11 July to 28 September — chemotherapy cycle
Back some months, my good intentions included frequent (and timely) posts. But I let quibbles about building a blog, whether to make it independent or hang off Wordsmith, and etc string out the process.
Failing that, this Plan B is a summation of the pattern, the items, and the exceptions—a quick take on the experience.
Every two weeks on Tuesday drive to MGH, make way to Yawkey 7th floor for labs and conference either with Dr Jill Allen, medical oncologist, or nurse practitioner Emily Olson. Chat about CBC, side effects (neuropathy, GI tract, sleep, appetite, fatigue, general body condition, weight) and such. If blood counts within reason, to Yawkey 8th floor/infusion center. Three-four hours in chair, 5-FU with pump attached to portal, drive home. Two days later (Thursday pm) pump beeps to signal all done. I remove pump from port, flush port with saline, then with heparin. Friday through Saturday eve the rough days of recovery from poisons. GI tract slow to rebuild, head feeling lousy, no energy reserve. Gradually get better ’n better until—start all over again.
“Chemo fatigue” — deep, debilitating, and not lessened by naps. Exhausted, lie down for hour or so—and get up feeling as fatigued as before. Only workable solution: do something. Walk. Mow the lawn. Ride the bike. But takes oomph to get up and out. Partly related to catabolism—muscles disappearing.
Hair — falling out in chunks, finally easier just trim it all.
Neuropathy — Fingers, especially right hand, thickened, lose feeling, gain acute cold sensitivity (e.g., touch milk bottle in refrigerator, electric shocks from fingers through hand up arm.) Not confined to hands. Morning walks with Char, when air turned cold, tingles started in nose, spread across face.
Chemo brain — literature documents it, but I can’t remember it. Unless I forgot it.
Appetite — shrinking. Height of chemo, mouth feel of most foods unpleasant. Especially first days after chemo. A primary goal (not to lose too much weight) fading. But solution found. Damaged GI tract can’t process much when it’s recovering. Complex stuff (raw fruits, veggies, multi-grain) especially unwelcome. And omg does the tract let me know (middle of the night) how it doesn’t like those foodstuffs. So occurred to me that highly processed white stuff might be the answer—easy to get down, easy for GI tract to process. And the best example, the premier product of the culinary cupboard (ta da): Ramen noodles. Tasted okay, went down the pipe just fine, contributed whatever they could to my being, and exited gracefully. Shrimp preferred, any flavor accepted. My saving lunch food for the entire chemo cycle and into radiation.
Coffee—From however many cups a day to one, and even that often half-drunk, going cold in the cup. Nathaniel scolded me: “Dad, somewhere in Central America there’s a guy who just lost his job–and it’s your fault.”