Daily Archives: July 21, 2011

The Other Big C – Chemo

I’ve been cut loose!!

That’s right. I’m rid of the shackles of my hospital bracelet and blogging to you from the comfort of my own bed right now. Four weeks to the day since being admitted to hospital, I am finally home. In the past four weeks I’ve endured:

  • Being told I have a “large mass” in my chest
  • One needle biopsy in the centre of my chest
  • Two bone marrow biopsies – one on each side of my pelvis
  • Six different scans and x-rays
  • Surgery involving putting a scope into my chest from an incision at the base of my throat
  • Surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node in my armpit
  • Hooked up to an IV 24 hours a day, changing IV sites every 4 days
  • At least 2 blood tests a day
  • One cancer diagnosis
  • One chemotherapy treatment

Yup. It’s been a doozy.

I had my first chemotherapy “session” on Monday and I am happy to report that it wasn’t so bad!!

I had worked myself up over how awful chemo was going to be. Thankfully, having expected the worst, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized my first chemo story would not be a horrific one.

Because I received my first treatment as an inpatient, I was able to get the drugs laying in my own hospital bed, which made it a lot more comfortable. The nurses gave me anti-anxiety medication to calm me down which helped A LOT. I didn’t feel too doped up, just very serene about everything that was going on.

Most of my chemo drugs were inserted via “push.” Which means the nurse takes this giant syringe and pushes the drugs into my IV lock very slowly. One of them was a bright koolaid red colour! Another one of the drugs was an IV drip, and then some steroid pills. The whole thing took about two hours from the start of drugs to the finish.

In terms of side effects, I didn’t feel much the first two days. Just weak and woozy. On Wednesday however, I woke up really nauseated and spent the morning in bed. Really intense exhaustion hit later in the day. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and never move again. I haven’t been sick to my stomach, but I have become extremely picky about what I eat. So far, I kind of feel like this is what I’d expect pregnancy to feel like. Except, I’m killing something in my body, not growing it.

I will say, that my “cancer symptoms” are already gone. The week before I started treatment, I noticed a drastic increase in feelings of sickness spurred by the cancer growth – headaches, muscle aches, sweats, etc. I’m not sure if it’s the chemo, or the slew of other drugs I’m taking, but it’s a nice relief.

Now that the first chemo is out of the way, I’m not so scared of the next ones. But I am preparing myself for my body to not respond quite as well in the future. I suspect it will get beat down a little more each time with the appearance of more side effects. I’ll be going in for chemo once every two weeks, so at least I’ll get a little break in between!

On top of the chemo, there is now a slew of drugs I have to take.

The first few days after chemo will be the worst for having to take and schedule drugs. I have to administer TWO needles on myself a day. One is to boost my white blood cell count (my immune system!) and one is a blood thinner so the blood can move through the veins that the cancer in my chest is restricting. It’s really not that bad. I’m more scared that I’m going to run out of places on my body to give myself shots. It’s only been two days and my belly is already getting full of needle bruises.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not privately insured. So while my hospital stay and procedures are all supposed to be covered by Canadian Medicare, the prescriptions I need are paid for out of pocket. This isn’t usually a big deal, except for when you get something huge like cancer and suddenly need a whack of crazy expensive drugs.

My out-of-pocket drug costs? $5000 for every month that I’m on treatment. I’m hopeful I’ll get some kind of assistance with this, but we’ve been hit with a few roadblocks along the way. Including me breaking down in the hospital yesterday after speaking to someone with Medicare over the phone. Going through cancer is such a scary and awful thing. But when money and bureaucracy are standing in the way of getting healthy, it brings a whole new and intense level of stress to the situation.

It’s with this that I plug The Great Fundraising Act. It’s amazing that SO many people have donated so many items to the fundraiser. But the important part starts on Monday with the bidding! You can see a list of the items here.

And now, if you don’t mind, I have some lost time to make for by cuddling up in my own bed.