This was by far the most challenging round of chemo yet for many reasons. As I alluded to in the Round 5 post, I managed to catch a cold from my family members. Going into this round, I was already not feeling well, which I knew was going to make the side effects worse than usual.
My labs and visit with my oncologist went well; my numbers looked good, and the doctor wasn’t concerned about my cold, so I was cleared for Round 6. I was joined this week again by my mom and youngest sister (yep, the single one) and my friend John. We got settled into the chemo suite, and I was hooked up to my pre-meds and poison. Instead of playing games this week, we had the pleasure of talking to my infusion neighbor who was receiving chemo for ovarian cancer. She was the sweetest lady with an attitude very similar to mine. We talked for about a half-hour about her experiences with chemo and her “bucket list” item she was planning on checking off after surgery. She has always wanted to drive a convertible, so she is planning to rent one for a few weeks cruising the countryside with her husband. About halfway through my infusion, we parted ways, I hope she great weather for her convertible adventure!
You probably noticed in the photo of John and me, that I no longer have any hair. It started thinning and it became incredibly itchy. Given this is one side-effect I had control over, I decided to shave my head. The relief from the itching was almost immediate! I’m not sure what was going on exactly, but I think the chemo messes with the nerves near my hair follicles. Anyway, I’m rocking the Mr. Clean look now, and I’m actually starting to like it.
Long story short, my infusion went smoothly without any complications, so we were out of there in about 4 hours. As I mentioned before, I inherited a cold, so the side effects hit me pretty quickly this time since I was already worn down. I spent most of that afternoon and most of Saturday and Sunday napping and lounging around. After I was disconnected from the chemo grenade on Sunday, I received 1 liter of fluids, and that seemed to perk me up a bit.
Then Monday rolled around; apparently, this is when Thanos rolled into chemo land. When I woke up on Monday, I felt like I had the flu. I was weak, lethargic, shaky, and dizzy. I initially chalked this up to having a cold on top of all the incredible chemo side effects. Throughout the day, I forced myself to drink as many liquids as humanly possible, but around 4:00, my body decided to fight back.
After attempting to eat something, my body decided to hit the purge button. After sprinting to the bathroom, I discovered a hidden superhero talent; I can vomit in my own eye. I’m not sure how the physics work on this talent, but I think it involves superior projection force and reflective properties of porcelain. Anyway, word of advice, don’t try this at home, it really stings and doesn’t add much to the whole hurling experience. After revisiting my stomach contents four times, my wife arrived home to see a thoroughly spent, sweaty Mr. Clean doppelganger sitting on the bathroom floor.
Despite taking anti-nausea meds, nothing seemed to help, so I call the nurse triage line. The nurse recommended I head to the ER after reviewing my symptoms, given I had just been unhooked from my chemo pump the day before. So, my wife and kids hopped into the car, and away we went to our local ER. After reviewing my symptoms, the doctor recommended labs, followed by an IV dose of anti-nausea meds and fluids. Ironically enough, the doctor initially planned on giving me Reglan, which if you recall caused me to Hulk out during my last ER visit. Upon hearing that both my wife and I instantly objected, I was not ready to run a chemical marathon today. So, instead, they opted to go with IV Zofran, which is a safe bet because this is what I get before my chemo infusions and I tolerate it well. After being doped up with Zofran and receiving a liter of fluids, I started feeling much better. Once the labs came back showing everything was “normal,” (for an ass cancer patient anyway) I was able to go home. The overall diagnosis was uncontrolled nausea, which attributed to dehydration.
After we got home, we all went to bed, that was way too much excitement for one day. The next day, I woke up with lower back pain. I didn’t think anything of it because I’ve been laying around so much these days. Once everyone was off to work and school, I started my workday (I work from home). A few hours into my day, I went to the bathroom and had a friendly bout of pain after I went pee. Fantastic, another thing to worry about. I figure it was probably an infection or something. I decided to skip the triage line this time since I know they would have told me to go to the ER. They must get a kickback for recommending that option. Instead, I made an appointment to see a local doctor to address the issue.
After a quick urine test, the doctor was able to rule out an infection. In the doctor’s opinion, the cause was likely due to the dehydration the day before irritating the urethra (Urethritis). But wait, there’s more, the urinalysis also revealed glucose in my urine. This usually is a sign of diabetes, but a few days earlier, I received a dose of steroids (Decadron) as part of my pre-chemo medications. This was likely the culprit causing the glucose in my urine. If it wasn’t that it could be any one of the other dozen meds I’m on. Luckily, I managed to avoid any other medical complications for the rest of the week.
Unfortunately, Thanos not only managed to find the “medical complication” stone, but he also found the “work drama” stone as well. The work drama began two weeks ago, as a portion of my current employer/business entered into a contract to be acquired by another company. The unfortunate part is that the new company is against having remote workers. As a remote worker, this is an issue and a cause for another big stress bubble floating above our heads. I am the primary insurance carrier for our family as well, so this adds yet another dimension of stress to this equation. My wife works part-time, so she is not eligible for health insurance, so we cannot use my “change of status” to switch to her plan.
Luckily I was just starting to get bored of just battling cancer, recovering, working full time, and being a full-time parent. Why not add a job search into the equation for good measure? So that’s what I’ve begun doing, I have a new pretty resume and cover letter, and my search is underway. To be perfectly honest, the part about switching job doesn’t bother me too much, its switching insurance carriers mid treatment that worries me. However, job searching with cancer seems downright awful, but that is a separate deal.
My employer graciously informed me that I will be eligible for COBRA if I do not find another job immediately. However, the fee for this will be close to $2,000 per month to cover the whole family. Not exactly what someone with $0 paychecks likes to hear.
Assuming I find a new job, this means a new insurance carrier which is a bit of a crapshoot these days depending on the employer. Even more terrifying, is with a new insurance provider comes a fresh new deductible and a new max out of pocket calculation. Right now, we met our max out of pocket, so I owe $0 for all of my medications and procedures. A reset deductible, to put it in context means I will own at least $10-12K out of my own pocket for my first treatment on the new insurance plan. Talk about kicking someone while they are down.
In addition to the extra cost, switching insurance providers also raises a whole slew of questions. Will my current health care team be in-network? Will the approve of my existing treatment plan? Will they accept the same medications? Needless to say, switching to a new insurance carrier mid-cancer treatment has a lot of implications.
I know some of my readers are former colleagues, so if you have a job you think would be a good fit, shoot me an email or poke me on LinkedIn. I’ve got several irons in the fire already, but it never hurts to throw in a few more. I was considering adding a donate button to the front page of my blog to help offset some of the costs, but I don’t want to be that guy (yet). Instead, just keep me in your thoughts and prayers.