How My Second Chemotherapy Treatment Went, or: A Chronological Recording of the Events of 3/19/2013

7:30 am. Is that my alarm going off? It can’t be. I haven’t set an alarm for weeks. My average rising time went from 5am (when I was marathon training) to 10:30am (when I was being all cancery and stuff). 7:30am is literally the butt crack of dawn to me now. I’m going back to sleep.

8:15am, five snooze buttons later. FINE I’LL GET UP, I’m starving anyway. Thanks, steroids.

8:18am. Yes, I will eat this banana and this oatmeal and this brown sugar out of the package with a spoon and this maple syrup I dipped my finger in and this sugar free muffin and this pear and that glass of cranberry juice. Thank you.

9:15am. Roll up to USC Norris like a boss in my buzz cut, which is becoming patchier by the second, and beanie. Wonder why I’m the only one here without hair. Am in the wrong place? This is a cancer center, right? YOU PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE LESS HAIR! I don’t understand!

9:30am. Needle Stick #1 of the day – a blood draw. NBD. Because of that one time I passed out while having an IV placed, everyone is super paranoid about puncturing me. USC is kind enough to use the needles made for premature infants. I am not complaining.

10:30am. My red and white blood cell counts show that my body is an animal and my innards are not lying down and taking this chemo thing without a fight. In fact, my neutrophils – the white blood cells most likely to get obliterated by chemo – are actually a bit high. Thanks, Neulasta! My red blood cell counts are mediocre, and I’ve chosen to blame my bad running on this. I decide not to ask the nurse if these particular red blood cells would affect my athletic performance, on the chance that she’ll say, “No, your fitness should be fine!” and then I’ll have to admit that I just suck because I took three months off.

10:48am. A new nurse comes in to place my IV. Like last cycle’s nurse, she complains about my veins. I didn’t bother to get the port yet, but she’s starting to convince me. After at least two minutes with the tourniquet on, I wonder if I’m here for chemotherapy or an impromptu amputation. Finally, she finds a vein, and kindly tells me that her professional recommendation is that I suck it up and get the PortaCath. “You could go, like, tomorrow,” she says, not joking.

11am. Pre-medication begins with Kyrtil, Benadryl, Ativan and Pepcid. I bury myself in three pre-warmed hospital blankets and throw on some Pandora jams. Almost immediately I fall asleep.

11:30am. Taxotere drip begins. It is thoroughly uneventful. I read for a bit, break out my computer, eat a giant tupperware of fresh berries my mom was kind enough to pack and chat with my parents about a bunch of random things. Then I pass out again.

12:45pm. The Carboplatin drip begins. At first, nothing changes. About half an hour into it, however, my hand begins to feel as though it is on fire. The area around my IV is stinging, and shooting pains are flying up and down my wrist and palm, not unlike cramps. I hold off for a few minutes, thinking they’ll pass, but they only get worse. I quickly ring my button and the nurse comes running in, asking what’s wrong. When I tell her, she says that the drugs can sometimes irritate the lining of the veins, which is probably the source of my pain. She lowers the flow rate and gives me a warm compress to help dilate my lame little venous system. The pain takes at least two hours to fade completely. I’m beginning to agree with these nurses – my veins suck, give me the port.

1:40pm. My awesome brother shows up. We take some glamour shots all over my chemo equipment, but they’re on his phone, so alas, I cannot share them with you just yet. Thanks for coming and hanging out, Ry – made my day.

2:30pm. The final drip: Herceptin! When I’m not getting up to pee every 10 seconds because I have just been pumped with 4 massive bags of saline and poisonous drugs, I’m sitting on my computer praying that my battery doesn’t die before I finish the next article on Gawker. Priorities.

4pm. FINISHED!

6pm. My parents and I head home and order Mexican food. Obviously. And then we settle in for a night of terrible reality TV, as is de rigueur in our household. Word to the wise: I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news because I love trashy TV as much as the next girl, but NBC’s Splash was every bit as inane and bizarre as it looked. I don’t know why I felt compelled to watch it; every time the promo would come on, I was reminded of Jack Donaghy pitching such 30 Rock classics as MILF Island and Celebrity Homonym.

On the chemo front, that makes 2 down, and 4 to go. Here’s to hoping the side effects are as tolerable this time as they were last time. So far, so good, as I can safely say that the worst thing I’ve experienced tonight is my second-hand embarrassment at watching D-list celebrities try to conquer the high dive.

25 thoughts on “How My Second Chemotherapy Treatment Went, or: A Chronological Recording of the Events of 3/19/2013

  1. ubensmom says:

    I hate my port in the biggest, lumpiest way but it does save the arms so maybe someday we’ll be better friends. I globbed lidocaine cream on it and covered it with Saran wrap before my chemo last week and felt absolutely nothing when the needle went in. I’d say go for it. I’ve switched to strapless bras since I want nothing getting too close to the boy before I do. It’s a psychological problem I’m not enjoying, but with any luck maybe some people will post here about how to learn to love your lump. Congrats on being one more down!

    • Michelle says:

      I’m not excited about getting the port, but considering that my veins STILL hurt, I think it’s going to be the right move. My chest is going to look like I got attacked by a bear when I’m through with this. Scars on scars on scars.

      • ubensmom says:

        I’m also in Europe and you are pretty danged famous already. Someone exactly asked me today, “Have you read Michelle’s blog today?”

  2. robindcole says:

    I feel kind of strange commenting on your blog now that the Freshly Pressed flood has calmed down, but it’s one of the few in my reader that I actually read. So I guess I’ll keep leaving replies. I’m really rooting for you, all the way from Europe, through the interwebs, in a strange voiceless way – if that makes sense. We’re the same age and kindofsortof look alike, and I think because of this your experience really resonates. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope that other 20-something women find your blog and connect with your story.

    • Michelle says:

      Haha, please keep commenting! It’s wonderful to hear from people who are reading alone and sharing my journey, especially all the way from Europe! We DO kind of look alike – weird!

  3. My MIL is due to be a Herceptin girl soon, but we don’t know when treatment will start yet (the Onc’s been on her hols). Glad to hear about the sugar rush and trash tv…MIL is already on the second. 😉

  4. Hey Michelle…

    Thank you for sharing another chapter of this “life adventure” with us. I spread your blog and your story all over my friends and family. Now, you’re almost famous here in Brazil. I mean… you WOULD be really famous if I were famous too – sorry about that.

    Today’s post was perfect, funny, exciting, authentic… perfect.

    Thank your for MAKING my day.

    • Michelle says:

      WOW, Brazil? I’m going international! 🙂 Thank you for sharing my story! My goal isn’t fame, of course – I’m just thrilled that I can help make even one person smile by sharing my journey.

  5. Vicki Shequin says:

    Michelle,
    I had to laugh when I read your comment on why everyone else has hair in the cancer center!! I felt (and commented on) the exact same thing to my husband – and everyone in my infusion room!!! Come to find out we are one of the lucky ones – the cocktails we have to take causes the hair to fall out….but not all chemo causes hair loss!! I just finished my last radiation treatment last week (went every week day for 7 weeks – and just to let you know, it was a breeze compared to chemo)!!! January 2nd was my last chemo (had 6 infusions) and my hair is starting to grow back now – well, more like peach fuzz right now – but I’ll take it!!!Keep up the good fight girl. You’re doing GREAT!! Time will go by fast. It may not seem like it now, but in the end it will seem like it.

    Vicki (chemo friend of Maureen).

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Vicki! I know, isn’t the hair thing just bizarre? My oncologist said that a lot of people there are just on maintenance therapy, like Avastin and Herceptin. Since I’ll be on Herceptin myself, one day I’ll be the one with the hair – but I’ll never forget how it feels to walk up in there all balding and weird-looking and feel so alone (yet strangely badass?).

      Good luck with rads!!! It’s so exciting how close you are to being done, done, DONE!

  6. rbahm says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I came across your blog through WordPress suggestions and I love it! I am 26 years old and I can’t imagine going through what you are experiencing right now. I think you have such a great, positive outlook despite the hand that’s been dealt to you. Your blog really helps me understand what cancer is like for those experiencing (to some extent) and I hope everything goes well and you run your marathon after your recovery!

    Rachel

  7. Bri says:

    Michelle,

    I found your blog through The Mermaid Chronicles and I have been reading ever since – first time commenting because I just wanted to say that reading this post was the push I needed to sign up for the Susan G. Komen 3-day here in San Diego. I’ll be walking with you in mind, hoping that this experience is long behind you by then! 😉

    All my best,
    Bri

  8. Angela J. Sponaugle says:

    Michelle,
    I’ve been thinking about you a lot during our xteam workouts. Next week I will pray for you during the 6-7 am hour. It looks as though your blog is inspiring and helping lots of people. Stay strong and we’ll see you soon!
    Angie

  9. I’m not in chemo, and I’ve never had cancer. Even though there are many things you share that I cannot relate to, I still come back to read just because I think you’re hilarious. Your attitude is refreshing — and not refreshing “for a cancer patient.” Refreshing in general!

    Continue kicking that boobs ass, girl.

    P.S. Based on what I wrote above, you’re probably wondering how I even came across your blog. No, I am not a cancer creeper. I’m a blog friend of Devon’s. I read your guest post, and now I just keep comin’ back for more laughs. 🙂

  10. Sara says:

    Michelle,
    You’re taking these treatments like a champ.
    Here’s to hoping there’s no major side effects wit this one.

    Hang in there,
    Sara Lezama

  11. Keira says:

    Hey!!! I’m in love with your blog! Lol it makes me laugh and cry at the same time! Im27 yrs old And was diagnosed on jan 23rd 2013 with IDC, triple negative …underwent bilateral mastectomy on march 1st, had my port placed on march 22nd, and start my first of 8 chemo treatments on the 25th (Monday)…yes I’m so over surgeries and being put under too, but honestly I think the port is your best bet… I just had mine done and its not fun, but its not bad! I came out of the anestesia so much better than I did for the mastectomy..and I’m a little sore but nothing I’ve needed pain pills to help with. I actually haven’t needed even a Tylenol with the port…I can’t tell you how good it works during treatments tho! But again, your blog is amazing, and so are you! We’re too young for this cap, but were Strong so we will be back to normal in no time with nice new boobies!!

    • Michelle says:

      Wow girl, you are on the Runaway Medical Train for sure. Even though things start happening really fast, it feels great to get things over with and get closer and closer to living a life free of this disease. Do you have a blog or someone you can talk to about your experience? I would always be happy to listen and offer advice where I can. I see today’s your first day of chemo, so I hope that goes well and you’re back on your feet in no time.

      Thanks for your advice about the port! I’m just ready to get it over with!

      • Keira says:

        I haven’t started a blog, but I do use the BreastCAncer.org discussion board a lot which has been great! Yup, started chemo yesterday..I can’t believe how much I freaked myself out over it, it was easy peasy! When the nurse tuck my port with the needle, it was numbed first so it didn’t hurt either! Started feeling pretty yucky yesterday and today, plus had to have my Nulasta shot today..so we will see how feel in the next day or 2! Good luck with everything, keep updating your blog 🙂

  12. So, I think you’ve just taught me more about chemo than med school has so far. I love your writing style and your mindset. Your narrative is amazing. Thank you for sharing your story!

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