, canther you are the wortht thing in the world
and I hate you tho much.
You are a pieth of poop
and you thmell like thtink.

Now I’m tired again, so I’m going to stop. I’m confident that each day I will feel a little bit more energetic and a little less barfy and I’ll be able to enjoy (or at least make it through) the whirlwind of end-of-school-year events with my Kindergartner.

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Chemo – Week 3

I haven’t felt much like blogging, and I thought about apologizing for the delay, but you know what? Fuck it. Here are my words about what’s what.

The Nausea

I felt really good the last time I posted and I assumed that things would improve each day afterward. That wasn’t exactly how it worked. On about Day 8 post-chemo I started feeling really nauseous again. Like almost more than the Zofran could manage. This doesn’t really make sense to me. Wouldn’t you assume that whatever it is that makes me feel like yakking would lessen as time goes by? Shouldn’t I get less barfy each day until I don’t feel barfy at all? I pondered if this is normal or a complication. I pondered calling Dr. Cap for a different nausea drug. But in the end I just sucked it up. I keep my Zofran by my side at all times.

The Fatigue

I had good days and I had bad days. One day a walk to Allison’s school bus stop would leave me exhausted, and another I could do housework and make a trip to the grocery store and remain upright. I was flattened by a terrible migraine on Day 10. It was the worst I’ve ever had in my life and I actually barfed. I had migraines before the cancer, but I’m just going to go ahead and blame this on cancer too. Because fuck cancer.

The Gross Stuff

I’m learning a lot of things. Like, raspberries are actually acidic and can give you heartburn from hell. Now I look up everything before I eat it! Also, cancer did not give me a hallpass on lactose intolerance. Chocolate milkshakes, while delicious, still make my tummy hate me. Most of my reading of the chemo side-effects handouts lead me to believe that chemo generally shuts down your menstrual cycle. But, as I found out, it’s not the case with everyone. Some of my homies on the BC boards even had the chemo throw their ovaries into desperate last-ditch overdrive providing mega-periods. Fun fact: you can’t use tampons on chemo because bacteria/germs/low white count yada yada yada. So contemplate that: Periodzilla plus old school diaper-pad action plus the aforementioned shit-fountain. Basically that was Week 2.

Speaking of white count, mine is FABULOUS, thank you. It’s just as robust as before chemo so I get a gold star. Way to go, bone marrow! You rock!

The Hair

I was told by both Dr. Cap and the oncology social worker that my chemo drugs (Taxotere and Carboplatin) cause hair to fall out on Day 21. They were both specific. I read that hairloss is often presaged by a tingling feeling–or even pain similar to a sunburn–on the scalp. I felt no tingles, ergo, I thought I had another week before The Fall. Then, on Day 15 I took a shower and this happened when I rinsed the shampoo:

image

So I freaked out. I mean, I knew it was coming, but I thought I had a few more days. So I Googled “When to expect hair loss taxotere” And from that I found a discussion board and the consensus was Day 13-16 is when it begins. The next morning I woke up and gave a lock of hair an exploratory tug.

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Oh boy. Later that day we were at the party store getting supplies for Allison’s upcoming Astronaut birthday party and I picked up a couple costume wigs. Why not fancy legit wigs? Because my BC board girls say they’re goddamn itchy and hot and they suck balls. So, rather than get a two-hundred dollar thing that looks realistic, why not have some fun for those rare times I want to have hair and just rock hats (or skin) the rest of the time?

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The next day a shitload more hair came out and I knew my do’s days were numbered. So, as the social worker recommended back at the beginning of this, I let Allison cut my hair.

IMG_1835She had a great time doing it and pouted when I told her that was short enough for today. She now says that after cooking school she wants to go to hair-cutting school. (Why, Christa? Why does the girl having an astronaut birthday party not want to be an astronaut? Well, because she’s terrified she will go to “out of space” and fall into a “space hole” which she learned about on Cosmos. Way to crush a dream, Neil Degrasse Tyson!)

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You know what? I think she did a great job! So now I have less hair (but still a lot of hair!) and my next round of chemo is this coming Tuesday and I feel much more confident about what to expect.

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