Your Results May Vary

My friend asked me what the chemo regimen was like each week, so here goes-

Wednesday: Blood work-checking for platelet and Red Blood Count.  Pack my bag for the chemo room which includes a pack of Twizzlers and a downloaded movie (nothing dark and depressing Lis).  Wednesday night, I am always a little nervous anticipating the next day’s events.  I know what it’s going to be, but I still get nervous the night before.

Thursday: Arrive at 730 so I can get one of the 11 chairs in the chemo room.  Sometimes, it’s so packed, there is very little for visitors.  Re-check of the blood work, if the numbers were not great from the day before.  First med is the steroids and the anti-emetics.  Takes about 45-hour to run that through.  I usually get a little tired during this.  Also, 2 liters of hydrating fluids get pumped through. (Today’s Movie was Shaun of the Dead)

Drug 2 is the Carboplatin.  The Dex (steroids) are to help with the nausea of this.  One of my chemo friends calls the Dex her 10 Little Indian drug since it makes her feel like she can do 10 things at once.  Carboplatin has the most nausea side effects.  Next treatment will be Carbo #7, so that means we have to start watching for allergic reactions.

Drug 3 is the Gemzar (Gemcitabine). This one goes through in 30 minutes and one of the primary side effects to this is rash and fever. I usually get a nice red face on day 2.  Combined with the steroids, I look like an Oompa Loompah on day 2 (Friday).  One side effect of Gemzar is thinning hair.  The other side effect is tongue and mouth sores…serious fun!

Drug 4 is the Avastin.  This is a drug that is supposed to stop the growth of new blood vessels.  I love this line from the side effect warning…

“Although some people may have a life-threatening side effect, most do not.” The life-threatening side effect? Yikes!

Once all is done, they disconnect the port and I head out!  I usually have some extra energy right at the end, so it’s a good time to run errands.  Crash time happens a couple of hours later.  But then, I usually have the insomnia the first night again. When I get Carbo, I have to take steroids for three days post chemo which messes with my sleep big time!

Most of my side effects seem to be nausea and fatigue.  Not very glamorous, but I just deal with it.

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“Here I Go Again”

I was just listening the 80’s song…Here I Go Again by Whitesnake (nice rockin hair)…It starts out, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.” This chemo ground is not new in some ways and in other ways will be completely different.  Does knowing about childbirth make it easier the second time, or do you just dread it more because you really know what it is?  The song diverges from my path when it gets to the lyrics “here I go again on my own, going down the only path I’ve ever known.” I am not alone, so it should be “here we go again together,” but clearly that doesn’t rhyme as well.   It’s a lonely trail going by yourself, but I have family, friends, and faith traveling along with me.   Today when I walked into the chemo room, all my favorite nurses were there and a few old-timers too.  My friend Izzie has been getting chemo there since 2012.  One friend called, another brought me flowers, and another sent pictures of a bunch of my teacher friends waving “hi.” I never felt alone.  I told someone that I feel like I have 10,000 hands holding me up and carrying me as I start back in chemotherapy.  I couldn’t do it without YOU! (yes YOU!)

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Blood doesn’t lie

Each cycle of radiation or chemo is followed by the inevitable blood draw.  It takes about a week for the CA 125 Ovarian Cancer marker to come back.  Other blood markers are available in just a few days.  Every time they take blood, I wait anxiously for the results.  The last CA level blood marker was the harbinger of recurrence.  Even “normal” values can cause fear if they double or triple for the previous draw.  This go round, the hospital is using a new lab, so the numbers can’t be compared to previous values.  There is no joy or heartbreak associated with this number; it’s simply a number.  The plan, unless there is some anomaly is that I’ll start chemo next week.  Happy to be down with radiation, but remembering the trek that was the last chemo journey.  This time will be new drugs, which inevitably means new side effects.  In the meantime…trying to get healthy and recommending these documentaries on #NetflixMortified Nation, Queen of Versailles, Girl Model, Russia’s Toughest Prisons, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead. 

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The Flying Nun

Do you remember The Flying Nun-a TV series in the late 60’s and early 70’s? Along with The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family…and of course Gilligan’s Island, these made up the favorite TV shows of my youth.  My sister-in-law took this picture of me getting set up for radiation and it brought back memories of Sally Field  as Sister Bertille, the nun who could fly. (What you are seeing in this image is when they drape warm sheets all around so that you don’t freeze! They keep this room mighty chilly.)  I promised my friend J. no belly shots, so you don’t get to see that.  I know you’re disappointed.  So, what are the tv shows that bring you back to childhood?

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Cocktail anyone?

Time to make the chemo cocktail decision!  First round chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer was Carboplatin and Taxol delivered through an IV bag into a port located right below my collarbone (surgically implanted in 2012).  A tumor assay (study) was conducted to determine how my tumor/cancer will best respond to the various chemo drugs currently used.  Just like rum is better with Coke or made into a Mai Tai (clearly the Mai Tai is the better choice), the general consensus is that combining drugs is the most effective of destroying cancer.  If you are feeling really nerdy, check out the Oceans study.  For my recurrence, we are getting fancy.  This time will be three drugs.  Because I was in remission for 14 months (woot!) I am considered Platinum sensitive, which is a good thing.  That means that for sure, I will get Carboplatin again.  The 2nd drug is where we will have some choice.  The choice is Doxil or Gemzar (Gemcitabine).  The third drug (why are we stopping at 3…why not 4 or 5?) is Bevacizumab otherwise known as Avastin.  As I research the various side effects, I was reminded of the 2013 movie Side Effects.  The movie is somewhat of a dark psychological thriller about the rocky path that meds can induce.  Every cancer patient has to make their own decision about what meds (or not) are the right choice.  My doc has been in the business a long time, and I respect his advice, and more importantly, I believe that my best choice for living life is following this path.  Our goal is NED (No Evidence of Disease) and PFS (Progression Free Survival)! I am motivated to kick this and get on with the business of living!

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