As with the side-effects, the “I don’t wanna” factor is also cumulative. At least with this round, I had one thing to which I could hold on to, I might be halfway done with chemo. I say “might” because there are no definitives in cancer treatment. So far, we’ve been flying blind, and the only thing I know for a fact is that chemo is giving me some rather shitty side effects. The fortunate news is, a week after this round, we get to check my progress with a CT scan to see how the tumor is responding.
With the halfway point in mind, I headed out to round four with my chemo buddies, my wife Elaine, my mom, and youngest sister (who is still single, by the way). The labs showed my platelets were a bit lower than usual, but nothing too alarming, so I was cleared by the oncologist, to head off to the infusion center once again.
As I was pre-gaming with the usual anti-nausea meds and steroids, I quickly schooled myself in a round of Uno. After much deliberation, we concluded if you play the wild “swap hands” card as your last card, you expertly hand the game to your opponent.
Shortly into the second game, I got hooked up the first chemo drug, Oxaliplatin. We resumed playing, and my sister continued beating me bad enough that my body decided to put a stop to the Uno smackdown by rejecting the chemo. About 15 minutes into the infusion, I got a headache and started feeling dizzy, flushed, and nauseous, so I caught the attention of my nurse and told her what was going on. After hearing this, she asked me to push my call light, and like magic, ten nurses converged on my chemo suite to triage the situation. After a quick huddle and a blood pressure check, they determined the best course of action was to pause the chemo and hook me up to saline to flush out the chemo a bit. I guess a blood pressure of 195/120 get’s people excited. They also paged my oncologist to ask him what they should do. About ten minutes into my “pause,” my headache went away, and I started feeling less dizzy, which made the nurses happy. I’m so thankful for the professionalism of all the nurses, they are all amazing!
My oncologist asked my nurse to resume the chemo infusion at half the regular rate for 30 minutes to see how that was tolerated. Once they started things back up, I was hyper-aware of every little change that happened to my body. Despite my hypervigilance, I didn’t notice any adverse reactions, so after 30 minutes they cranked it back up to the standard rate. I didn’t have an unwanted response this time, so the logical conclusion is my body couldn’t handle my sister beating me at Uno. The unfortunate thing is that my mini-hulk out wore me out completely, so I didn’t even have a chance to redeem myself at Uno.
Now that my regular 2-hour infusion was going on three hours, they pushed the 5-FU and hooked me up to my chemo grenade and sent me on my way. I could tell the next few days were going to be rough, given that I was already thoroughly exhausted. Usually, on infusion days, we’d stop for something to eat on the way home, but I didn’t have it in me to stop anywhere.
The next few days were filled with a barrage of lovely side effects, ranging from extreme tiredness and nausea to neuropathy and cold sensitivity. The doctors and nurses are right when they say the side effects are cumulative. Sunday I sat on the couch, feeling like I had just pulled an all-nighter despite sleeping 10 hours the previous night. The worst part is that I couldn’t fall asleep for some reason. In my infinite wisdom, I asked my youngest daughter to get me an eye mask to seek if blocking out some light would help. In my sleepy fog, I figured she would grab the black sleep mask that was sitting on my nightstand. Nope, she came back with what she assured me was a “very comfy and fuzzy” rainbow unicorn sleep mask she got during a sleepover. Whatever, I’m manly enough to pull off the chemo unicorn look, plus, I was far too tired to argue. So I dawned my rainbow unicorn mask, and I was out cold. About an hour later, I awoke to the sound of snickering. Apparently, the sight of her dad rocking a rainbow unicorn mask passed out cold on the couch was too much for my oldest daughter. She swiped my phone and captured the moment for me to remember forever. So, I present to you, sleeping chemo unicorn in his natural environment.
I usually feel reasonably human by about Wednesday, but this round was a bit rougher on me. I ended up needing a quick nap in between meetings just to keep going. Finally, by the time Friday rolled around, I was feeling less fatigued but still not wholly human.
As I’m writing this now, I’m still a bit more tired than usual, but I’m definitely feeling better. I had a set of CT scans today to check the progress of the chemo treatments, so I’m praying for a good prognosis. Tomorrow, it’s back to doctor to review the results of the scan and then off to chemo suite for round 5 of chemo. They may need to adjust things depending on the scans, but I won’t know until we review stuff right before my next infusion Friday. So please keep me in your thoughts and prayers this week as we find out how things are going.