I was realeased from the hospital yesterday. I haven’t been in a hospital overnight since Elizabeth was born over thirty years ago.
Very early Monday morning I decided to call the oncologist about symptoms I was having. I had had chills and some bone pain and had been awake since 3:00 a..m. The real problem was labored breathing and the strangest pain – my throat and the area behind my sternum were sore and felt as if there was pressure from something. Of course my anxiety escalated. I checked temperature – 99 – heart rate – couldn’t get it right – and finally decided I had to make the call. I was told to take tylenol and my lorazepam for my anxiety and if I wasn’t better in half an hour to go to the emergency room. Since the hospital is half an hour away we followed directions, got dressed and headed that way hoping that we would end up going out to breakfast. I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia in my right lung (the cancer is in my left lung). Once again, this was caught really early and I started to respond to antibiotics . . . but more importantly I found out that the pain in my throat was caused by inflammation due to gastric reflux. I have never had problems with indigestion until chemo. Now that I think of it I probably exacerbated it with my use of mint tea and mint cough drops since mint will relax the stomach opening and allow reflux. Damn.
So, I went through the full routine. Compression socks, massaging leg wraps, innumerable “sticks” because my veins are unhappy (can’t use the right hand because of the lumpectomy/lymph nodes and had an infection on the top of my left hand after my last breast cancer chemo) and they could not use the port for eveything. Shots in my stomach to prevent blood clots and i.v. antibiotics daily. 6:30 monday night I suddenly felt okay and at 4 in the morning I got up and cleaned up – had sweated through all the bedding, etc. – and decided if I was going to tidy up I might as well do a good job – and even straightened my room. I figured just as soon as I really hated the food I would be sent home. Bingo! Wednesday morning breakfast was the worst.
Anyway, I do know that I had no blood clots, lesions, nodules, etc in the chest area – just the plain old pneumonia – which was probably bacterial and which might not be that unusual due to my compromised immune system. I have a week’s worth of prescriptions for antibiotics and a month’s prescription for an acid inhibitor so I do not continue to irritate my esophagus. (Do not panic if an ENT says you need to be scoped – piece of cake – I was afraid a camera would be used in my throat and I have a strong gag reflex – a really neat segmented instrument was put through my nasal passage- not painful or uncomfortable except that my eye really teared when it was removed- and I will NEVER worry about that test again.) My chemo has been postponed for one week so that my antibiotics are finished . . .and all the doctors and nurses and aides and technicians at NIMC were phenomenal. I feel a bit weak – but staying in bed for two and a half days sucks . . .and I am sure we’ll get past this too. My room looked like a florist shop and I had visitors and felt very much taken care of. I am indeed fortunate. I just wish I was through . . .
Well, the past week and a half has been pretty much what I anticipated. I really shouldn’t complain – I could have felt so much worse and had so many other problems- but it has not been a picnic. After effects of chemo set in same as before – three days after infusion – and were as mild as they had been with half the amount of chemotherapy. I should be thankful. However, the Neulasta was just as big a jolt as I remembered. Felt like I hit a wall the day after the shot – which was the same day the chemo reaction set in – achy, mildly nauseous and out of it. Thought I was having digestive issues and realized the pain was probably across my hip bones and pelvis. My ankles and knees hurt and it actually felt uncomfortable to walk one morning. Had been warned that I would have bone and muscle aches. Nurses explained that some people actually feel like they are having a heart attack due to their sternum and bones in their chest hurting. Had taken my Tylenol before my shot and took one at bedtime. so I have continued to sleep well. Had the usual digestive problems so had my Miralax cocktail nightly. Today is the first day I feel almost normal. I have to admit to feeling a little down. It is so easy to take “feeling well” for granted. That was all I wanted- to feel well. On Tuesday the blood test confirmed that all was well – red blood cell count just a little down and immature red blood cell count elevated but everything else was within “normal” range. For all the discomfort, Neulasta had done its thing. Wednesday I had my follow up with the radiologist and I will not see him until July. My health is good. My lungs are clear. With any luck all of this is doing what it is supposed to do.
A few things have helped me through. A “survival” package came in the mail from Nate and Kris just in time. Bit O Honey is awesome for mild nausea in my case. The good wishes and encouraging thoughts helped as well. Best of all was their good news. My son had to go out of town and we helped with Alex. A seven year old is wonderfully distracting. My sister helped with transportation as there were conflicts with Alex needing to be picked up or dropped off – I feel well enough to eat but not always like eating “just anything.” Eating out with my sister and with my husband and Koka gave me a greater range of selection . . .and I didn’t have to cook. And the blog 4 Times and Counting continues to inspire me. The author is a lawyer and mother of two young children who has been diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer four different times – all primany diagnoses. Her story is incredible. I look at everyone around me and realize there are so many people with incredible stories fighting incredible battles.
February 4th will be my last chemo – followed by Neulasta. I am simply thankful knowing that this will be my last treatment for now. In the meantime, I am enjoing feeling “almost normal.”
On Wednesday I received double the dose of chemotherapy I had been receiving during radiation treatment. The center was busy. My port did not cooperate with giving a blood sample so I was “stuck” a few times. Seemed to be some sort of “mechanical” problem since fluid went in but blood did not want to come out. Doctor declared all okay to proceed and so I had my treatment. Went to Olive Garden for a lovely early dinner and then slept a little more and went to bed. Woke up at 4:40 ready to go – felt good and energized all day. Had a little company. Did a lot of cleaning and a little baking. Decent dinner of cod fish and fresh vegetables and early to bed. Woke up at 4:00 feeling warm and a slightly rapid heart beat – decided I needed more sleep and 1/2 lorazepam and a bottle of water later slept ’til the alarm went off. Today was the day for Neulasta (an injection to help prvent infection which increases white blood cell count but can cause bone aches) – and I remember that hitting me harder than chemo before. Took my pre-injection tylenol to combat bone pain and Elsie took me to the Center for the injection. So far, so good. Of course, perhaps we’re just on the same schedule as before and it will hit tomorrow. Lots of details and really not that much to tell. We’ll just see how this goes- but as of right now, I’m just a little sleepy! Am glad I finally shaved off the wisps of hair I had left – sure they would be falling out anyway – and now the wigs and hats are so much more comfortable. Funny how different it is having chemo in the winter – I even wear a turban to bed ’cause my head gets cold and I realized I’m not drinking as much water as I should because I haven’t been as thirsty. One more treatment of chemo and then we shall see . . .
First of all, I had a wonderful Christmas and “time off.” Lots of family and friend visits. Still have the Christmas decorations up and think I will keep them up a little longer this year.
I saw my oncologist on New Year’s Eve. Discussed the “tooth issue” and he suggested it be pulled before I started chemo again. Was lucky – I called the oral surgeon to see if I could have an earlier appointment and he was able to get me in for the consultation earlier – he’d had a cancellation – and was then able to get me in on an emergency basis this past Monday. This will give me a bit over a week to heal before chemo starts again on January 14th. Was really uncomfortable when the tooth was pulled – I’ve had just novocaine before – but this time it felt as if my jaw would crack. One hydrocodone upon return home and one before bedtime resulted in a lot of sleep and I woke up with neither swelling nor bruising and no pain whatsoever – not even a Tylenol’s worth! Had my first “non soup” meal today and it was wonderful!
Other than that, I really have nothing to update except that I am a little nervous about side effects from the heavier dose of chemotherapy. I am reassuring myself that I can certainly manage since it is only two sessions. There will be a three week break between infusions and then another PET scan. We shall see.
Meanwhile – Happy New Year!