A recipe for living with cancer.

Posts tagged ‘medicine’

CHEMO, the New Reality Show

Happy July 4th everyone! I hope you are all with family and friends enjoying a day off from work and keeping cool in a pool, ocean, or as we, in the air-conditioned comfort of our home. I wish we could share this comfort with all the individuals out there who have lost their homes in the forest fires. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Now for the next episode of  CHEMO, the new Reality Show!

Today is day 14 and as I recover day by day from my first infusion, the fog of chemo starts to lift. I feel more like myself, I don’t feel the need to nap three or four times a day, the mere act of making myself a cup of tea doesn’t send me upstairs for a 30 minute nap and facing seven more infusions is not quite as daunting as it was those first few days.

Those first five days the mere thought of going through this until the end of December was depressing and frightening. The bone pain was debilitating and at that moment in time I could totally understand why some people chose NOT to do chemo therapy and seek out alternative medicine. Then each day brings a spark of hope where I have no bone pain, I don’t look at food and wretch, I actually am hungry and want to eat something. I am in the rebound period at day 14 and counting.

After the first infusion you are given a sheet of to do’s and what is going to happen, what not to do and verbally some tips/markers: The Nurse rattles off: OK, here are three drugs, take these two every 12 hours and this third one every six hours in between if you need it for nausea and vomiting, but don’t take this third one if you don’t need it, but IF you need it definitely take it; this one drug from your infusion can cause kidney problems so MAKE SURE you drink 48 ounces of liquid every day, drink, drink, drink; the fatigue will set in around day 5, day 10 you will need a blood test to see how low your white count is and between day 10-14 you will lose your hair and then after that you will start to feel better and feel pretty good-by the time you come in for your next infusion. Come in tomorrow for a shot of Neulasta and you are good to go. Goodbye, good luck and call us if you need us.

I walked out and had no clue what to do in the immediate sense, do I go home and go to bed, do I go shopping, do I work at the computer. Will this hit me like a ton of bricks WHAT?

I know we discussed all of these things with the nurse in the doctor’s office before all of this started, but I felt like I was on a new reality show called CHEMO. The object of this game is to get an infusion and then make it intact physically and psychologically until the next Chemo treatment and follow all the rules, take all the drugs, don’t get sick and land in the hospital, lose your hair gracefully, and stay on schedule. The winner will make it to the next chemo treatment without incident or extra disease and have a good white count so as not to mess with the schedule. You have 21 days to accomplish this task: ON YOUR MARK, GET SET–GO!

I was pushed off the cliff and Tom and I had to figure out how to make it through the 21 days. Imagine –you get to leave after this treatment and go home and worry about what comes in next three weeks. You are getting something to make you better, but in the interim you are going to feel bad, really really bad.

This is the antithesis of medicine. Think about it, you have the flu, a fever, or a cold, a sore throat, a broken arm, a terrible rash, you feel TERRIBLE. You go to the doctor and the remedy for the problem makes you feel better. Antibiotics, pain killers, an operation, a cast, there may be a bit of discomfort, but relatively quickly you start to feel well.

When diagnosed with Breast Cancer you start out feeling well, you are usually not in pain, there was no typical indication to take you to the doctor for a cure to some Dis-ease. And then you start Chemo and you feel awful, continuously on and off for 3-6 months.

Chemo, the new reality show, so far I don’t like the first episode.

“I Am 98% Sure It Is Cancer”

I have always rooted for the underdog, books, movies, athletics, horse racing, spelling bees, whatever the venue, I want the underdog to win. It is satisfying, cathartic, renewing and reminds us we all can succeed. Life is full of great stories where people beat the odds– so when I sat in the dark cold room filled with video screens I too hoped to beat the odds. A radiologist, my husband and I, dressed only in one of the gross blue print hospital gowns that flap open, sat starring at the mammogram of my right breast. He pointed to a fuzzy round mass and said, “I am 98% sure it is cancer.” I was the underdog and oh how I wanted to be that 2% and beat the odds.

A lump on my breast brought me to my doctor on May 6, 2012. I’ve found many lumps in my breasts in my 59 years, been called back for extra views on mammograms for something suspicious, had ultrasounds, but they have all been negative. This time there was a sense of urgency I’d never heard or felt with all my previous exams. This time my doctor felt the lump and within 10 seconds told me to get dressed, the sense of urgency in her voice was unmistakable, I no longer beat the odds. When she returned to the room she picked up the phone and called the mammography lab to see if they could take me immediately. This sense of urgency scared me to death. Less than 24 hours later I sat in the dark cold room with my odds so bad no gambler in their right mind would bet on me.

This blog is my journey with breast cancer and my recipe for living with it forever. It is partially a self-indulgent endeavor to get things off my chest (a pun on bilateral mastectomy—I will find laughter wherever I can), a journal on to how to be brave, how to ask for help, how to laugh and how to eat. I am a chef my life is food and food will be a huge part of the posts. I have helped many family and friends over the years work through cancer with food, laughter, listening, love and tears.

We with breast cancer are the underdog and when we hear “I am 98% sure it is cancer”, we need to know the underdog wins this time.

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