So, Wednesday was B-day. After several days of fighting massive hair loss, I shaved my head. More accurately, Troy shaved my head and I just sat there.
More on that later. First, let’s talk chemo. These are pictures from treatment number two. Notice the chemo (which you can tell is adriamycin because it is red) matches the popscicle that I’m eating. This is really making me feel sick to my stomach right now. I will have to request a different color next time. You eat popscicles or ice while you get the drugs because it helps prevent mouth sores. The cold makes the blood stay away from your mouth, preventing the chemo drug from circulating there. It didn’t quite work for me the first time because I developed a few sores, but seems to have worked this time.
I had my second treatment last Friday (a week ago today). Things have not gone so great this week. It was different from last time, when I think other circumstances were causing problems in my body. Two days before the first treatment, I had the egg collection procedure. One day before, I had the port implanted. In both, I received IV sedation (also heard this called twilight sleep), only during the port procedure, it didn’t quite work out. So, I was unexpectedly intubated and given a general anesthesia. Then, I seemed to have a problem with being intubated that caused me horrific pain in my throat for a week.
Ok, so, I was planning on this time going much better. However, I wasn’t so lucky. A week later, I’m still feeling sick. I’m having lots of fun side effects, too. Most of these are from chemo. Some are from Neulasta, which is a shot Troy has to give me the day after chemo. It boosts my bone marrow production. Some of the side effects are from the anti-nausea drugs. Here is the short list of side effects I’m having:
- Nausea (no vomiting, just a general “sick to my stomach” feeling)
- Hair loss
- Forgetfulness. Primarily, I’ve forgotten how to spell. “Chemo brain” is actually documented and is currently being studied, particularly the long-term effects of chemo on the brain. It seemed to hit me full force this week. And in a great ironic twist, the writer-editor-spelling-bee-champ-girl has forgotten how to spell. Earlier this week, I forgot how to spell dictionary, which was bad because I was trying to access Dictionary.com in order to look up another word I had forgotten how to spell. That is a sad, but true story.
- Anxiety, depression. Overwhelming sense of doom and fear of dying.
- Excessively bizarre cravings. On the Sunday night following each treatment, I had out of the world cravings for salsa. This entire week, all I’ve wanted to eat is vanilla milkshakes, sour cream and vanilla pudding. What makes this really unusual is that I have a very important rule about sweets: if it doesn’t contain chocolate, don’t bother. And right now, chocolate is of no interest to me.
- This is too much information, but I think you should know so you can really feel sorry for me: horrible constipation. Apparently, this is a very common side effect of the AC treatment. Then, when you switch to Taxol, your digestive system swings completely the other direction!! Oh, how fun!
- Dry mouth.
- Incontinence, but only at night (yes, I’m peeing the bed) and only when I take a certain anti-nausea drug.
- I am not interested in eating anything healthy. I used to tell people I would eat anything that grew from the ground, except lima beans, but I have had serious trouble trying to force veggies into myself this week.
- I have been unable to take my vitamins or regular medicines.
- Inability to think.
So, I’m just a REAL ball of laughs right now. The two worst problems by far are the nausea and the constipation. I’ve had a really hard time getting anything accomplished this week.
Oh, yes, and the hair loss.
It started last Thursday. Just slightly noticeable at first. After almost two weeks with my extra-short haircut, I had been marveling at how little shedding was involved with hair that short. With long hair, I was constantly cleaning up hair off the floor, drains, etc. It was cool not to have to do that! Then, out of nowhere, I suddenly started finding little hairs in the bathroom and on my shirt. I thought this might be a sign, so I would test it by running my fingers through my hair. On Thursday, just a couple of strands would stick to my fingers. By Monday, my hands would come out looking like a wooly mammoth.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I had to take three showers each day just to try to cut down on the excessive shedding going on everywhere. Each time, I picked up giant handfuls of hair out of the shower drain. Yuck-o. The whole thing was so gross, I knew I couldn’t wait long to shave. Plus, by Wednesday morning, I had bald spots. You can see one in this picture, where Troy is shaving the opposite side of my head. So, there wasn’t really any point in continuing the battle.
We set up on the deck for the shaving festival. We figured it would be easier to clean up the hair if we did this outside. However, we had to battle rain. Then, two short strips into the shaving, Troy’s beard trimmer gave up. I think my hair was too thick for it. He looked at me and said, “Honey, you look like an accident victim. I have to go buy a new trimmer.” He walked out the door without saying goodbye. I think he was so alarmed at the way I looked he couldn’t stop.
The new trimmer worked great and I’m down to stubble now. I’ve tried different things on my head and what seems to be doing really well right now are my dad’s old cotton handkerchiefs and a couple of silk scarves I rescued from Colleen’s dress-up box. They feel really good on my head. The stubble has a sort of velcro effect against my wigs and hats. So, I’ve been putting on a scarf or handkerchief before the hat and that helps a lot. I’ve been told the stubble won’t last. I believe it. It’s still coming out; it’s just not quite as irritating as two inch hairs!
I have to take a lint roller to my head every day to get rid of the loose stubble! Just a little beauty tip from a chemo patient.
I know it looks like I had a lot of hair left in this photo, but I really had lost 1/4 to 1/3 of my hair at this point. I was looking pretty bad. And my hair had lost it’s life. It was taking on a drab, dry appearance. Perhaps that was the three shampoos a day. I really am not sure.
These photos of Troy shaving my head were taken by Colleen. She’s a pretty good photographer. You should check out the photos she took on her first photography outing just a few months ago.
The photos of me at chemo were taken by my friend Elaine. It has been really awesome having my friends take me to chemo. We get to chat and catch up all day, which keeps my mind off the gross drugs going into my heart.
Trying to keep a sense of humor
Remember back when I was first diagnosed (you know, eons or eight weeks ago) I asked people to be funny and not heap too much sympathy on me? Well, some friends have really taken that to heart. Today, Lesley sent me this extremely hilarious video clip that I had to share. It’s called Evolution of Dance. It takes a minute to warm up, but then I laughed for the next five minutes. I think the Gen Xers out there will really enjoy it.