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New Chemo, New Start

Yesterday was a long but totally bearable day at the hospital, thanks to my amazing oncology nurses, Marion and Roz (I’ve really missed them, even though we all agree we would love to not have to see each other at all, except perhaps socially!) And of course the time always passes more positively and peacefully when in good company, so I was happy to have my wündermummy there, and grateful for visits from familiar faces, especially a fellow mets-warrior, The Lovely Patricia. 

So then.  Here we are: I’ve started the new chemo combo and although I felt completely wiped out last night and my bones began to ache, this morning I felt better.  The regimen of anti-nausea pills and steroids will help me through these first few days, and the steroids will no doubt result in my having the appetite and energy of a teenage boy, and possibly the temperament of a pro-wrestler (wait, is there any difference?)  Just for a few days, then hopefully I’ll completely lose interest in arm-wrestling and pizza pops.  Then I go back in again next Wednesday for another hit of gemcitabine, followed by a week off before the cycle begins again all over again in January.

It feels like a new start, although not one that I would have wished for. I’m still up and down emotionally about it; usually okay, except when I have to really think or talk about it.  The tears at this point are about on par with the laughter, and actually I think that’s a totally acceptable place to be — at all times, really, not just when you have a cancer crisis.*

Anyway, enough already about me (uh, says the person who blogs about herself all the time?)  I wanted to add a quick update on George & Deborah Warkus’ battle to get coverage for the drugs Deborah needs to fight HER-2 mets. I blogged about them recently, and below is an article in today’s globe about their continued struggle:


*Having said that, the comments that you’ve posted and the e-mails from friends and family are helping me like crazy, so pleeeeease keep ’em coming!



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Unlike Taxotere, my previous chemo cocktail made me feel extremely nauseated, and I used to keep my stomach topped up with saltine crackers day after day just to keep the sickness at bay. 

Not so this time around.  I’m watching myself with a mix of bemusement and horror as my appetite routinely drives me out of bed and back to the kitchen at 11pm for something more to eat.  This, at a time when getting out of bed requires a pretty massive effort.  I can put away three square meals before noon.  And not just anything – I have very specific cravings: fried egg sandwiches, tuna-and-bean salad, a scoop of salmon pie, egg noodles with Hungarian chicken sauce…  One day I actually craved – and procured and devoured – two calzones. 

I’m getting vicious acid reflux and enduring squirming, liquefied guts – but that doesn’t stop me from fanatically indulging the whims of this crazy appetite.  It’s a little disconcerting, not just because it’s so frenzied, but because to be honest, ballooned and bald isn’t really the look I’m striving for. 

And who craves calzones?

It was actually the calzones that tipped me off: The steroids are clearly running the show.  I guess most people taking steroids need the extra fuel for all the iron-pumping and muscle-building they’re so serious about, whereas I’m just serious about getting through the day. 

Now pass the macaroni and cheese before I get you in a full nelson and take it from you by force.

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Henchmen & Thugs – My Fifth Round of Chemo

Yesterday I had my fifth round of chemo. 


Since I’ve already had one round of this particular drug, called docetaxel, or Taxotere, I know it means business.  First, they put you on steroids for a few days to ward off possible allergic reactions.  Yes, steroids – the bon-bons of pro-wrestlers and muscle-heads.  It’s a bit weird, but at least I have the energy to run circles around my toddler for a few days. 


Then I stop taking the steroids just as the side effects of chemo kick in, and it starts to get ugly.  Last time I had a raw, ragged mouth and throat that took all the joy out of eating and drinking (two of my favourite pastimes.)  Worse was the constant, deep, aching joint-pain that radiated out to my muscles, causing them to sort of seize up and stay that way for days.    


In the info booklet provided by the drug company that makes Taxotere, its effect is described as causing the walls of cells to stiffen so they can’t reproduce or grow.  To me this sounds a little understated considering the chaos that is wreaked upon my body, so I have concocted my own theory about what’s really happening.  In my unscientific way I rationalize that the chemo is attacking the factory (in my bones) that produces very fast-reproducing cells (like cancer cells) and we’re not letting anyone in that factory without a work permit.  Normally I’m kind of laissez-faire on the subject of work visas and generally suspicious of factory owners, but in this case, not so much.  I say find the interlopers, pound the crap out of them, and back to work with the permit-holders. I think of chemo drugs as my thugs, my henchmen, in there to clean the place up a little. The factory may quake with the violence of it, but it’s my factory dammit, and I want order restored.  


Of course, being henchmen and by nature not too discriminating about where they land their blows, there is a lot of pounding of “good” cells right along with the interlopers.  So this time I’ve asked for and received more drugs for pain.  Even better, my family and friends have banded together to chip in for a massage therapist to come to me every single day next week.  This is an astonishing thing to do and much as I’m dreading the onset of the pain that will require such care, I’m practically giddy about the incredible relief I know it will bring. I’m also reminded that I’m not alone as I go through this.  I’m surrounded by people who keep committing these outrageous acts of love and support to get me through my darkest days.  Big blitzes, or little random love bombs – ka-boom! – they just keep going off in my vicinity, lighting my way. 


So, Taxotere, bring on the henchmen, do your thing. I know I’ll get through it – and when the dust settles I’ll toast my thugs and my loved ones alike.  Just as soon as I can drink something toast-worthy again without wincing.

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