Posts Tagged 'chemo'

Story in photos


The story in photos, including recovery.

A bad day

This isn’t going to be a pretty journal entry. If you are squeamish or don’t want to read all of the gory details of this particular day, then I highly recommend that you read up until the warning point in this entry, and then skip to the end.

————————————–

There have been many bad days for Geraldine in this battle, but the worst that I’ve personally witnessed had to be Saturday, January 24th 2009. She had been in the hospital for less than a week (checked in that Tuesday) and had been in relatively good spirits up until then. Her chemo regimen this time consists of different drugs, whereas last time she only had the Melphalan. On Saturday, she was having the last chemotherapy drug for this transplant.  Unfortunately, it is also one of the most toxic.

The drug’s name is Cytoxan. For those of you who may just be tuning in, the second bone marrow transplant (she’s doing two back-to-back) will work just like the first one, where her existing bone marrow is killed off by high-dose chemotherapy drugs. Her own stem cells, which were harvested around Thanksgiving, are given back to her so that new bone marrow can be regrown. This process completely destroys her entire immune system, replacing it with a brand new one. It takes about a month and a half, with a major danger period being during the first three weeks of that process.

That’s if she can survive the chemo. The doses used here are near lethal and extremely toxic. On Saturday, I walked in to find her in seriously bad shape.

Warning – if you are easily grossed out, skip to the end of this post (The next morning…)

I’m used to her sleeping, and even getting nauseous from time to time. There’s a convenient little device built into the toilets of these hospital rooms. It’s basically like a shower-head on an arm that swings down over the bowl. It allows you to hold the “bucket” that they give patients to vomit into over the toilet, bring the arm down, and flush the contents into the drain. It makes it very easy to clean this out and return it to the patient without getting your hands too dirty. It also gives them some comfort, because they don’t have to keep puking into the already filled container.

I emptied that container at least 10 times in one hour. Just when I thought there was nothing left, there would be more. It was bile, all bile. It looked like Mountain Dew, and at times it was thick. It smelled awful. I can’t imagine how hard it was on her. From my understanding, she had been doing this for at least 6 hours straight, and it was getting worse.

She didn’t look right either. They had to give her a lot of fluids. I’m also used to seeing her a bit puffy when they do this, but she looked swollen this time. Her eyes were dark, sunken, and almost closed. She wasn’t coherent. She really couldn’t talk much. She couldn’t sleep, no matter how much they encouraged her by eliminating all noise and light. When she wasn’t puking, she would lay down, but there was this constant sound of heaving – almost sounded like hiccups, only worse. With these heaves, her whole body would twitch. It was constant at one point, and the twitching heaves were about 2 seconds apart. They had given her as many anti-nausea drugs as they could, and the medical professional that was taking care of her, well to me he looked really worried. He was doing everything he could think of to calm this whole thing down. Finally, with the addition of some morphine to ease the heaving/twitching, she fell asleep. The vomiting stopped. I left for the evening and went to stay with some friends who were kind enough to put me up for the night in Richmond. (Thanks Emily and Jeff!)

The next morning, when I got to her room, I was very surprised and relieved to see her up and smiling at me, albeit weakly. She even cracked a joke or two. I watched her order food and eat it without fear of it coming back up. I was amazed and very, very grateful. That day by comparison was one of her best. She had tons of visitors, including her daughter and parents.

I went to say goodbye that evening, and she was sleepy, but happy. And of course, she was still talking shit. You know she’s feeling better when she’s busting on you or saying some ridiculously dirty thing.

Ah, Geraldine. You have such strength and resilience. And you’re a complete pain in the ass. 😉

60 ounces and a shot

My goodness! I survived my 4th round of ICE chemo and have started the stem cell immobilization process. This means that everyday I have to take: 1 Bactrim, 1 Levaquin, 3 antiviral, 6 Tums and 1 injection of Neupogen along with any pain or anti nausea medication. This is not much compared to some, but its still a lot of pills. This will continue until I have hit that 10 million stem cell number. Since I just finished chemo, my blood counts have to measured pretty often because chemo kills your white & red blood cells and your platelets. If your white blood cells are too low, then you are neutropenic and have to be hospitalized for isolation. If your red blood cells are too low, then you have to have a blood transfusion. If your platelets are too low, then you could potentially bleed to death and also need a platelet transfusion. None of these scenarios are fun, but are a reality when you are undergoing chemotherapy. Not all chemotherapy kills your immune system. Since I have what is considered a blood cancer, the chemotherapy that I receive will absolutely destroy my bone marrow. People that have other types of Cancer such as breast or other organs receive a different type of chemo. Chemo sucks either way, but there is a greater risk with people that have a blood cancer versus people that don’t. This means that you have to be watched closely to see what your body does.

I have been going to Richmond pretty regularly to check my blood counts. As of right now, my blood counts look okay, but my blood pressure is too low. Chemo can cause cardiac damage and I have to have some medical tests to ensure that heart can handle transplant. This is true for everyone that has to have a bone marrow transplant. My blood pressure has definitely been an area of concern since this whole thing began. It tends to be low (which is good), but when I get chemo it gets even lower and the medical staff start freaking out. In order to maintain or increase my blood pressure, I have to drink at least 60 ounces of fluid a day. 60 ounces? How in the world and I going to do that and will I be spending all my time in the bathroom? I know to some of you that may not be a problem, but to me it requires a huge effort on my part. My mom has been diligent about giving me a ton of water to drink and making sure that I drink it. She says that “its either this or the hospital.” Yes, mom good point.

My mother also has the pleasure of giving me an injection of Neupogen every single day. I prepare the needle and she stabs me with it. No problems there. I tried to give myself the injection, but could not do it. I am grateful that I have her because I am not sure how many other people could give me a shot. Wait a minute… I take that back. I am certain that there are plently of people that would love to stab me with a needle. 🙂 Well, sorry for all of you, but the job is taken. All in all, things are not that bad. I am still recovering from chemo and trying to mentally prepare for what is ahead. Thank you for your emails and comments, I love hearing from everyone.

Off to see the Chemo Wizard

Geraldine and her daughter Viviane

Geraldine and her daughter Viviane

Hello Everyone!

I know that it has been a while since I have updated everyone. There have been some things going on in my personal life that have been heartbreaking and very difficult. I am trying to keep a positive attitude, but its been hard. I really want to take the time to thank you for your emails and texts. The love and support that I have received is amazing and has really helped me through these tough times. Having Viviane in my life has been such a blessing. She keeps me busy and smiling. She has such a strong spirit which inspires me to dream my dreams and make them a reality. Her fearlessness and drive to conquer anything is contagious. She is my light and motivation to be strong and beat this disease. Its funny how motherhood makes you grow in so many ways. I recently came across a quote that really hit home with me: “Happiness is the consequence of personal growth.” I know in our everyday lives, we expect to be happy, but we don’t realize that you have to work at it by working on yourself.

Okay, enough with the emotional babble. Here is the current info. I have officially begun the transplant process. I have had ANOTHER round of ICE chemo, again. There are two reasons for this. First, is to keep my Cancer in remission and the second is to obtain the highest number of stems cells. I need to collect 10 million stem cells for my double transplant.

More to come…

Some Bloody Good News

So I have some good news and some gross news. I will begin with the first. My insurance company has agreed to cover phase 1 of my clinical trial tandem autologous transplant. I know, I know. What the hell is phase 1? The truth is, I have no idea. I am not managing this process, MCV is. They are the experts in getting insurance companies to cover the clinical trials. I know that having a double transplant is cheaper then undergoing an allogenic transplant, so I am assuming that is why they have agreed to cover phase 1. Don’t know how many more phases there are, but I will keep everyone posted.

Now for the gross news. I have to have a blood transfusion. My red blood cell count and my platelets are too low as a result from ICE chemo. My white blood cells are normal because of an injection that I received after chemo (Neulasta), but if they were too low then I would be neutropenic and have to be hospitalized. Chemo affects everyone differently and when I had the other chemo (from Oct 07-March 08 ABVD) my white bloods cells definitely took a hit, but my red blood cells and platelets were okay. Now that I am getting a new cocktail, ICE, my red blood cells and platelets are taking the hit. Your red blood cells deliver oxygen through your blood and your platelets help coagulate your blood when you bleed openly. Having low counts of both of these means that I am very fatigued, get out of breath very easily, and can’t function at a semi normal rate. I have to walk slow. I can’t go up some stairts without laying down right afterwards. You basically feel like anything that you are going to do will make you pass out and God forbid if I accidently get a cut, I could bleed to death. FUN! So, in order to make this right. I will have my first ever blood transfusion tomorrow to increase my counts. The whole thing is suppose to take 5 hours and I am a little freaked out about it. There is something creepy about getting blood put into my veins. My nurse at VA Oncology told me that I need to get over it because that will be happening a lot when I undergo transplant. I swear this just gets better and better. In the meantime, I will contiue to be a little grossed out. This vampire will be taking pictures tomorrow to capture this bloody experience. Perfect timing for Halloween!

Are we done yet?

Chemo Sucks!

Chemo Sucks!

I am really f******* sick of chemo. Over it. Done. I had my third round of ICE chemotherapy in the hospital last week. A big thank you to everyone who came to visit me (Barbara, Crystal, Katina, Katie, Allie, Pete, Malcom, Amy, Cat, Candis, Von, Shelly, and Charmel). As most of you know, I am usually pretty coherent the first and second day of chemo, but when the third day hits, its all out hell. I want to take this moment to thank Pete & Malcom for coming to visit me on the third day. Having both of you talk to me while I lay in the hospital bed completely fatigue and wanting to puke my guts out really comforted me. I can never truly articulate how thankful I am to have you both in my life. I also need to take a moment and thank the nurses at the hospital. Caprice, Mary Ann, Sally, and Bricky, you are my angels and I could not fight this fight without you. Please know that you are all amazing and I will never forget the love and support that you ladies have shown me.

Today is a week out from chemo. I am not feeling good, but I am determined to get back up to speed. On the third day of ICE chemo, there was a concern for my blood counts. My red blood cells were dropping and they were going to give me a blood transfusion. They decided to give me an injection of Procrit to boost my red blood cells. I ended up being discarded very late Thursday night from the hospital. Side effects from chemo this time were different. I was completely sick and had to take a lot of anti-nausea medications. I am not going to lie to you, but its been a nightmare. Right now, everyday is a challenge. I take steps to see what my body is capable of, but sometimes the risks involve passing out. I know that I this is a slow process and I will get better soon. I just have to be patient (one of my strong qualities. 🙂

Thank you for all of your comments, phone calls, and texts. I love you all!

Update: Round 3 of ICE chemo

Geraldine recently completed the third round of ICE chemo and is currently at home regaining her strength. As with the other two times, she was in the hospital for three straight days as the toxin was administered to her. It really wiped her out for a while, and she is barely back on her feet. The last time, it took her ten days to recover. There’s simply no estimate for how long this time will take, but as always, your comments here are extremely motivational to her and really aid in the recovery process.

Also, we should have news of the costs on the double autologous stem cell transplant and its uncovered costs soon. Things may begin moving fast with her treatment. We’ll keep you posted. Until then, let her know that you’re thinking about her by clicking on the comments link above.