And I’m feeling decent!

Days three – five were predicted to be the worst, but I’m doing quite well. I’ve got some achy legs today but I’ve taken my optional pills for nausea just once, on the first night. Let’s recap.

Pre-Chemo

I was more and more… what’s the word… not anxious so much, not scared… I guess apprehensive is the right word, leading up to chemo. I spent the last couple days before hand hanging out with Hank:And working on my deep, dark subarctic tan, he he:Dad arrived a couple days before we had to go down to Whitehorse. We took a nice drive down Hunker and back up Bonanza, my first real adventure/outing since surgery. Here’s the top of King Solomon’s dome where the communication towers are.There was a small little rain storm going by, really just one cloud opening up, but we got pictures of the rainbow, the rain, and some fireweed for good measure!

Dad was checking out all the berry crops while we drove around the goldfields. The cranberry plants don’t have many cranberries this year, probably due to the lack of rain for the last few weeks. There are tons of rosehips this year that should be ready after our first frost.Jeff took us out to discover an old mine shaft. We had driven by this dozens and dozens of times and had no idea it was hiding behind the bushes until a friend showed Jeff recently. Dad and Jeff went in to explore. I’m still working on building up my abdominal muscles after surgery so I stood by and watched them go in.

Cool eh? I wonder how old the shaft is and what these sunken timbers were used for.

Chemo

On the day before chemo, I had to visit my chemo doctor and give a blood sample at the hospital lab. This gave them a normal base line, but before each of my next chemo rounds I’ll be doing the same so they can check my white blood cell count. If it is too low, the chemo will be delayed.

(By the way, my hemoglobin is back up to 115, back to normal. And I learned that I lost 1400mL of blood during the surgery! No wonder I was kinda out of it in the recovery room and needed three blood transfusions!)

I will be having six rounds of chemo (one is done now!). A round is three weeks long. So on day 1 of the cycle, I get chemo drugs by IV for about 4-5 hours, and then the rest of the “round” covers the recovery and the impact on my system. There are two chemo drugs I’m receiving, Paclitaxel and Carboplatin (the Taxol/Carbo regimen). The taxol is preloaded with a couple helper drugs (one is benedryl, the other is a steroid) to prevent allergic reactions. Then I took something by pill before the second chemo drug, I think it was for nausea.

Round one didn’t start so smoothly. I don’t have visible veins in my arm, so they tried my hands to start the IV. The first nurse wrapped my arms in heating pads, and took three tries. She said three was her max and then she’d pass it off. She couldn’t get two of them, and blew out the third. So then another nurse tried, and she blew out one and missed the fifth. By then they had a special light they borrowed that makes your veins glow. I could see I just have no veins in my arm, they must be buried deep! They said that is common in light-skinned freckled people like me (and my mom).

Then they called a vein whisperer from somewhere else in the hospital. She was excellent! She took one try and got it in the first time! But by then, we were already delayed at least an hour with all the poking.  Here’s a picture of me lying down after all the poking. I look hideously fat and chunky, especially with my fleece sweater behind my back, but I promise my weight actually is down quite a bit from normal! The t-shirt is a gift from a super kind coworker! It says “This is my fighting cancer shirt”! Jeff wore his green Lucky shirt againtoo  😀

So I sat in the chair for about 6 hours total, and got up to pee at least 5 times. (They said my kidneys work great! Ha!)

It was actually really interesting watching the other people come in. The chemo room in the Whitehorse hospital has 5 chairs for treatments. My treatment protocol is the longest, so I’ll probably always be the first in on my days. Everyone’s treatment was different though. I saw needles to the back of an arm, a lady who left with bottle of liquid connected to a chest port, other quick IV visits for another lady, and young girl with a stomach port access. Everyone one of us receiving different drugs.

Jeff left after they finally got me hooked up, so he could do some shopping. He came back a few times to check on me and rode out the last hour with me until I could leave.

There are these amazing donators who make quilts for the people receiving chemotherapy. I got to pick out a quilt, just for me, which they will keep there for me for each of my treatments, and when I’m done, the quilt is mine to take home! I picked a lovely quilt with some blues and greens and frogs and butterflies on it. I won’t say it is as nice as my Aunt Maria’s quilts, but it is quite generous and beautiful and so appreciated!

I left the treatment room feeling okay. The benedryl and drugs made it so I’m not allowed to drive myself. We went back to the hotel for a bit, but I felt okay to do a bit of shopping and we went out for dinner after too!
I played it safe with a seafood fettuccini and not a big dinner of bison or caribou. I didn’t eat much of it, but made sure I ate all the good parts!I was prescribed two drugs. One, a steroid to take for the first 2.5 days. The other is an optional, as-needed drug for nausea. They told me not to wait, and to take it at the first hint of nausea, and after dinner I did feel a little off so I took it and relaxed at the hotel. I slept well and was good to go home the next morning, no terrible reactions!

I mostly just felt a little weird. Today, on day 3, I got up before 5am with my stomach feeling really empty and had to get a bit of food in it. One of the drugs has slowed my poops way down again (grrrr don’t want this again) so I’m treating that too. My body is achy today. My face has been really really red and flushed all day on day 2 and 3. And my taste seems a little weak at times, like I’m not getting the full profile. But my appetite is good, no puking, and maybe just a bit of fatigue. I’m trying to stay busy with dad, although I did take a short nap this afternoon with our cat Sally after getting up so early this morning.

The chemo doctor called me during our drive home to Dawson yesterday and is strongly recommending I have a PICC line installed in my upper arm, or a chest port, for future treatment, because of all the trouble inserting an IV. The concern is for a few things – chemo will ruin my veins one by one so they can’t be reused, and I have no usable arm veins, just delicate hand ones. If it blows out the vein during treatment, it’ll be a painful big reaction under my skin to the poisonous chemo. And just all the time it takes to find a vein.

However, I’m on the fence. I only have 5 treatments left to go. But after the third one I have a 7+ week gap where I’ll be getting radiation. I don’t want the annoying thing on my arm that needs to be bandaged and covered and flushed weekly. And the chest port requires a surgery to implant and it seems so permanent for just 5 more treatments. Have you had either? I’d love some advice!!

While we were in Whitehorse, Dad stayed here in Dawson and painted our living room and kitchen. They look amazing! Buh bye dark maroon kitchen!

Dad’s been so chilly in our cold damp house, so today the first fire of the season was made! Hot and toasty in here now!

What’s next

On day 14 I will need to give a blood sample here in Dawson so they can monitor how low my platelets and white blood cell count goes. It’ll be tested again the day before the next treatment.

Dad and I have some adventures planned if the sun ever returns, and he will go with Jeff to get more wood for our winter supply this weekend. He has hopes to drive up the Dempster all the way to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean, but it has been raining for two weeks and will be a yucky drive unless the weather changes.

I’m supposed to lose all my hair in week 2-3. I guess it is what it is. I expect I’ll bawl when it happens, but trying not to get too freaked out in advance.

I’m debating returning to work maybe part time, depending how treatment goes. I expect each one will be worse as I feel all the affects, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to work through all the daily radiation treatments depending how they go in Vancouver. This is all up in the air for now, as I’m still officially off on sick time for the 8-10 weeks of post-surgery recovery prescribed by my surgeon.

Lisa

Lisa (Verkley) Schuyler is a blogger reporting live from her new home in Canada's Yukon Territory. Often found wearing a hoodie, covered in pet hair, Lisa is a mis-placed forester who now spends her days engineering happiness for WordPress users. Lisa loves nature, animals, and most importantly, her handsome husband Jeff.

9 Replies to “Chemo round one, day three

  1. Ha ha green, I knew it! And don’t worry about your hair babe, just stay cool, or warm, under your new quilt. Much support and love.
    Becky.

  2. It’s wonderful to hear how you are doing with chemo.

    I’m going on week 63 of my treatment (crazy to think about) for ovarian cancer and I’ve had a PICC line pretty much the entire time. Different situations, as I was going through chemo every other to every week, as well as daily fluids and transfusions, but having it has been such a blessing. I thought it’d be a pain and difficult to take care of, but it really isn’t. It helped me tremendously and definitely saved my veins. In the end, it is a decision for you to make, sorry I can’t decide for you.

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs and you have my full support!

  3. Lisa, you are such a positive woman! It is such a pleasure to read your posts! I’m glad to hear chemo is going good so far…….please keep that great attitude….I’m sure it will help you get through this! I’m praying for you and Jeff…….

    Cheers….Gail

  4. I’m so glad to hear how well you are doing after your first chemo! Love to see you smiling! I had a chest port. I had it put in the morning of my first chemo. They gave me something to make me sleepy and I didn’t feel a thing. After I finished chemo my gyn/onc had me keep it in for two years in case of recurrence. When I would go in for chemo they drew blood for the blood work using the port. After 2 years he removed it in his office – no big deal. I would highly recommend it.

  5. I’m late to the party, but I had a line in my arm and I ended up being so glad I did. I’d started to dread the extensive poking more than the actual chemo, so it was peace of mind. And at the end, getting it out was just a procedure in the doctor’s office. (I ended up keeping it for a while after chemo because I needed regular blood tests and scans involving IVs for a while and my veins were so effed.)

Leave a Reply to Gail Cancel reply