One Week Post-Chemo

One week post-chemo!

"They" say that's one of the toughest weeks. The one right after chemo, especially your first round. It's a week of figuring out how your body will respond after the infusions, and it's different for every person.

In fact, because the infusion can have such a wide variety of side effects on your body, the standard protocol is go day by day "day 1, day 2, day 3, etc." 

At the end of my first infusion with my nurse, Jennifer.

At the end of my first infusion with my nurse, Jennifer.

I'd argue that hour by hour would be more realistic, but no one has time to count hours and symptoms. 

My Chemo Cocktail

Fun fact: Chemo is given one infusion at a time. I had envisioned a massive IV bag that slow-dripped all day long, but it's actually a series of infusions that go back-to-back rather than simultaneously. Ergo, there's no actual "cocktail."

Also something I recently learned: chemo infusion plans are different based on the patient and the cancer. Not all chemo is the same! 

My regime: 

Taxotere and Carboplatin focus on the actual cancer cells, while Herceptin and Perjeta knock-out the HER2 receptors (which qualify the cancer as "aggressive").

Most women with my diagnosis just refer to this as TCHP. It's a standard treatment for IDC with HER2+.

After my chemo is complete, my nurse applies a Nuelasta box to my stomach or arm. This self-timed device will then give me an additional medication to increase my white blood cell count 27 hours after I've left the hospital.

If you click on each of these links, the side effects are basically endless. Everything from nausea to hair failing out to finger nails falling off (yes, that one caught me off guard). 

 
Because Taxotere can cause neuropathy in the hands and feet, I ice my hands and feet during the one hour infusion. Case studies have shown that ice helps prevent the full effects of chemo in the hands and feet, so hopefully I won't have to deal with neuropathy!

Because Taxotere can cause neuropathy in the hands and feet, I ice my hands and feet during the one hour infusion. Case studies have shown that ice helps prevent the full effects of chemo in the hands and feet, so hopefully I won't have to deal with neuropathy!

 

How I've Fared

I'm given Dexamethasone (a steroid) the day before, the day of, and the day after my infusion to help with things like nausea. Unfortunately, it also causes insomnia, which I did find was an issue for me throughout the first week. My body would "rest," as in lay on the couch, but I couldn't fall asleep. Fortunately, I'm also given Ativan to help me sleep during these periods. It works!

Day 1 through Day 3 seemed relatively normal. On Day 3, because the steroid was still active, Carl and I even made it out to the YMCA for a solid 45 minute work-out!

Day 4 changed it all. 

On Day 4, a Sunday, I woke up feeling groggy, but mostly assumed it was the Ativan (it wasn't). Our family went to church, and as Carl was driving, I remember thinking to myself "Wow. I could not drive right now." My mind was slow. I couldn't focus. I felt overly medicated. Being around people that morning was also a blur - I apologize to anyone who thought I was a little loopy. In fairness, I was. All normal side effects to the infusion. 

We also had Halle's first birthday celebration on Day 4. Fortunately, it was just a group of family, and I had to do very little to make it happen. I don't think the pictures pick up on my tiredness, so Halle will never know the difference!

Halle's first birthday party - can you tell I had two naps prior to the party to gain a little energy back?

Halle's first birthday party - can you tell I had two naps prior to the party to gain a little energy back?

Day 5 through Day 7 felt like I was pregnant again. Not the "oh I'm so happy there's a baby in my belly" pregnant, but the "oh my gosh my body literally hates me right now and there's nothing I can do to make it happy" part of the first trimester. Fortunately, the nausea meds I've been prescribed work well for me.

However, like pregnancy, chemo nausea can be curbed by eating. An oncology nutritionist recommended that I try to eat 15-20g of protein with each small meal throughout the day. Any by throughout the day, my body needs something every three hours or so. Peanut butter continues to hold true as my go-to best friend (just like it did during my pregnancies), and I learned that cold tastes much better than hot.

I've been drinking more water than EVER, and, for those of you that know me, that's a lot of water. During each pregnancy, I drank at least 120oz. of water per day. Over the past week, I'm easily over 150oz. per day. It's like I can't drink enough.

While nausea is the pits, the most frustrating symptom has been the changes in my mouth.

Starting on Day 4, it's felt like I burned my mouth and, thus, my tastebuds are flat. I can hardly taste food at all. AND IT MAKES ME SO SAD!

Additionally, my tongue feels rough (yes, like a cat), and I have to use a dry mouth rinse to make sure I get all the food particles out. I find that with a dry mouth I tend to get more food and things stuck in my teeth, but the chemo makes my gums more sensitive so I can't brush more frequently. Thus, Biotene to the rescue. 

On Day 8 I finally had energy and an appetite so Elin and I went to  Two Roosters  for an after-school treat!

On Day 8 I finally had energy and an appetite so Elin and I went to Two Roosters for an after-school treat!

However, on Day 7, I had my first real food craving since the chemo, and on Day 8 I ate like a normal personal all day! Well...I did crave chicken tetrazzini with peas and corn for breakfast, but that's normal, right? And, yes, I had a delicious breakfast filled with all of it. Perhaps that's the secret to a good Day 8...

On Day 8 we even got the family out to dinner at a friend's house. I had prepped the hostess that I might not eat what she made (and bring one of my wacky this-is-all-I-can-stomach-right-now foods), but, thankfully, when we got there I was hungry and her food hit the spot.

Day 9 and feeling fine?

We'll see what today brings. I'm optimistic that I'm moving into that period of "normal" that everyone tells me I'll experience prior to the next treatment. If anything, I'm thankful for the glimpses of normal that I've seen over the past two days!

As far as my level of fatigue, it ebbs and flows. I tried going to the office on Day 6, but only stayed a few hours before a wave of tired fell on me. 

One of the hardest things in life for me is to slow down, but I suppose we all have to learn lessons in our own way. And, yes, I'm learning that now.

what's next

I still have my hair, and I haven't noticed it shedding any more than usual. People have told me to expect the shedding to start between Day 7 and Day 10, so I'm looking for it.

Since it makes me a bit anxious just to think about my hair as a ticking time-bomb, and I have zero interest in pulling clumps of hair out of my head, I'll be shaving my head on Tuesday. 

In the words of T-Swift, ARE YOU READY FOR IT?