Thursday, June 1, 2017

Three Down, One To Go

I just finished my third infusion, and knowing that I only have to do this one more time is the second best feeling, behind never having to come back!

The upside of this visit was talking to a different oncologist (mine is on vacation). Not that I think one is better than the other, but it's nice to hear things from different professionals.  Sometimes they state things differently, they might throw in something the other guy never mentioned, etc.

For one thing, after telling him about the horrible aches, headaches and migraines I got from the booster shot they gave me last time, he is switching me to another booster which doesn't hit you with it all at once. Instead of one big shot that is supposed to take you through two weeks, I'll get 7 little shots over 7 days.  They will also monitor my reaction to them, and if I am in bad shape, they feel I can quit them after as few as 3.  That is a really, really great thing, and I'll tell you why:

Chemo infusions are kinda like getting into some sort of accident where you are injured and feeling horrible for days and then, thankfully, you recover. The difference when it comes to chemo is that you know what day that accident will happen. It's the dread and anticipation that is almost as bad as the experience itself. So even if this switch in booster shots doesn't improve my situation, today, it is giving me the hope that it might not. I don't know it will be bad, and not knowing is a bonus I'll take.

As a side note to this, I will add that after each infusion, I've been keeping a daily log of what I ate, how I'm feeling, how I slept, etc.  This has been a HUGE help, and if you ever find yourself going through something like this, DO IT.  I'd logged the first week after my last infusion then put the log away the moment I started feeling better.  When I picked it up today before my appointment, I realized how much I had forgotten.  Without it, I would have told the oncologist that "I just had one bad night of migraines."  The log helped me remember that I didn't have one bad night of migraines.  I had 5 days of aches and pains, headaches bad enough to keep me out of work for 3 days, a bad heartburn-like feeling in my sternum which they think was caused by the booster, and a slew of other things I'd quickly wiped out of my memory banks.  I'm not sure if the doctor would have recommended the change in booster if I hadn't been keeping this log and had understated my reaction (it's amazing how quickly we erase bad experiences from our memory once we are past them).  So if you are ever in a situation like this, log, log, log!

The second thing he did was reaffirm what I've been told many times, but I just need to keep hearing it again from as many people as possible, especially oncologists who do this every day. He confirmed that yes, chemo really is the worst of all my treatments when it comes to fatigue and feeling like my body is 80 years old, and the fitness I'd worked so hard to build up is all gone, and I'll have to start from square one when I'm done, and...and.... Like so many of my wonderful friends have reminded me, it is TEMPORARY. And more to the point, I really will bounce back more quickly after this than it took me to build up the fitness in the first place. I will help myself to keep walking and swimming on days that I can, even if it's depressing and hard.  But I will keep up with it for that goal of bouncing back faster at the end.

Hearing that (AGAIN) made me happy. It all made me happy.

So here we go. Infusion day and the day after I'm always feeling good because I'm amped on steroids. The train will hit me over the weekend, and I'm hopeful this time, it's just a little Thomas The Tank train instead of high speed rail.   Today's doctor joked, "We learn from every infusion, so I'm confident that by Infusion 4 [my last] we'll have this nailed."  Haha

But no matter how this goes: I'VE ONLY GOT ONE MORE TO GO!!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Battling Fatigue

Before I started chemotherapy, my morning exercise routine was to get up early, head off to the gym to enjoy a 30 minute swim.  Once home, I'd follow that up with a 1.5 mile walk with my husband.  I did this without much effort.  In fact, before my cancer diagnosis, I was thinking I needed to add something more challenging to my regime.

Boy, have things changed.

I learned the hard way that swimming and walking are an either/or choice now.  I tried to do both a while back and barely made it through the day, I was so tired and exhausted.  And it's only gone down hill since then.  Lately, I've skipped the pool and opted for the walk with my husband, and increasingly, even that has become hard.  Though it's just an easy walk through our neighborhood, I huff and puff as if I were climbing Mt. Tam.  And when I get home, I'm making a bee-line to my office chair to get off my feet and rest.

Today, I went for a swim instead, and it's as if 5 years of swimming fitness is gone.  I'd gone back to the easier swim routine I did when I first started at the pool, and even that was a challenge.

And it's not just exercise. This long Memorial Day weekend, I felt good enough to take on the project of creating a decorative area for the fountain my husband bought me for my birthday.  I spent two days making the wooden backdrop for this and putting together the plants.  Hubby did all the hauling and placing of the stone pavers--I knew better than to even try to help.

While I love the outcome and enjoyed getting out and "being my old self" for a couple days, I definitely paid the price.  I spent Memorial Day in my recliner, barely getting up to take a shower, and I was still tired and beat on Tuesday.

It definitely feels as though my days of being fit and active are behind me, which is an extremely depressing thought.

My oncologist continues to tell me that all this is temporary, but my psyche doesn't believe it.  Chemotherapy has knocked me on my ass, and I know that fatigue is the primary side effect of the radiation therapy that comes next.  I've also read that the hormone therapy that will follow radiation therapy for me can also drag you down.  Add all this up and I will be over 60 years old before I'm done with all this cancer treatment--and that's if the cancer doesn't come back.  Now, I know that 60 is hardly considered old these days, but when you're 55 and already feeling like your body is 80, thoughts of finally getting my energy back after the Big 6-0 does little to perk my spirit.

So is there an upside to all this?  I really don't like putting up a post that serves no purpose other than to bitch and gripe about my situation.  So in the spirit of ending on a high note, I need to remind myself that all won't be as bleak as it seems today.  Most people who went through it all say that radiation is far less taxing on the body than chemotherapy, and I hope that is my experience also.  I'm only at the 1/2 way mark through chemo (something that feels more daunting than good right now), but after my last infusion, I will have 6 weeks off before I start radiation.  I'm hopeful that I can start some sort of recovery in that 6 week period, and that any recovery I do accomplish won't get wiped out once I start rads.  Unfortunately for me right now, only time is going to tell!