Posted by: jility | January 17, 2014

Helen 2 – Chemo 1

The first two chemotherapy treatments I had were tough but not nearly as bad as they are for some I guess. The latest one, however, really kicked my A$$!

It was well before the buttcrack of dawn when the alarm sounded. Sir Cussalot jumped out of bed and pulled on his clothes. I lay there, dreading the next 72 hours.  I pulled the covers up around my neck, closed my eyes and hoped the whole thing was just a bad dream. Perhaps the anticipation was worse than the actual happenings would be.

NAW

We drove most of the way to Norris Cancer Center in silence. I now know how my dogs feel going to the vet. I turned on the radio to Kiss FM and listened to Ryan Seacrest and the hip hop music he plays. Sir Cussalot hates the pop music I love, especially when they rap. He prefers the oldies (I mean the REALLY REALLY OLDIES). Other than hip hop, I love the Great American Standards (Frankie and gang type stuff) and the forties music as well.

Sir C always complains that current pop artists ruin good songs by putting that $#!TTY rap in there. I don’t mind the rap, really, especially if it is Pitbull’s stuff. I love him, but I do get Sir C’s point. Some of the songs are going along with a lovely melody and just when you are grooving out to the mellowness, some gangsta like person comes on and jerks you back to reality doin his THANG and ruins the moment. At least it all sorta took my mind off the reason for the early morning trek to LA.

rapper

Traffic was a lot heavier than the last time we went. Schools were still out then and many workplaces were still off. With the Christmas holidays long gone, everything was back in full swing. It would be a lot worse if we left at six instead of five in the morning!

Sir Cussalot used to drive in bumper to bumper traffic back in the early 1970s from Pomona to Canoga Park. Theoretically, that drive should take an hour. In rush hour, it usually took him two to three hours, depending on whether or not, in his words, “Some inconsiderate A$$#%!E wrecked.” He did that commute for many years back when he was an engineer designing satellite trackers. He said he had each foot of the freeway figure out as to when to change lanes. He drove as if that were still true but as soon as he would switch lanes, everyone else would also switch and that lane would slow! I figure just stay in the same freakin lane and deal with it! At seventy-six he still drives like he is in his twenties.

We arrived at the parking garage off Biggy Street about seven. My stomach was churning pretty good at this point. We parked on the seventh floor. Sir Cussalot stayed behind to feed Isabella and Crush and I exited the Stinkmobile and walked towards the elevators.

One of the two elevators was out of order. I pushed the button for the other one but it never came. Being the impatient patient I am, I chose to walk down the four flights of stairs to level three where the ramps takes you to Norris. Not thinking that it has been an eternity since I have done stairs, I didn’t give it a thought. It was no big deal then. I got to the ramp and made my way to check in at the front desk.

No line! YEAH! I checked in and walked down to the Day Hospital for my blood draw. It doesn’t open until 7:30 so I stood outside the door waiting for Sir C to join me. Once he showed up, we walked to the waiting room to sit until it opened.

The blood draw went fine. Last time it hurt like hell when they poked into the port in my chest. This time I barely felt anything. That must have been part of my anticipatory anxiety because I stopped feeling as nauseated after that. I was down to just a little queasy.

Next stop Dr. Lenz for a checkup and then back to the Day Hospital for more F#@K!^G chemo.

Dr. Lenz was in great form as usual.

“Well, look vat za cat dragged in,” he said with his thick German accent and boyish grin.

He cracks me up. He can be a stern German and hysterically funny at the same time. He listened to my heart and lungs and checked for enlarged lymph nodes. He said all looked good. I asked him about the elevated TS values they found on my tumor. He told me proudly that his team discovered TS (here is a paper on it for anyone interested). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10778957

It scares me some but I really need to not think about the negative and focus on the positive right now and continue eating an organic, vegan, clean diet free of oil, sugar and processed foods.

I told him I felt a bit queasy but had been fine in the days leading up to that day. He threw back his head, laughed his loud laugh and poked me in the head.

“It is all up zere! NOT FROM ZA CHEMO!!!” He bellowed with a smile. He went on to say in his excited high voice, “One voman saw pink ven she had chemo. Now every time she seez pink she vomits!” Then he threw back his head and roared in laughter. Then he got serious, lowered his voice and poked my head a few more times, “Zis is all in your head. It is too long after for it to be from za chemo.”

You gotta love this guy! I sure do!

He came very close and looked deeply into my eyes and got very serious.

He gently took hold of the front of my shirt with one hand and tapped me gently on the leg with his other and said quietly, “Look, you vill NOT get sicker zan you already have.” Then he got louder, “NOT MORE SICK! I TELL YOU! VUT YOU HAVE FELT VILL NOT GET VERSE!!!”

I got it!

I asked a few questions and he teased some more, then he left.

“See you in two weeks!” he yelled as the door shut behind him.

“I guess we are done,” I said to Sir C.

“Guess so,” he muttered.

Back we walked to the Day Hospital. The Death March played in my head and my nausea got worse. I could hear Dr. Lenz’ voice in my head playing over and over again, “Zis is all in your head…”

We waited for nearly an hour this time. I think they forgot about me. Finally I went up to the desk to remind them I was there. They said they were just waiting for the pharmacy to send over my poison (my words not theirs). Eventually they called my name and took me back to a bed. I settled in and Sir Cussalot went in search of vegan food (a real rarity in those parts). I was starving.

It has been four days since my treatment and I am still getting urpy writing about this! I like to get it down before I forget the details but I may have to hold off a few more days next time.

Finally I was hooked up to the poisonous crap that is, hopefully, going to kill any remaining cancer cells if any. Sir C and I often talk that someday chemo will be looked upon like blood sucking leaches that were once used for curing patients. Chemo is a barbaric and crude treatment at best, but all science really has at the moment.

Some time later, Sir C returned with a sandwich for us to share. “Mock tuna,” he mumbled. Then he opened the package and handed one half to me and he kept the other for himself. He also had spring rolls but I couldn’t eat that.

I enjoyed the mock tuna but that “pink” association would later bite me in my big not-as-fat-as-it-used-to-be A$$. At my first chemo treatment, he found some wonderful vegan sushi and inari. Now, inari was once my absolute favorite! Sadly, now that it in the “pink” category, I want to hurl just typing this! File mock tuna in thst same pink category. I have smelled that crap all week and never want to see another mock tuna sandwich as long as I live! Even after showering I STILL smell that DANG CRAP! GROSS!!!!! Proof reading this was even worse than writing about it. Sir Cussalot suggested he bring in some movie popcorn for me to eat while getting chemo! PURE BRILLIANCE! I would never want that crap again as long as I live!

The odd thing is that I am not sick to my stomach when I am eating those things, but the association with chemo is enough to cause a HUGE aversion!

Talk about classical conditioning! It has given me a much deeper understanding of dog training and how I created an aversion to toys in my early training of Pankies! When I should have been letting her find comfort in her environment and with the process, I was running around like a wild woman trying to get her to engage in tugging! LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!! She not only learned to hate tugging, she associated it with agility or any training and learned to hate those things as well! Once I pulled my head out of my A$$ and offered her what SHE wanted and not what I thought she SHOULD want, our training soared to new heights! But that is for a different blog or my book about her and not my digression here.

When the Oxaliplatin was finished, the nurse hooked up my mobile chemo pump. She handed Sir C the things he would need to unhook my in two days and we were outta there!

I knew I had only a few good hours left before I hit the chemo wall. I talked on my phone to some friend on the way home because I knew I would not be able to communicate from Monday evening until Thursday or Friday that week. Most people leave me alone during that time and just let me hibernate and be sick. Once I start to come out of it, I am able to answer emails, texts and talk on the phone again. Only a couple of folks call me during my down time: one being my friend Uncle Jef. I don’t mind when he calls because he doesn’t talk long and he always says something incredibly rude, insensitive or politically incorrect that makes me laugh. Although he has given up agility, we are still close friends. I am grateful for that because nobody can poke fun at me or make me laugh at myself the way he can. I love to laugh at myself or anything else for that matter. I sure miss him at agility trials. We always tented together and I would often be brought to tears and the inability to speak I was laughing so hard. He is very selfish for abandoning agility. Sir Cussalot also enjoyed Uncle Jef’s humor. Jef would often say things about me that Sir C knew better than to say. That would make Sir C belly laugh. I miss that.

The wall of chemo flame struck about 3:30 that afternoon. That was a little earlier than usual. I tried to stay up for an hour or so more but it kept getting worse and worse. Finally, I told Sir C I needed to go to bed. Once I got up, however, I realized how sick I really was.

I nearly fell over and held on to things on my way to the bedroom. I asked Sir C to help me. As I stood helplessly trying to undress myself, it all hit me at once. My eyes were spewing liquid, my sinuses were on overdrive and gushing like Niagara Falls and I couldn’t stop coughing. There I was, weak, sick, hunched over, crap spewing out of every orifice in my fat face and unable to undress myself. While Sir C tried to get me to bed, I felt completely useless and burst into tears, which made the flood waters even heavier! Sir C chuckled and just said, “Poor Gramma.” That made me laugh. So I laughed and cried as we struggled to get me to bed so I could crash for the next three days.

I turned on the heating bad, pulled on some warm gloves for my tingling and cramping hand, bundled up with covers and whimpered myself to sleep.

I honestly don’t know how Sir Cussalot resisted taking me right then and there! I was such a sexy mass of blubbering poison.

Nothing could get me warm but I knew it was only a matter of a few more hours before I would be sweating like a boxer after lengthy match on a hot, humid day. Sure enough, about midnight, the heating pad was discarded, then the gloves, then the covers. The sweat began pouring from my body and every ounce of me hurt.

boxers

I waited as long as I could to get up to go the bathroom, but finally decided I best be headed in that direction. The moment I stepped out of bed, I felt those four flights of stairs twisting at my calves! HOLY CRIPPLE BATMAN! I couldn’t walk! The lack of use in my calf muscles, coupled with the cramps from the chemo was a lethal combination! You see my calves are another place I always feel the chemo, even when I didn’t walk down a bunch of stairs.

There I stood, one hand on the bathroom counter and one of the opposite wall for support (one good thing about the small spaces in an RV). I was frozen! I couldn’t go forward nor could I go in reverse. I HAD to get to that bathroom and QUICK! Well, that just wasn’t going to happen. Finally, I took the band-aide approach and went for it. The pain was EXCRUCIATING! I screamed and groaned and whimpered but I made it! I sat for a while, trying to muster the strength to get myself back to bed. How I did that is beyond me but I did.

All in all, this third round of chemo was by far the worst. Or was it? Could it be all in my mind? I still smell that crappy mock tuna even though I am showered and long away from it! The power of suggestion is pretty dang powerful indeed!

Here’s hoping the next round is not as bad and I manage to make it through all nine remaining treatments.

This weekend I will attempt to run Pankies. She has been my loyal companion and nurse throughout my ordeal and I adore her so much. I am so sorry for trying to make her into something she was not early on in her training, but we are on track now. Even though I messed her up, she still loves me with all her heart. Knowing I am loved is more important than anything else on the planet.


Responses

  1. Holy Crap is all I can say.
    and your response to MErinda’s post just cracked me up… I love how your brain works..

    May love hover over youand around you , and under you …

    T

  2. I’m so sorry that you have to endure that kind of pain Helen. I so appreciate your insights and wisdoms you share with us all from this shit of yours. I am not sure that I’d be able to be as big hearted as that. You and Mel are so lucky to have each other and Pankins is lucky to reap your born again dog training chops!

  3. You have a lot of support behind you Helen. You are one tough cookie and with Sir. C. by your side, the two of you will kick this “C’s” ass.

  4. You are loved from the east coast to the left coast!

    • Thank you Lizzie! I am so excited you are coming to visit!!!!

      • I’m really excited, too, Helen! Getting to finally watch you do Jility, in real life, going to the beach with you guys & all the girls, who could ask for anything more???

  5. Helen stay strong, your post made me laugh, cry and feel like vomiting. You know I’ve been there, done that chemo think. Classical conditioning hah, to this day I can’t look at or sit in a black recliner chair – my oncologist’s office had several where you sat while poison dropped into your body.

    • Oh Yvonne! I can’t even tell you how much your communications mean to me! Seeing you in the hospital after my surgery was incredible. I love you.

  6. Love.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  7. Hi Helen, Man, I sure hope I never need Chemo . . sounds absolutely horrible ! Jesus ! Sound like you’re handling it about as well as possible . . but, “Damn !”, it’s about time you receive a little break ! Here’s hoping it’s soon ! Both you and Mel (as you know, I’ve previously been in his position) are experiencing pure Hell !

    • Thanks Ron. I know you understand. Your poor brother needs to be sainted. As if I wasn’t difficult enough to live with LOL

  8. I love your blog and admire your courage,,, you give us a great gift taking us on your journey,,,regarding pink,,,I cant stand to look or think about apple juice which I drank a lot of before colonoscopy

  9. There are still things I cannot eat due to eating them after chemo (and it has been 5 years!). Even thinking about them now makes me a little sick…
    Good luck & take care!

    • WOW! FIVE YEARS???? YIKES! I need to really be careful with what I eat during chemo!


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