Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 14 & Wrap-up

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

We made it! One more two-week cycle is finished and another is about to begin. This was my ninth chemo treatment and I have three more to go.

You may have noticed that I haven't been complaining about nasty side effects in the last few posts (toe dots don't count). That's because on these last few days of each cycle, I have no complaints. I live for these days, when I have energy and food has taste. Chemo cycles have the pleasant side effect of making you appreciate the good days. Every second Thursday, I live like a man who's parole is about to be revoked. I eat anything that catches my fancy, go out with friends, catch a movie, etc. We should all do this more often.

If you've learned anything from my posts, I hope you take away that there isn't one main downside to chemo; it's the summation of many small irritants that wears on you. More than this, though, I hope that you see, as I have, how much we take for granted when we're healthy. Every two weeks, I am reminded of both how wonderful life is when you have your health, and how awful it can be when you don't.

Thank you for reading through this little experiment. It was truly meant as a note to myself, so that I don't forget the lessons I have learned. I hate broadcasting that I have cancer and I am not looking for sympathy. This is one of the main reasons I loathe having lost my hair; it is the only outward sign of my malady. Were it not for the hair loss, I could suffer internally and not bring any undue attention to myself. But if my ailment must be made public, I am happy to use the attention it brings to inform people of what the millions of current and past cancer patients have suffered through on a daily basis.

Again, thank you for the generous outpouring of love and support. I'm off to have a wonderful dinner and enjoy the hell out of what remains of my Thursday. I hope you do the same!

Back to Day 13.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 13

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

I am writing today's post from my doctor's office waiting room. No, nothing has gone wrong. This is my biweekly, mid-treatment checkup.

Generally, these appointments are meant to make sure I am ready for the next round of chemo and address any concerns about the treatment plan and side effects. As of late, these have been very quick and painless appointments. I alternate between seeing my oncologist and the practice's nurse practitioner, having my vitals taken, heart and lungs listened to, and fatigue level assessed. In the first few weeks of my treatment, however, we made good use of these meetings, mostly trying to find nausea medications that worked.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 12

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

One worrying thought that I have had, but on which I try not to dwell, is how having cancer this early in life is an ill omen for developing another type of cancer later. It is well documented that people with Hodgkin's lymphoma have a two to three times greater chance of developing another cancer, compared to the general population. This is generally thought to be because of the mutagenic properties of certain chemo drugs and radiation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 11

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

After I was diagnosed and had returned to Ithaca for treatment, I met up with one of my academic advisers to discuss my plan for the semester. Most of our conversation, however, was actually spent on cancer. My adviser, it turns out, is a cancer survivor and Ithaca being the small town it is, it wasn't surprising then to find that we share the same oncologist.

At the time, I had only met my oncologist once or twice, so I was curious as to my adviser's opinion of him. She grimaced and prefaced her response by saying that he was very good and that she received great care from his office. That being said, she continued by trying to put into words her very subtle critique. Essentially, our doctor gives too much power to the patient regarding their own care. I was hesitant to call this a criticism at the time because I felt that some humility and cooperation between doctor and patient is always a good thing. I have since come to understand what my adviser meant.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 10

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

One amusing thing about the days I have my chemo treatments is seeing what new way we will manage to delay our departure. Don't get me wrong; I love the chemo nurses and we generally have a very favorable experience at the chemo suite, but I would be very happy never going back there again. So it's frustrating that about half of the time we go, we are stuck there for longer than is scheduled.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 9

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

For all the fuss it causes, cancer can have remarkably few symptoms. Though some forms such as acute leukemias and most brain cancers show signs in very early stages, most cancers can grow into enormous tumors and even metastasize before the person even notices that their own body has turned against them. Sure chemo and radiation can cause a whole slew of problems, but the cancer itself is a rather peaceful invader right up to the most advanced stages of the disease.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 8

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

The most well known symptom of chemo, perhaps behind hair loss, is fatigue. Chemo wipes you out and it only gets worse over the course of your treatment. Initially, my energy level would only be affected for the first few days after a treatment, but now it wanes throughout each two-week cycle.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 7

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

Let's start with a minor complaint for the day: acne. Without fail, a week into my two-week cycle I get a lovely breakout of acne. It's unavoidable and made annoyingly pronounced my starkly bald head. This brings us to the topic of hair loss.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 6

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

Today, I'm at the dentist! Yay?! Ok, not my favorite place, but one I frequent regularly. I had bad teeth before I had cancer and strangely enough, they're still bad. As much as I am loath to devote an entire post to dentistry, I have learned too much from my dental exploits this year to ignore them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 5

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

Unsurprisingly, Day 5 takes up where Day 4 left off: gradually decreasing nausea and a lingering bad taste in my mouth. As there is not much else to say about that, I will spend my post today writing about the port implant through which my chemo medications are infused.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 4

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

Day 4 is the turning point from the "weakend" back to normal life. No, that sounds too dramatic. It's more like the first point of a poorly executed 3-point turn back towards normal life. Any lingering nausea can be overcome at this point. I can brave the world again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 3

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

The first thing I do on Day 3 is take my meds. I have three anti-nausea medications that I take periodically throughout the first few days. It really is harder than it seems to remember to take something every six hours. I apologize to members of my family with greater medical problems and medication lists than I. It's still unacceptable to forget to take them, especially when they are for more than combatting nausea, but I understand how their constant intrusion into your daily plans can grow tiresome.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 2

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

One of the paradoxical side effects of chemo is sleeplessness over the first few nights, this before and even during the characteristic fatigue. After getting little sleep last night, I am exhausted and will probably have to take a nap to get through the day. Even if I could sleep, I can't sleep-in forever on Day 2 because I need to be at the hospital, usually by nine for a Neulasta® shot.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Weeks of Chemo: Day 1

This is part of an ongoing two-week series. For more info, see this introductory post.

Over the last few months, I have learned to dread many things that made me happy (e.g. Fridays, hospitals, food). Day 1 is the peak of my dread.

I wake up early so Jenni and I can be at the chemo suite by 8am. They do a lab panel on my blood to check if I am healthy enough for treatment. The finger prick usually leaves me with a bruise for a day or two. True, it's a minor inconvenience but as you will see, they add up quickly.

Two Weeks of Chemo: Introduction and Table of Contents

After more than four months of chemo therapy, I have become well acquainted with the highs and lows of this terrible treatment. Though these insights are crystal clear to me now, I know they won't always be. I have decided to document my experiences, so that I never forget. Specifically I will post a daily entry into this blog through one two-week cycle of chemo, starting today. Hopefully, I can use these memories as I enter the medical field to become and remain a more empathetic care provider.

Day 1 is posted here. It's a bit long, but Day 1 is my busiest day. I hope to have shorter posts as this fortnight progresses, perhaps covering one or two topics a day, ranging from symptoms to musings on cancer to hopes for the future. Comments and questions are welcome! Thanks for your support!

Day 1: Chemotherapy
Day 2: Neulasta shots and friends
Day 3: Meds, nausea, and helplessness
Day 4: Smell and taste
Day 5: Port implant
Day 6: Dentistry
Day 7: Acne and hairloss
Day 8: Fatigue
Day 9: PET Scan
Day 10: Delays
Day 11: Experts
Day 12: Second cancers
Day 13: Check-up and toe spots
Day 14: Wrap-up