Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Abraxane and Neulasta

Last Friday, I was able to finish my first full cycle of Abraxane. My white blood cell levels were 1.6 (had to be above 1.5), and we were able to go through with the treatment. The last two times, I had opted out of taking the anti-nausea drug before the treatment. I didn't feel like I needed it. Thankfully, everything went well and I didn't have to take that extra drug in my body.

Since this was the last of the first full cycle, I needed to give myself a shot 24 hours after the chemo treatment. Give myself a shot. My husband said he couldn't do it. My oncologist asked if I knew a nurse or a diabetic who could give me the shot. I chose to give it to myself. Give myself a shot.

Unfortunately, I was busy all day Saturday and completely forgot about the Neulasta shot. I remembered right before I was about to go to sleep. My husband didn't want to watch, so I had to take A1 with me. He went to the kitchen with me to give me moral support.

I took the shot out of the refrigerator, remembered to clean the area with alcohol, grabbed a big chunk of belly fat, and stalled for 15 minutes. I should have read the directions thoroughly, but I thought that I could remember all that the nurse had told me to do. By the way, I forgot to wash my hands.

I prayed. I looked around the room and at A1. I took deep breaths. And then, my spontaneous side kicked in. I slowly stuck the needle into my belly fat. Not bad. And then, the pain kicked in. This is a stinky (not smelly) shot. It reminded me of my monthly Xgeva shot, except the pain in this one lasts longer.

Sunday night is usually the time that the aches and pains of the Abraxane kick in. This time, it was intensified. I reread the Neulasta side effects and found that it too had a "body ache" side effect. The two drugs had joined forces in their side effects. By the time Monday morning hit, I had woken up multiple times because of the aches in my lower back. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights had been spent at various church/pastor related functions. Could not opt out of these. I sat through them with lower back pain that continued to intensify.

By Monday night, it was worse. Thankfully, I was so exhausted from the weekend that I conked out. Unfortunately, the pain intensified on Tuesday morning. I had an intense, dull pain in my lower back, my legs felt like they were giving out at times, I had lower back muscle spasms, and I couldn't find a comfortable way to sit or lay down. So much frustration.

I am praying that the pain has peaked and that it will be better tomorrow.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Whatever Works

My children have been commenting on how much my hair (the hair I have left, that is) has grown. When it was first shaved, it was interesting to see and feel how stubby it was. Now that it has grown a bit, I can see how some of my hair is bending and fuzzy looking. Slowly, more bald spots are forming. Who would have guessed that I could have this much hair? This hair fall out seems endless. So much hair.

The week after my husband shaved my head, I had a problem. Those leftover short, shaved hairs started falling out - everywhere. I would take a shower and my towel would be covered with short hair. Then, I got an ingenious idea: roll tape! Just roll on your head and presto!

As you can see, whatever works. Better on the tape than all over my clothes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Power Port

On Thursday, my husband and I left for the hospital at 7:10 am. We got home at 3:00 pm. Needless to say, it was a very long day.

The surgery was scheduled for 9:00 am, but I had to go in early to get prepped. We had the same nurse from my CT guided biopsy. She remembered us! We went through all the paper work and prepared for surgery. I told her about waking up in the middle of the last biopsy, and she said that she would make sure that that didn't happen again.

The surgeon turned out to be Korean! When he came, he greeted my husband and I in Korean and then said that he couldn't speak Korean that well. I replied, "Good, because I can't either."

The operating room is a cold, cold place. Literally. They have to keep it at a temperature where bacteria can't thrive. Makes sense. But, it is still a cold, cold place. Thankfully, they gave me another warmed blanket when I got there.

I heard the anesthesia nurse tell me that she was going to give me some medicine. Then, she said that she was going to give me more. I can't remember after that. I conked out.

Sealed with glue.

The next thing I knew, I could hear that I was in the recovery room, but I couldn't open my eyes or speak. I kept going in and out of consciousness. I heard my husband's voice, and then I conked out again. It took more than an hour and a half before I could open my eyes and keep them somewhat opened.

They wheel chaired me to my chemo appointment. We had to go through the hospital to do this. I could  barely keep my eyes open. I could feel people's stares even though my eyes were closed. I must have looked a wreck. Really.

The extra anesthesia made it a little more difficult for me. I was nauseous, drowsy, and had the worst headache. Each movement made it worse. I wanted to sit perfectly still, but I had to move. The port was put on my right side so the right side of my chest, shoulder, and neck were extremely sore. It hurt even to swallow. Brought back memories of my thyroidectomy and frozen shoulders.

Right before starting my chemo treatment, I had to go to the bathroom. As I sat down, I felt that horrible feeling welling up in me to throw up. And throw up I did, three times, into the garbage can. Nurse S had been walking by when she heard the noise. She tried to get me to open the door, but I couldn't. When I finally did, it was a bit embarrassing. Throwing up while going to the bathroom. Thankfully, everything went into the garbage can and not on me or the floor.

I did feel a lot better after throwing up. Unfortunately, the anti-nausea drug that I usually take before chemo also came up with everything else.

When I got home, I was in and out again. Slept a lot. Ate a bit.

I'm still sore. I'm eating better. I'm recovering. I'm, thankfully, not nauseous. I added two more scars to my collection. And, I got a nifty card to carry in my wallet.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chemo Port

Thursday, at 9:00 am, I will be having another minor procedure done. I'm getting a chemo port put in! I'm actually quite excited. The techs and nurses will be able to draw blood from it and not have to stick needles in my arm. This will also help get the chemo drugs into my body without ruining the veins in my "good" arm (my non-mastectomy arm). This is the only arm I can get blood drawn from, get shots on, and get my blood pressure taken on. Gotta be careful with it!

After the first chemo treatment with Abraxane, the area where the chemo had gone in was bruised and really tender and ouch-y for two and a half weeks. The nurse had taken great care inserting the needle and setting up the temporary port on my arm, but it didn't matter. Chemo drugs are strong.

When I saw Nurse S again and told her about what had happened the first time, she told me that the chemo drugs can harden your veins - not good. She told my oncologist right away, so that we could set up a time to get a port put in. After the second Abraxane treatment, Nurse S took extra care to flush out my veins a few times with a saline IV after the treatment. That seemed to help a lot.

The port was coming. My non-mastectomy arm could only take so much. We have to preserve it as much as possible, so this is a good thing.

They will be using a "twilight" anesthesia for this procedure. They used this type of anesthesia when I had a CT-guided biopsy of my spine and also of my liver. Apparently, they can still talk to you and give you directions during the procedure, you just won't remember any of it.

During the CT-guided biopsy of my liver, I woke up and was aware of the doctor standing next to me and pushing the needle into my side. I felt it. I looked at him, groaned because it hurt, and then I was out again. I DO NOT want that to happen again. I don't want to wake up in the middle and feel any pain. Isn't that a fear people have?

After they are done with this procedure, I have to go for my second cycle of Abraxane. The oncology nurse told me that it would be better to get it done while that area is still numb. Otherwise, I would have to go the next day and the skin under the port would be very sensitive and sore.

Please pray:

  • that God would lead the surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses, and anyone else that's involved
  • that everything will go well and that no infection will form (couldn't finish my first round of Abraxane due to low white blood cell counts)
  • that I can start this second cycle of Abraxane 
  • His peace for my family