This chemo is not like your other chemo. This chemo doesn’t f**k around. This chemo will suck you in, spit you out and put you through the ringer. Even when you feel like you’ve got this chemo all figured out…its gonna throw something else at you in the morning.
No one said this to me. The most I got was: “Yeah. Its kind of like ABVD from last year. You’re experienced. You should be fine.”
Hmph. This time I didn’t even get a pamphlet.
But you know what? Today, I am fine. Sure, I had to shave all the hair off my head. But it was a small price to pay for also getting to eat a big, juicy burger and spend a sunshiny day with my beloved wife. Chemo #1 may have knocked me down, but I got back up again.
The blood clot has cleared up. The rash is gone (it may come back after each chemo. We shall see.) The mouth sores were the worst. Almost a full week without being able to talk or eat anything solid. The folks at Jamba Juice know Jen by sight. I’ve rinsed my mouth out with all kinds of artificial saliva, baking powder/salt/hydrogen peroxide concoctions, ‘magic mouthwash’, Biotene, mycostatin and plenty of other stuff. I took a sip from protein smoothie that burned my mouth so bad it brought tears to my eyes. It sucked. We talked for some time with a couple of doctors on steps we can take to prevent, or at least cut back, on the mouth sores next time. Fingers crossed about that.
For those of you interested – the chemo attacks the fast growing cells of my mouth. In addition, when my white blood cell count plummets, my body is unable to fight off the fungus that naturally grows in your moth. So I had a mixture of thrush (fungal infection), cold sores, ulcers, yeast and probably some other nasty stuff. The best you can do is have excellent oral hygiene, suck on lozenges, take in lots of glutamine and rinse rinse rinse your mouth out and always keep it moist. Next time during chemo, I’ll also be sucking on a lot of ice chips.
Last week was funny. Once I left the hospital, I got a rash. Once the rash started to clear up, I got mouth sores. Somewhere in the middle, I needed to go to the ER to get platelets. Then, when the mouth sores went away, all my hair started falling out.
Let’s talk for a minute about the hair thing. I avoided it last year. I thought I could avoid it this year if I buzzed my hair short. No such luck. It really does come out in clumps and clumps. And not just your head – from different parts of your body (use your imagination). I wasted $20 yesterday getting my hair buzzed down short only to spend an hour in the bathroom today buzzing it all the way down. If this doesn’t work (and I don’t think it will), I’ll take a straight razor to my melon.
So let’s look on the bright side, shall we?
I’ve got a week until I have to go back in the hospital. My counts are up. My appetite is good. I’m tired but able to go out for the whole day. My first meal after my WBC went back up was a delicious grilled piece of tuna from Malibu Seafood House. And I sipped the sweetest Coke I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Hells yeah, I can eat again.
I’m going to take a graduate class in the fall and the school is being extraordinarily supportive. I’m looking forward to studying mass media criticism – its been a dream of mine since college. I’ll attend as many classes as I can. And I’ll work hard to keep up and contribute. I know I’ve got a rough few months ahead of me, but its nice to have a goal and a possible new direction in life.
My doctors are knowledgeable, supportive and caring. My friends and family have all been wonderfully patient and sensitive. I met with the nutritionist at the Simms/Mann Center and she helped me develop a new program of supplements an nutrition to keep myself as strong as possible. My Playstation skills are coming along nicely.
For additional reading, here is a Vanity Fair article by columnist Christopher Hitchens in which he describes his current battle with cancer. It is well written, heartfelt and accurately describes the strange world of being a cancer patient: Topic of Cancer by Christopher Hitchens.
I posted some photos of my experiences from the past couple of weeks on my FlickR page: Me and Mr. Hodgkins, 2010
For now, here are the standard photos of me with a mohawk and me with no hair. Enjoy.
My hair was getting patchy. And falling out in clumps.
The obligatory "Cancer patient cuts his hair into a mohawk" photo.
Stephen meets Bald Stephen for the first time. There is no spoon.