Chemotherapy….. A term that conjures up fear in the minds of many. Chemotherapy means something different to everyone who undergoes it. For some it is their only hope for survival against cancer, for others like me, it’s giving me a chance to live a life free of autoimmune disease.
This stage of treatment is probably the scariest of all for most who are undergoing it because this is the stage that does have all the possible side effects. Chemo affects everyone differently. Some people have no side effects other than the usual digestive issues, others run the full onslaught of symptoms. Going into this stage of treatment I really didn’t know what to think. In a way it is scary, but in a way it also is the only way I can hope to live a life free of MS. No matter how bad the next few days will be I just have to keep thinking positive and knowing that the reason I am doing this to myself is for my two little girls at home. The end results of MS are far scarier then whatever this treatment holds.
I’ve been asked by quite a few people how I am holding up mentally through it all. Actually not too bad. If I were here all alone going through this procedure it would be rough, but there are others here in the same treatment stage as me and we have all become good buddies and we help each other get through the days. We keep our spirits high, joke around, and just try to have fun with the situation. Life obviously shafted us by giving us MS, so really we might as well try to have a bit of fun getting rid of the blasted thing. Humor and positivity really are key for successful treatment. Of course I miss my family terribly and can’t wait to see my girls again, but I know that I am doing this for them and that keeps me going. Really if anyone has it tough, that would be my husband. Not only is he keeping things going on at home, he also has to deal with the fact that I am so far away going through all this and there isn’t anything he can do at all to help me. It has to be taking an emotional toll on him.
But today is the day that the chemo starts and it is the day that is the beginning of the end of my faulty immune system. I woke up around 5:00am, about my normal time here and was still exhausted. I think the stem cell harvest and meds were finally starting to take their toll on me and everyone else, since everyone else also seemed to be in a sort of daze. I spent a bit of the morning hanging out in the lounge with some of my fellow HSCT buddies chatting, it’s good to get some interaction before undergoing the events of today. Breakfast wasn’t too bad this morning, I never got around to snapping a picture of it, but it was a basic porridge of some sort along with bread and baby yogurt. Then downing the handful of pills that goes after breakfast, all the important stuff to keep me healthy.
Shortly after I finished up eating, the nurse brought in my pole with all my chemo related drips on it. She gave me the run down on how to unplug it for when I’d need to drag it into the bathroom, which is important to know because you’ll be taking many trips into the bathroom with it, this stuff makes you really have to pee A LOT… Then a few minutes later she hooked it up to my neck lines and we were off and running. Dr. F came in a few minutes later, took my blood pressure, discussed everything that would be happening, that it would take around 3 hours, and that when finished I was free to go outside and wander around the hospital grounds if I chose to. Here’s some pics from my first day of chemo, click on pictures for descriptions.
And Dr. Fedorenko was correct, about 3 hours later all my drips were done and I was unhooked from the machine and my lines were flushed and just for good measure when the nurse was flushing the second line she lost control of the syringe and shot the solution all over the bed, we had a good laugh over that. Gotta have fun with the situation, am I right?
Later in the afternoon I got my 2 supportive infusions, not really sure what they were but guessing they are to flush the chemo out of the system. Those went super fast but then of course created more trips to the bathroom. I’ve spent more time in the stupid bathroom today and I’m sure it will be continuing all night long.
But one positive note for the afternoon, I got my bandage removed from my first neck catheter. So nice having it off. The picture looks a little gruesome since it was still a bit yellowish from the gauze, but it doesn’t look bad now, I do have a fair bit of bruising, because they did have to get pretty aggressive with my neck to get it in place, but it’s all worth it in the end. And I was watching a USA-Canada hockey game on TV at the same time, poor USA got slaughtered.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of just lying around resting, watching random Russian TV shows and hockey, and short walks around the hospital grounds with my British HSCT buddy who is on the same chemo schedule as me. All the vegetation here is starting to leaf out for the year and it is getting so beautiful outside, a few pics from one excursion today:
Now onto my daily topic of food. I briefly mentioned Breakfast #1 earlier today, it was a basic breakfast and not too appealing but I did remember to take pics of everything else I was fed today. Starting out with the protein drinks. We are told to drink 2 of these per day for added protein, they only come in one flavor, cappuccino… Hmmm, how to describe this, well it certainly does not taste like cappuccino at all. It’s not that bad, but certainly not an enjoyable beverage. I’d recommend chugging it down, but the doctor warned that if you drink it too fast you’ll quickly be in the bathroom dealing with the consequences. So small sips it is! Then Breakfast #2 showed up when I was finishing up my chemo drip, it was the basic 2 cooked apples, hard-boiled egg, chunk of beef and plum tea. Not too bad, although I’m still baffled on how to eat these stupid apples, they are just so bland and have no flavor at all. Then onto lunch! I rather enjoyed lunch today it was a whole new food experience for here, it contained rice!!! It was a veggie soup with a side of rice and I believe a chicken flavored biscuit type thing along with bread. I ended up chopping up the biscuit and throwing it in the soup along with the rice and downed it all that way. A nice change of pace from the usual meals. Then came dinner, it was a far cry from how wonderful lunch was. Buckwheat, a meat based bisquit, bread, meat baby food and cookies. You win some, you lose some when it comes to food here. Can’t complain.
So all in all, that was my day. The new stage of treatment has officially begun! 3 more days of chemo to go!!! So far I haven’t had too many bad side effects from the chemo, other than constantly needing to be going to the bathroom to pee, which from what I’ve heard will be occuring all night long as well, hooray! And then a very dry throat, so drinking tons more water which means even more bathroom trips. Chemo can make previous MS symptoms flare up a bit and that is happening with me right now. I have extreme numbness in my fingers that makes maneuvering my fingers quite difficult and am staggering a bit more while walking and then bouts of fatigue and brain fog. Seems like everyone who got their chemo dose today is battling similar issues. But I know it’s just the chemo doing it’s job and that’s the important thing. Here’s to an uneventful night and another day of chemo tomorrow!
Surprise another infusion before bed! Yay for more bathroom trips!