#4. A Brief Compendium: Chemotherapy Cycle 5

For my fourth post, I’ve decided to share with you all what a full chemo cycle is like. I’m sorry that it took me so long to post this, last cycle was a bitch and a lot of things happened between then and now.

Last cycle, I had a bad reaction to some medications that weren’t compatible with my chemotherapy regimen. We didn’t realize that I would have this reaction until after it already happened.

3 am hallucinations, no sleep, barley eating or drinking anything. It was crazy. I was reacting so hard to the drug/chemo interaction that I was absolutely losing my mind.

I was so sleep deprived that I had literal crazy eyes. I played the Sims 4 for 7 hours straight. I read Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems Vol 1 front to back three times. Oh, I hallucinated/thought I saw a cat in my room. Maybe it was cause I was missing home and my three cat-nephews.

Friday, January 25th (Which was supposed to be Day 1 of Cycle 5)

If you weren’t aware, I was supposed to start Cycle 5 on January 18th. due to the fact that I had a sinus infection, Dr. B pushed chemo back a whole week. Chemotherapy is toxic enough as it is, so me being sick during is detrimental to my health.

This is how it usually goes down. The Thursday before Day 1 of a cycle and admission day, I meet with Dr. B to discuss how I’m feeling. She examines me, makes sure I’m not sick, and as long as she gives me the green light, we start chemo the next day. I saw her, she said I looked like a million bucks (direct quote) and said we were good to go. I was so happy cause I’m so close to the end of treatment and I’m anxious to be done.

Every Friday of Day 1, I wake up at 8 am and call “bed assignment” at Seidman. They give me a general time frame of when my room might possibly be ready. Typically it always ends up being ready around 6-7 pm. which means I always start chemo around 10 pm and don’t finish until 1 or 2 am.

On Friday, I call bed assignment at 8 am and they say that my room will probably be ready around 7 pm. My dad always spends these chemo weekends in the hospital with me. He arrived in Lakewood around 2 pm, and we bopped around until it was time to go to the hospital at 7.

We got to the hospital, and we were told that there was a mistake in my chemotherapy order and that chemo won’t start until the next morning, Saturday. Again, I was disappointed that we weren’t starting that night. Starting later means I finish later.

Saturday, January 26th – Cycle 5 Day 1

Since I’ve been admitted for every cycle of BEACOPP, things have slightly gone downhill in my general well-being. Man, this shit is rough. The good news is: I’m admitted, so I have 24-hour care. The bad news is: I’m admitted. This means being woken up every 3-4 hours to have vitals taken. I have to give blood every morning, which means being woken up anywhere from 2-3 am so that labs are ready before the day begins.

Here’s how the Day 1 chemo regimen went down…

We began infusion of pre-medications at noon. I’m usually on saline for the entire time I’m in the hospital, but it just depends on how I’m feeling. when my nurse starts the saline drip, I don’t know yet if I’ll be hooked up everyday. She also gives me 75 mg of Prednisone, a steroid.

Then after that she gives me 200 mg capsules (4 pills total) of a chemotherapy pill called Procarbazine. I start Procarbazine on Day 1 and take it until Day 7 of my cycle. So this means I take them when I go home. And get this- I have to wear gloves to handle the pills. Which I get because when my nurses give me chemo they have to dress in a hazmat-like outfit. But it’s like another reminder that like, should I be putting this in my body?

Around 1 pm, a drug called Mesna is dripped for 24 hours. Mesna is a cool drug that basically coats my insides and protects them from the poison of chemotherapy. No side effects. Zofran is infused for an hour to help combat the impending nausea. The Zofran takes about an hour to infuse.

At two pm, the nurse begins a one hour infusion of Cyclophosphamide drip (sounds scary, amirite?) Cyclophosphamide, say that 10 times fast, is a chemotherapy drug. it’s quite toxic. It’s the main culprit of hair loss, loss of fertility, poor appetite, weight loss, deterioration of skin. (so it basically makes you into a f-ing zombie if you let it) The good thing though- it doesn’t make me feel like crap immediately. I get to avoid the inevitable for a bit while it travels through my body before hitting me all at once.

At three pm I receive my LEAST favorite chemo drug. It’s called Doxorubicin, we call it Doxy for short. Doxy is a vesicant. Meaning, it LITERALLY is so strong of a chemical that it causes extensive tissue damage… thank you, Mesna for the organ protection spell.

Guess what the scariest part of it is? Its given as a “push”. Meaning, the nurse slowly pushes 35 mg of it through my veins with a syringe that is HUGE. Like the syringe is close to 2 inches in diameter. It’s scary. Oh, can’t believe I almost forgot this part… its bright, obnoxious, almost neon, fire-engine red in color. It gives me a head rush and I get a little sweaty and my heart starts beating fast. It’s pushed over five minutes but its five minutes too long nonetheless.

I might be oversharing here, but it makes my urine bright orange. Like I drank 2 gallons of orange Tang. Long live Tang by the way. Orange drank forever. Do people still drink it?

Next comes an 1 hour drip of Etoposide. Then, I’m done with chemo for the day. I feel pretty drugged up right now. Nausea is starting to creep in. My body is hungry, but I don’t have an appetite because of the nausea. It’s a strange spot to be in.

I eat an edible and chill. I have zero urge to eat, but a sudden strong urge to start writing to you all and listen to some Francois Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, and some Brigit Bardot. Theres something about French pop and rock that makes me feel like a free, cool, independent, witchy, but still like a classy woman. Like maybe a cross between Lana Del Rey and Nancy Sinatra.

L’appétit vient en mangeant.

After my witchy vibes faded, I slept off and on. And then I felt my brain and muscles turn to mush. Got nauseous again, I slept some more, took a ton of meds, and started to feel better.

Then around 9-ish, some lovely friends came to visit. We played cards- Rummy. I failed miserably, but it was super fun. Then we played Scrabble. Which happens to be my strong suit. The game is competitive and fun and then BAM! Plot twist, my friend Rachel beats me by 2 points. It was a game for the books for sure. We had a blast. Thank you, guys.

I know that I’m so close to the end of treatment and everything is exciting. But don’t be fooled, these nights in the hospital are tough. I try to keep busy writing or reading or doing other random hobbies. But when friends visit, it makes the feeling of being stuck here for days on end way less shitty. It’s like I get a glimpse of what’s going on out there in the world. It makes me feel less like a patient and more connected to the universe.

At 8:30 pm, I was given my many night medications. I tried to sleep for a bit once my friends left, but struggled to sleep. Since about midnight, for the past few hours my nurse has tried giving me Ativan, Klonopin, Marinol, and Benadryl.

I had about 6 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. I am WIDE awake. Even after all the drugs. Although slightly manic, this is where I am at right now. I did, after all, promise to give you the unadulterated truth.

Chemo starts in 7 hours. I’m gonna use a few more of my magic tricks to get to sleep.

Sunday, January 27th – Cycle 5 Day 2

I ended up falling asleep last night about 6:15 am. Aside from being frequently woken up to be poked and prodded and given my morning medication, I slept okay. But at 12 pm I woke up around in a pretty weakened and foggy state to my nurse starting my pre-medications. I slept off and on for a bit while my Zofran and Compazine dripped into my port for a little over an hour. Chemo starts around 1pm. The rest of the day is spent sleeping off and on, writing, listening to music, and wishing I was on an island somewhere in a bikini.

Monday, January 28th – Cycle 5 Day 3

I slept much, much better tonight. Today is pretty much the same as yesterday, I did the dame things and got the same drugs and wished I could go home. One of my best friends, Aaron, brought me some fried chicken. We watched movies and chilled, it was wonderful.

I went home the day after, on Tuesday. The next few days after chemo weren’t terrible. I spent most of my time on the couch crocheting, watching movies, writing, and eating soup and or noodles. I continued to take my chemotherapy pills at home until Day 7.

I started to feel pretty good, until Day 8 of the cycle came around. On Day 8, I get two more rounds of chemotherapy. And the worst part: a shot called Neulasta. It has good intentions and after several days it completes its purpose, but the side effects are terrible.

Chemotherapy causes my blood counts to reach dangerously low levels. Neulasta is a shot that boosts my blood counts. It works as a natural protein, aiding white blood cells in growth and reproduction. It doesn’t kick in for several days after the shot, but in the meantime, it causes intense bone pain.

It causes my bones to feel like they’re on fire and causes muscle and body contractions because its so painful. But eventually, it goes away and I start to feel better.

Then, a week and a half after chemo, I go in for a routine blood draw at 10 am. Its a pretty normal experience. They are behind that day, though and I don’t get called back until 11am. I go in, get my blood drawn, wait around for my counts to come back so that I can get the clear to go home. I always get the clear to come home.

Except this time, my nurse comes in and instead of clearing me to go home, informs me that my counts are so low that I’ll need a blood transfusion.

BUMMER.

Guys, I walked into the hospital at 10 am and didn’t leave until 7 pm. I at least had my own room and had my laptop by sheer coincidence. But it seriously took 8 hours to run the tests, type and screen my blood, wait for the blood, and receive the blood. It was by far one of the worst days I’ve had in the hospital so far.

Anyways, besides a few shitty days, I’m super duper excited about my last cycle of chemo that starts on February 15th. Then I’m done with chemo! Fuck yeah! Also, I just started writing for a website/magazine publication… they saw my blog and loved it. All good tings, mon.

Talk to you soon.

xoxo

Hannah

1 thought on “#4. A Brief Compendium: Chemotherapy Cycle 5

  1. Karenstarkeysharkey February 12, 2019 — 7:58 pm

    I am laughing about your pole comment!

    Liked by 1 person

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