My chemo journey seems to bring me something new each week! One of my  biggest challenges with the Gemzar has been keeping my white count high enough to even get chemo, and also to avoid bacterial infection. It seems vaguely humorous that you need drugs to treat the side effects of the drugs needed to fight cancer.  It’s like the Inception (a dream within a dream) of cancer.  My latest challenge is the need to generate healthy bone marrow.  The best means of doing this appears to be Neulasta, a drug which stimulates bone marrow production.My cancer fighting chemotherapy is indiscriminate about which cells it kills, and it has been attacking my white blood cells.  Those infection fighting white blood cells are developed in the bone marrow.  We need to get the cell party started deep within my bone marrow.  To say that my last experience with Neupogen (another bone marrow booster) did not go well, would be a huge understatement.  The bone pain I felt from that was just excruciating.  But here’s a fun fact: Evidently Claritin fights bone pain.  Who knew? I always wonder who was the first person to figure out that taking something off label could help something else.  I started the Claritin today and will continue for a 3 days post chemo. The current plan is chemotherapy on Friday morning, and then the dreaded Neulasta on Saturday (24 hours after chemo). Then, let the fun begin. Image

Maybe it would just be easier to take Skele-gro!

How’d de do dat?

“How do they put the chemo in?” Fair question.  If you are only having a few chemos, the doctor will sometimes just have the oncology nurses access a vein just like a normal blood draw.  If you are having multiple chemos, it is much easier and less painful on the veins to have a PowerPort installed in your chest.  When I had chemo directly infused into a vein in the hand (the very first time before I had my port), my hand burned and they had to keep warm compresses on it while the chemo drug worked its magic. My port  is located on my right side directly beneath my collar bone, so it doesn’t interfere with the seatbelt in a car.  Inserted surgically two years ago, it can remain in the body indefinitely.  It can be used for blood draws, injecting MRI contrast dyes, or administering chemo.  Dr. D says he usually takes them out two years post chemo.  The PowerPort gives the nurses direct access to the veins.  To access the port, they punch a special needle into the port.  There is a cold spray that can be used, but I think the spray hurts as much as the needle, so I always go with no spray.  After the chemo is complete, the port is flushed with heparin and the needle is removed.  A small bandage (just like a blood draw) is put on the access point.

1.  It doesn’t affect your ability to swim or take a shower.

2.  It doesn’t set off metal detectors as airports.

3.  They undersold the pain of insertion, but it doesn’t hurt now.

4. It can be used for regular blood draws, but the needle used is a special needle.

5.  Only specially trained folks can access it.

6. It can be used within a few days of being implanted, but it will hurt few weeks.

7. On some people, you don’t notice the port, but mine pokes through the skin like an alien head.  My daily life doesn’t include a lot of bikinis, so no problem there.

8.  For people with bad veins, this is a life saver!

9.  Only one “stick” takes care of blood draw and chemotherapy infusion.

10.  There are no problems exercising with a port, so get out there!



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Hey Jealousy

Remember that song from the Gin Blossoms called Hey Jealousy?  That was rolling through my head when I failed my blood test today-low white count and low neutrophils.  My body is forcing me to take a break.   It’s bad when you’re jealous of the person sitting next to you getting chemo when you can’t. Pretty pathetic actually.   My neutrophil count was too low to even think of getting chemo.  Normal neutrophil numbers are 1.5-7.5.  Last Friday I was at .4 and Monday .7.  Today, I was sure the numbers would reach that magic 1.5, but no.  The neutrophils are just barely .8.  White Blood Count was 1.5 and normal range is 3.5-11.0.  The white blood cells and neutrophils fight against infection.  Simply put, I don’t have the defenses to fight against bacteria and infection.  I’m a hugger, and there will be no hugs! You’ll have to get your hugs elsewhere this week.  So what now? I wait until next Thursday and we try again.  This is messing with the whole schedule in my brain and will most likely extend chemotherapy into October.  But, as I was reminded, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  My husband observed last week that I am completely up to speed with the positive thoughts aspect of fighting cancer, but my body needs to get with the program and catch up to the mind.  Time to listen and do what needs to be done.  Rest and allow time for recovery.  We will try again next Thursday.  I wish it was like school and I could just study hard! I’m such a “head down and power through” type of person, so you can imagine my frustration with all of this.  I need a zen moment.

Get Your Burgers Here

There are a few moments in life, when you have no choice but to “live in the moment.” Vomitting being one those. I threw up 12 times last weekend, which was a world record for me.  My vomit-free streak lasted from November 16, 2013.  Like Seinfeld, I do keep track of these things.  Still not sure what caused the Linda Blair episode (which was accompanied by a migraine style headache) but I am praying it will not happen again.  I’ll get a chance to test it next Thursday when I have my next chemo.  Last Saturday seemed to be shaping up like a normal post chemo day….a little tired and a little nauseated.  I even took at short walk at 5.  At about 730 the headache came on and by midnight, I was revisiting my dinner (In other notes-I no longer like hamburger).  This weekend made me realize how fragile our bodies actually are.  One nurse said, “We are more delicate than we imagine.” I also found that neither Zofran, Reglan, or Phenergen really work once you really get sick.  Nothing does. More importantly, I found out that Nurse Jackie (my nurse Jackie) is there for me 24 hours a day as is my husband, who patted my back and made me feel slightly less horrible.  I also learned that when you throw up violently, you get a beautiful petechial rash on your face…..vaguely Howdy Doody looking.  If there is a badge to be earned with all of this, I think I earned it this weekend.  Still unsure how this weekend fits into the general side effects of chemo category, but I can guarantee you that I was completely in the moment!