Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chemo Round 1 - Taxotere-Cytoxan + Neulasta

That week in preview:
April 23, Saturday- Surgery to harvest my remaining healthy eggs
April 25, Monday- First chemotherapy appointment
April 26, Tuesday - Surgery to implant port for chemotherapy

Its been a week since I got my first chemotherapy infusion.  At the back of my mind, maybe I didn't want to have my first chemo yet because I "thought" the appointment that Monday, April 25, was just to tour me around the infusion room, give me all the "tips" and educate me about my first chemo.  I was still sore from the ovary surgery two days before.  When I got in the UCLA central infusion center,  the nurse told me to pick my recliner and get comfortable.  I asked "Uhhmm, am I getting chemo now?"  She said, "Uhmm , yes.."

I was supposed to take two steroid pills a day before and a day after chemo.  I wasn't able to take it the day before because I "thought" it was just a sneak-peak tour.  But nurse Nancy said its ok this time, she will just give it to me intravenously and double the dosage. 

So I picked a recliner near the window and *tried* to get comfortable.  I was obviously scared because its something I've never experienced.  I watched her bring over an armful of bags of infusion intravenous bags.  She sat down next me and started chatting away what all these IV bags are for, while she tied my arm, rubbed my veins and made it as "angry" and visible as possible.  As usual, Jim was next to me showing James' cute videos from his iPhone to distract me from the needles entering my veins.

She took 4 vials of blood for testing and started then started four pre-chemo meds through my veins: Aloxi an anti-nausea; Decadrone a potent steroid for nausea and vomiting; Benadryl for any allergic reactions; Pepcid for heartburn.

While she waited an hour and a half for the pre-chemo medications to finish dripping, she explained the kind of chemotherapy I will be getting, side-effects, how to care and where the free snacks and drinks are located in the infusion room.  (the last part was all I paid attention to)

I am getting two kinds of chemotherapy drugs, Taxotere (Docetaxel) and Cytoxan (Cyclophosphamide). One infusion every three weeks and 6 cycles which approximately will last six months.  A day after each cycle (infusion), I need to come back to the hospital to get a shot of Neulasta, which will make my body produce white blood cells (WBC) to fight infection.  Chemotherapy is known to decrease your body's ability to fight infection by decreasing these WBCs. The Neulasta shot is known to cause bone pains as side effect.

Each infusion lasts 5 and a half hours. The day of first chemo, I was feeling ok.  The toughest part was when the needles taken out.

A day after, I had surgery to implant the port for chemotherapy so the nurses wouldn't have to prick my veins each time.  It was a short and outpatient surgery, but I didnt realize it will be painful after.  My chest was sore and my left side of the neck where they inserted the tube to the jugular vein was also painful when I move my head. but I just kept taking my pain medications for a week now.

Chemo side effects are experienced by more than 30% of patients with an
Onset:  for 4 to 7 days
Nadir: for 5 to 9 days (Nadir is the low point between chemo treatments when I am most susceptible to infections and lowest blood counts.)
Recovery : in 21 days (on the 22nd day, you will get the next infusion, Yay to recovery!) ;)

I did not experience a lot of the known side effects for the first two days, except I have felt the following on days 3 to 7 after Chemo and Neulasta shot:
- head sweating (I mean, extreme.  Its really dripping on my neck while my body is chilly and cold)
- Nausea
- Loss of appetite - everything tasted like medicine and tarty or bitter)
- Weakness and sudden extreme tiredness
- Constipation
-Bone pain (this one I hate most!  It feels like when you hit your shin on a corner.  My bones from head to toe feel these sudden shooting pain for days)

From days 5 to 8:
- less of the bone pain but more flu-like symptoms
- painful stomach cramps and diarrhea
-painful gums, dry tongue and mouth
- sensitive scalp
-painful fingernails
-extreme changes in body temperature
-continued fatigue and weakness
- bladder problem (uncontrollable)
-right hand tingling
-unexplained nightmares

Other side effects that they told me to watch out for in the next week or two are:
- Hair loss
- Discoloration of skin and nails or possibly loss of nails
- Loss of fertility
- Low blood counts

Fortunately, with developments in cancer management, these side-effects can be managed or at least tolerated by most patients. Some of the solutions are pills, wig, IVF treatment.  I dont know what to do yet with loss of nails. 

I'm taking about 12 pills three times a day to combat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, allergies, swelling, depression, anxiety, pain and bone pain.  (I stare at these pills in my hand for 30 mins hoping they will taste like m&m's). When I can, I also try to walk for 5 minutes in front of our house about 4 times a day to keep my body moving and not experience severe weakness and joint stiffness.

I have a prescription for cranial prosthesis, a.k.a. Wig, which fortunately with the help of American Cancer Society and Helen's Room foundation, I can get a wig for free on May 14 when I get a fitting appointment.  The medications, co-payments, and other cancer-related expenses have been too costly for a family who only have one breadwinner and the wig may be an expense I can just forego . 

Speaking of help, the L I V E S T R O N G foundation of Lance Armstrong has been a huge help with our fertility treatment.  They shouldered almost $12,000 of the $15,000 cost to preserve my egg and fertilize it until I am done with my cancer treatment.  My fertility oncologist was able to harvest 16 eggs.  We were on pins and needles whenever we get a call update from them.  At  first, 8 eggs were matured enough to fertilize, then 6 were starting to fertilize.  On Thursday, only one was successfully fertilize but on Friday, 3 more eggs came back and successfully fertilized for freezing.  So now we have a total of possible 4 eggs fertilized for in vitro fertilization in the future.  Although I am still praying that we will be blessed with another child, I am still aware of the fact that not all IVF treatments are successful.  I am hoping and praying for a little Krissy in the future. We still need to pay the cost of freezing every year, but we will cross the bridge one year at a time.

As I was watching Regis and Kelly the other day, Eva La Rue was talking about an organization called Beckstrand Cancer Foundation which helps families that are devastated by the cost of treatments, which we are already feeling.  Because our insurance company is starting to give us a hard time with claims and paying for my treatments which are running up to almost $200,000 now, I hope I can get through them to help us in navigating through the difficult ins-and-outs of cancer treatment and insurance.  The last thing a cancer patient needs to handle is fighting the insurance to get treatments to be able to live.

I still believe no burden will be given to us if we cannot carry it.  And as I look back, when Jcube was in the hospital for treatment for his multicystic dysplastic kidney, I kept praying to God to PLEASE just GIVE ME whatever health problem there is as long as my child lives healthy from hereon.  Jcube was seen by his urologist today at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the Doctor said his ultrasound is okay.  He is generally healthy right now and will be back for his regular kidney check up in 4 months.  I'm glad my prayers for a healthy child were answered, no matter what I am feeling physically at the moment.

If you can , please help in raising funds for Krissy's Breast Cancer treatment:

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