Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Chemo Eve again, and as I prepare for chemo day (by taking steroids), I am compelled to pause and reflect on the ups and downs of chemos passed and consider resolutions for the chemo to come. (This is a lie. This update follows much the same format as the others, with little to no actual insight into chemos past and future.)

This upcoming chemo is the last of the docetaxel/xeloda/avastin chemos, before I begin the AC chemos. This makes it the halfway point of my chemo treatment. You may remember from past updates, that xeloda is a pill that I take for 14 days following my (fragrant, refreshing) infusion. For those of you who have never had chemo (hopefully most of you), swallowing the chemo pill is a much different experience than swallowing a normal pill. For starters, it comes in a bottle that has giant yellow stickers that say "HAZARDOUS DRUG" all over it that make it hard to forget that it's essentially poison. Also, unlike other drugs, which are nearly always designed to make you feel better, you know that taking your chemo pill is just going to make you feel craptastic. Psychologists will enjoy thinking about all of the aversive training that I must ignore just to choke down the pill. So, after today that will be done, and I'm pretty excited about that.

I also believe that I will be able to switch from the neupogen shot to the neulasta shot. As I've complained about in some detail, I have to go to the hospital to get a neupogen shot every day for seven days after each infusion. It's a pain and the hospital never has current issues of People (although it did have a brochure about sexuality and chemotherapy that suggested trying leather play. WTF, brochure?). I only get the neulasta shot once, and although the bone pain is supposed to be worse, it will be mitigated by not having to read a 2 month old tribute to Michael Jackson (may he rest in peace).

In other chemo related news, astute readers will remember that I (love the phrase "astute readers" and) recently mentioned that this cycle has been both the easiest and the hardest. It's been hard because the fatigue and chemo brain have been a disaster lately. My cognitive function is so messed up that I argued at length about Michael Vick on an Internet forum. Even my cat (the dumb one) knows better than to argue with Internet goons. Only stupid people without the sense that God gave a banana debate on the Internet, and yet, here I am, an over educated Ph.D. student, making a rookie mistake. What's wrong with me? (Oh yeah, cancer.) Hopefully, my doctor will recognize this as the colossal problem that it is and suggest a medical therapy (there is some evidence that ADD/ADHD drugs provide relief since the main symptoms of chemo brain are difficulty focusing and mental fatigue, both of which are common symptoms of ADD/ADHD).

On the flip side, this cycle has been great because, despite the nosebleed I fondly refer to as Old Faithful, I didn't have a lot of gross side effects. My mouth stayed healthy, and my nose seemed to move straight past sores and right on to bleeding (which, honestly, I prefer). The nausea was well controlled with my anti-nausea meds, because apparently, it helps if you take it before the nausea kicks in. Who knew? It's like all of the normal painful side effects were combined into 3 hours of utter annoyance. Again, I think I prefer that. Plus, I get to use a lot of expletives in my update e-mail, and cursing is one of my favorite hobbies (sorry, Mom and Dad).

I also wanted to mention that tomorrow I'm eating lunch with Bird (shout out!), the med student who sat with me while I waited to get my biopsies and then got said biopsies after the doctor told me I probably had cancer. I hadn't brought anyone to the appointment, because I'd been told previously that the lump was nothing and I didn't want to make a big deal of it. Even though, as a grad student, I can appreciate how precious time can be for a med student, she did a wonderful, humanitarian thing. It's the kind of thing that makes you glad that someone is becoming a doctor, and I think any one of you would be blessed to be in her care. She is also super, duper cool, and I can't wait to see her!

And finally, I can't even begin to describe how excited I am that school is starting up again. I'm looking forward to having some structure back in my life. I've been noticeably absent from the monkey lab much of the time, because I get pretty anxious about not having my wits about me when working with captive animals that have opposable thumbs and are about a billion times more agile than I am. So, the prospect of intellectual stimulation in a structured environment with all of my friends that involves sitting down, talking, and very few scenarios in which monkeys could die rules my world right now. I imagine professors are less thrilled about a bald girl nearly giving herself a hernia trying to form a coherent thought, but I'm sure we'll all manage somehow.

And one last finally. I've gotten a lot of comments about the nature of my outlook on this whole cancer thing. After I was diagnosed, I did a fair amount of soul searching and came to some explicit conclusions and decisions about how I was going to look at this life event (one of which was to think of it as an adventure). Is this something that people would be interested in reading or is it strictly masturbatory? My feelings won't be hurt if you say the latter.

How do these updates always end up so epic? Post-chemo update and a picture of my chemo outfit to follow at some point. Also, check out my awesome chemohawk, the most subtle (subtlest? I don't know. DAMN YOU CHEMO BRAIN!) of the rebellious hairstyles.


  1. Leather play? LOL!!! you have to scan that and put it up. Are they suggesting the extra pain might distract you from the cancer pain? your astute readers want to know!

  2. This sex brochure was hysterical. I should type out some of the funnier things. I took it home for the lulz.

  3. ^^ Please to cite aforementioned recommedations of the sex pamphlet by quoting directly?

    Once, in elementary school, my nose started bleeding like a flowing fountain without any sort of advance notice. One second I was sitting in my desk listening to class discussion, the next, my elbows resting on my desk are in a pool of noseblood. I think that was the last time I had a real nosebleed. I didn't mind it much at the time, though, as I grossed everyone out and then got to spend the rest of the class free. Perhaps you can arrange similar circumstnaces for yourself when you start classes again and your ADD kicks in. Can you nosebleed at will?

  4. I actually did have a pretty awesome nosebleed during the first meeting of an awesomely boring class. I got blood all over my pants, too.

  5. Hi, I was looking for you in ffaf on ontd last night... I saw a book this week that I wanted to tell you about called Cancer Vixen. It's a comic that a girl in her 20s wrote about having (and beating) breast cancer. She's a cartoonist for the New Yorker, I think, and the cover had a pic of her karate-chopping the grim reaper and saying, "cancer, I am going to kick your butt..." Anyhow, it looks funny, you might want to check it out. Hope you're doing well!

  6. Thanks for the book rec. It sounds awesome! I should be on FFAF this week with any luck.