Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Farewell Carboplatin, Thanks for the Dead Cancer Cells and Painful Hands and Feet

Since this is my last cycle with my first-line chemo triplet (carboplatin/alimta/avastin), I thought I would give a little more detail about the experience. Check me out, I'm getting nostalgic.

Day 0 (day before infusion): I start the pre-med steroids, and the effects kick in by evening. I feel amped up and my joints start arching, particularly my hips. Plus I get this weird insatiable hunger, with pronounced cravings for meat. I am unable to fall asleep until after 4 am.

Day 1 (infusion): I start with a blood draw to check that my blood work is good enough for the next onslaught of drugs. This goes off without a hitch, in and out with little delay.

Next stop is the oncology department. My oncologist is out of town, so I have a quick check in with the nurse. My blood counts look good so we go ahead with the treatment as planned, and schedule my next CT scan for November 8. I am leaving oncology at 9:15 am and head over to the Infusion Center for my 10 am appointment.

At 12:45 pm (after over 3 hours in the waiting room), they call me in for my infusion. The room is a large U shape with recliners and IV pumps set up around the perimeter, and a nurses' station in the center. I settle into my comfy recliner and ask for warm blankets to wrap up my arms. This helps to make the veins pop out more and hopefully make the IV access easier. Jason pulls up a not-as-comfy chair and goes to get us something to eat from the snack room. The steroid hunger is kicking in big time.

It takes two nurses and three needle sticks, but they finally get an IV going. No shots today, so that is the last poke for me. They start the anti-nausea pre-meds, and by 1:30 they finally get the chemo started. Jason and I get out the iPad and headphones and start watching "Orange is the New Black."

There is some drama when we hear a nurse from the other side of the room call out, "Guys!" Her voice has that blend of urgency and forced calm that speaks volumes. All the nurses run over and we hear an assortment of rapid-fire orders about Benadryl, call a code, history of asthma, allergic reaction. A tense quiet falls over us as all the patients freeze, hoping for the best and knowing that this could be any of us. Several minutes later the situation appears to be under control and everyone goes back to their business.

My final drug infusion wraps up around 3 pm and we head out. I feel okay, just very worn out. And STARVING. I stop at Panera and pick up a sandwich that I take home and proceed to devour. I spend the rest of the evening going back and forth between my bed and couch, plus enjoying a lovely Korean dinner thoughtfully brought over by a friend.

Day 2: I feel generally run down, but not terrible. Tired, vaguely yucky. Thankfully, Aloxi (the anti-nausea drug) works really well for me. I have a couple of nice bruises on my arm from the IV attempts, and some soreness at the infusion site. The tingling and sensitivity is starting in my hands and feet, a neurotoxic side effect of carboplatin. I spend most of the day on the couch or in bed, "lounging out" as Zander would say. There are also the other GI side effects, but in the effort of avoiding TMI, I will just say that Miralax is great, as are those flushable wipes made for potty-training toddlers. And Activia is really helpful. Who knew?

Day 3: Still tired and run down, increasing tingling and sensitivity in my hands and feet. It becomes uncomfortable to open jars and use hot water. The funny mouth taste is starting, a bizarre and rather gross side effect. It tastes like I have some strange after taste from something sour or slightly off. The only things that seem to help are sucking on hard candies or nibbling on snacks. More lounging out.

"Resting" on the couch with my girls
Day 4: My mouth tastes gross. Just gross, gross, gross. It makes me want to sip on something all day - which is a good thing overall, I just wish I could get rid of this weird taste. Salty snacks seem to help. The tingling in my hands and feet is pretty constant today. I feel worn out still, but managed to have a short outing for a hair cut. I have a chronic runny nose and itchy eyes, a side effect from the Alimta. Not terrible, it just feels like I have allergies all the time and I go through a LOT of kleenex.

Day 5: I keep thinking I have more energy, but little things tire me out very fast. I feel sort of foggy-minded, I guess it is a mix of the fatigue and "chemobrain," or the impact of having lots of harsh chemicals coursing through my system. I find that it manifests in that I have a harder time multitasking. If the kids are talking to me and the TV is on and the water is running for the dishes, I have a really hard time following all of the sounds. I have to turn off the faucet and look right at the person talking in order to really follow what they are saying. A very strange feeling when I am used to doing a million things at once. I do manage to do some studying and take the online quiz for my Statistics class (I aced the exam! Woo-hoo!). I just need to focus a lot harder than I am used to.

Day 6: Things are improving. The sensitivity in my hands and feet is decreasing, making washing dishes way less painful. I managed to do a bit of vacuuming, did a quick grocery shop, and carved pumpkins with the kids. Still tired, but things are looking up.

Day 7: I am a marathon sleeper (really, if there were a contest I could totally win), but I am starting to feel more like myself. My feet are still a little sensitive, but cozy slippers and socks make them much more comfortable. Time to get back on my exercise routine!

So, there you have it, a glimpse at chemo week. I am very thankful that I am one of the luck ones who is still able to function somewhat normally while on chemo. Now comes the "nadir week," where I feel more and more okay, but my immune system takes a nose dive. Lots of hand washing and Purell!


kimmywink said...

Have a happy halloween!

kimmywink said...

Have a happy halloween!