Medical Update ~ 10/05/17
Today was my first chemo treatment. All things considered, it went better than expected so that was a huge blessing. It started this morning at 8am with an echocardiogram of my heart. Since one of the chemotherapies (Herceptin) has been known to cause damage to the heart, they needed to have a baseline of my heart function. They will continue to monitor my heart function with an echo every three months. I was happy to hear I have a perfectly functioning heart - your mind can play tricks on you when you're laying on the exam table. It took effort to stay on top of the "what if" thoughts, but He is good and I did.
Monty and I had a chance to go out for breakfast in between the echo and the chemo. It was nice to be able to chat and relax before I started. He grounds me and I am so thankful for how he feeds my need to rationalize and re-discuss everything, how he reminds me that he loves me, how he distracts me from the fears, how he makes me laugh when it's hard.
We were at the oncologists for about 6 hours today from start to finish today. I will say the first time you walk into a chemo room, it's a reality check. That was hard. And overwhelming. It made it all so real. Thankfully, the staff was delightful and caring and immediately put me at ease. I've discovered God has placed some of His most special creations in the oncology field ~ every single person I've worked with over the past month has been a person of exceptional character, and this team was no different. They have this unique way of making you feel like you've been friends for years, and they understand how that's exactly what you need in these moments.
They thankfully ordered me some lidocaine cream to numb the area over the port prior to the first infusion. I was a bit anxious about the first time they were going to use the port because it was still so tender from the surgery, but my nurse was exceptionally skilled. She placed it pretty qucikly and I hardly even noticed. Praise God!! In fact, the only thing that was noticeable was the smell that passes through your nose for a brief moment - as the nurse said, it smelled like lemon and skunk. Yes, it did. Pretty horrible smell, but I got a kick out the accurate description of the smell by the nurse. Apparently, the flush she sent through the port goes right past the olfactory nerve, and it smells like lemon skunks :)
Before the chemo, I received several medications through the port - two different medications to battle nausea, a medication for heartburn, a steroid, and benedryl to stop common allergic reactions to the Taxol. The oncology team works hard to battle any possible symptoms you may experience during chemo - they truly want this experience to be as painless as it possibly can be. In addition to the pre-meds, they gave me a list of medications to be sure to have in the house to battle other symptoms I may experience. I've been told multiple times if those over the counter medications do not take care of the symptom that I should call immediately - day or night - and get a prescription called in for me. Their desire is to make me as comfortable as possible through this. That's comforting to me. I'm telling you, these people are amazing.
As far as the pre-medications go, I was concerned about the benedryl - typically, I have the opposite reaction to benedryl that most people do. I get fidgety and cannot sit still. I've never received it intravenously, so the nurse thought maybe it would be more intense and I would get sleepy. Most people enjoy a benedryl nap for at least a portion of their infusion. I did feel a wave of sleepiness come over me, and for a moment, I thought I might be able to sleep, but that didn't last very long. The problem is benedryl triggers my restless leg syndrome. It was impossible for me to sit for any length of time, so I was out of the chair most of the day standing against the windows. The interesting part was my brain continued to feel pretty foggy because of the benedryl, so it was like my brain was asleep, but my body was awake. It wasn't horrible or difficult at all, I felt fine - the most challenging part was that I literally couldn't do anything for 6 hours. Knowing I would be there so long, I brought a few things I wanted to get accomplished. I wanted to get my bible study done, I wanted to review a paper I need to submit to my cohort this weekend (I'm working on my second Master's), and I even brought a coloring book because I've never had the time to just sit and enjoy coloring. I couldn't do any of it.
At first, I was so frustrated by the inability to get anything accomplished today. Those who know me well know that one of my greatest struggles in life is finding my value and identity in my accomplishments. I think it's pretty clear He wants me to stop doing that - He continues to remove my ability to accomplish just about anything. So I continue to lean in and learn - it's a slow process for me :)
The biggest praise from today was that both the Taxol and the Herceptin went in without any noteable event - praise God! Apparently, there is a chance of an allergic reaction to the Taxol that can cause either delays or changes in your chemo protocol. The nurses told me if those were going to show up, I would most likely have a reaction in one of the first two treatments. If I don't respond next week, I may be able to reduce the amount of benedryl I take. I was also told today that there is a correlation between the amount of morning sickness you experienced during pregnancy and how nauseous you will be as a side effect of chemo. I never experienced much morning sickness at all, so I'm hopeful that symptom will be minimal.
It was a long day, but I'm happy to be home. I am happy to have the first treatment behind me. Now that its been a few hours, I can feel the fatigue setting in. They warned me of this most common side effect, and it's already beginning to consume me. It's not a sleepiness, but my body just feels exhausted, and I definitely still have a foggy brain. It takes a lot of effort to stay focused, and even find words. This post may or may not make sense ;)
Before I end this post, I feel the need to mention the caregivers chairs in the chemo room. We need to fix those, and I plan to make it my mission before my treatment is over. I had a very comfortable chair all day (when I was sitting), but the chair Monty had to sit in for 6 hours was very uncomfortable. Of course, he didn't complain about it at all, but I felt just terrible for him and for all the caregivers in the room. There were people in that room much longer than 6 hours. Our caregivers are so critical to our care. It is just as important they are well cared for through this process because we need them at their best when we are feeling at our worst. I don't know how I'm going to go about getting that fixed just yet, but I would love to find a way to get some comfortable chairs in that room for the caregivers. I'd love to hear suggestions if you have any.
I continue to feel so very blessed. Your support is overwhelming and my appreciation just cannot be expessed in words. I know there are many of you who are thinking about and praying for me, and you must know that you strengthen me with His grace through your encouraging words to me ~ from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
Press on ~ you are loved