Now that you’ve learned all about my first chemo infusion, its time to join me in the side effects dungeon to hear all about the eventful days that followed.
When I woke up the day after my first chemo infusion, I felt like I had been run over by a truck after a heavy night of drinking. My body was sore, I felt like puking, and I had a headache. I quickly took some anti-meds, and that seemed to help. My Dad drove up to visit us and to bring back our kids who were hanging out with grandma while my wife and I did the chemo thing. I was pretty tired, so I took several naps during the day, only waking to eat small meals and take more anti-nausea meds. Overall, things were not too bad if I kept on top of the meds. I even managed to make it outside to supervise my Dad rototilling our garden. I’m a huge fan of gardening, but I can’t partake this year due to all the mold, fungus and bacteria in the soil. Booooo!
Day two after chemo, I met the love child of the flu, morning sickness, and an extreme hangover. Instead of waking up to take more anti-nausea medications, I slept in, and as a result, I spent most of my day playing the role of a multicolored organic fountain. My and one of my sisters came to visit and help out during the day, but I don’t remember much of their visit since I was napping or puking during most of it. I was utterly wiped out. In the afternoon, the home health care nurse arrived at our house to remove my chemo grenade. I’ve never been happier to see someone come to my house! Dawning full protective gear, she removed the chemo pump, flushed the lines with saline then heparin, and then removed the needle from my port. As she was disconnecting everything, she placed it in a chemo bucket, an ominous looking black bin with a “Toxic 6” sticker on the side. A courier came to pick this up a few days later from our doorstep.
Day 3 was a Monday, so I attempted to go back to work. I say attempted because I found out all about the joys of “chemo brain.” I’m not sure how many times I had to re-read the same email before it made sense. Writing emails was next to impossible as I could not find the right words. This was incredibly frustrating since writing usually comes naturally to me. I attended meetings and said words, but I’m not sure if they made any sense; nobody said anything so I must have nailed it (or they were not paying attention). I made it to 1PM and hit a wall, so I took a nap. I woke up and attempted to finish a project I had been working on but gave up when I couldn’t make sense of it.
Day 4 began with a bit of excitement when my wife turned on her hair straightener, in the bathroom. This is something she has done for years, and it hasn’t bothered me but apparently, today chemo had other ideas. As soon as I smelled the subtle hint of burning hair, nausea man busted through the wall like the Kool-Aid man. I flew into the bathroom and started wretching into the toilet. My wife, a master at deciphering subtle clues like this, GTFO of there with her hair fryer ASAP. I guess you could consider this her payback for the time I made Manwich when she was pregnant. Side note, my wife doesn’t “do puke,” that’s my job when the kids get sick. After pulling myself together, I took a hot shower, which helped to settle things down. Not learning anything from the day before I attempted to plow through my emails, projects, and meetings for the day. Things were still foggy, but I managed to make it a bit longer before needing a nap. I began to notice that every time I took a Zofran, I’d get a foggy head feeling, so I switched to Compazine instead, why not, I have a whole bag of anti-nausea drugs to try.
Days 5-6, I started to return to normal. I no longer needed to take anti-nausea meds to function, but the morning sickness was real. I managed to get outside and take a short walk with the dog. I made it about a 1/4 of the standard loop we usually take, and by the time I got home, I was utterly spent. My appetite was coming back slowly, but I had already lost 8 pounds by this time. I also discovered the major downside of taking anti-nausea medications for 5 days straight, extreme constipation. With Anti-Yack Med benched, it was time for Lax Itive and Stool Softener to step on to the field. Next time, I need to remember to have all the players on the field at the same time.
Day 7, I was getting my groove back now, and words were coming to me more quickly, and I was feeling less tired during the day. I managed to work the whole day without getting tired, and I wrapped up several projects. We had been planning a family outing at a cabin with my wife’s side of the family, so today it was time to attempt my first car ride since chemo. This was quite the adventure.
I learned the hard way that I need to take it easy. I’m usually the one who loads everything into the car before we depart. So, sticking with my usual tradition, I loaded up my arms and headed out to the car. That’s when I became extremely light headed and felt myself about to topple over. This scared the shit out of my youngest daughter because she has never seen Daddy suddenly sit down and turn ghost white. I told her to go in and ask Mom where the PulseOx meter was for my finger, knowing this would tip my wife off to something being wrong without panicking my daughter. My wife came outside urgently to call me a moron for not listening to her. Ok, maybe that wasn’t her original intent, but upon not seeing me dead, it was definitely her next best option. It turns out my oxygen saturation had fallen to 85% because I had overexerted my body. No wonder why I was feeling light-headed. Learning a valuable lesson, I let my kids and wife load the rest of the things into the car so we could depart.
I should preface the rest of this story by saying I usually need to drive as I quickly get car sick when I’m a passenger. Now, take that little nugget of information and combine it with the fact that I had just been pumped full of nausea-inducing poison 7 days before this 2-hour car ride. You guessed it, a mile into the car ride, nausea man parachuted through the sunroof and slammed me hard. I was dry heaving into a bucket while frantically digging for my anti-nausea pills. A quick Google search showed that chewing a tablet and leaving it in your mouth for a bit may help it kick in faster. With no time to check Snopes, I munched away. When we made it to a nearby town, my wife pulled over to get food for the kids for supper. Being the genius she is, she decided to go inside the fast food joint to give the pill more time to kick in. Then we made one more stop at a nearby grocery store to get a few more supplies for the trip, which bought the anti-nausea just enough time to kick in. By the time we arrived after our two-hour journey, I was taxed.
Days 8-9, it was awesome seeing family and hanging out with them. I was unable to go cruising on the boat due to the sun sensitivity and for fear of angering the nausea monster, but I used this time to rest and recharge for when they returned. On day 9, it was time to head home, this time, I was feeling almost back to normal, so instead of tempting fate as a passenger, I took to the driver seat. I escaped without aggravating the nausea monster, and we made it home without incident.
Day 10, this is today. I’m feeling 100% back to normal now, no nausea, no fatigue, no nothing. As an added bonus, my cold sensitivity is gone, so I got to partake in a bowl of ice cream, one of my favorite foods. I may not be as lucky with the next round as the neuropathy side effects can be cumulative. With that in mind, if you are an ice cream manufacturer reading this, I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do when I’m curred… Lessons learned after my first infusion:
- Anti-nausea meds cause constipation, stool softeners are a must
- Don’t be a hero, keep up on your anti-nausea medications
- Set an alarm to wake up and take the next does
- Take it easy, do not overdo things, you have ass cancer, most people would kill for an excuse to be lazy
- Listen to your wife (most of the time)
- Chemo sucks, seriously
- Chemo brain is real
My next infusion takes place this Friday. Now that I know what to expect, I’m hoping to curb some of the issues I had last time by keeping up on my medications and taking a bit more time to recover before jumping back into things.
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