The Chemo Condition

Today is day 15.
15 days of a 24/7 chemo drip. Just one day to go!

I thought today would be a good day to reflect on the effects of the chemo and everything that it does to and for us.  First and foremost for me is the nausea. Thankfully medicine has advanced to the point that we have a number of good pills that help with this. You can only take each of them over a specified time frame, so the key is to find the proper mix so that you don’t OD, but do keep the nausea as minimized as possible. I have mimicked what they dosed me with in the hospital and achieved pretty good results, with only a few minor breaks in the armor.

Zofran, Reglan, Ativan

I take one Zofran in the morning, and another at night. During the day I supplement the Zofran with Reglan as needed, and around midnight I take two Ativan. So as you can see, they keep you pretty well covered, but then again, with chemo entering my system for over two weeks straight, I’ve found that regime to be necessary. Luckily these drugs aren’t mentally altering at all. The Ativan is the only one that is sleep inducing, which is why I take them before bed. They help cover me through the night and drift off to sleep.

Another thing that is obviously a side effect of the chemo is losing the hair. I have had several people ask me about the hair loss since it occurred, and it is usually phrased in very sympathizing tones with questions of “Wasn’t that disconcerting?” or “And that must have been quite a shock, right?” To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why everyone thinks this is so traumatic.

I suppose it is because people associate the bald head with cancer, so maybe losing the hair is what finally makes it real for them. I consider it my first tangible sign of recovery. Chemo works by attacking the fastest growing cells in the body. The most visible of these are the hairs on your head. So therefore, once my hair finally started falling out, I had tangible proof that the chemo was doing its job. I wasn’t just laying myself up for 10 days, I was actively killing the cancer. Watching the hair come out in my hand was an experience that I actually enjoyed, because it was so strangely unique and hopeful at the same time. We’d taken the first active step towards recovery.

Something else that the chemo does is drop your white blood counts, which are what help you fight off infection. I’ve talked about this a lot, but it really does affect more areas than you would think. The most notable for me being food! One obvious food choice they crossed off my daily menu was sushi, on the chance that the raw fish would have bacteria. That one seems pretty obvious. But the one that kills me is the red meat! Being an all-American, red-blooded male, brought up in Texas, I like my steaks rare. And by rare, I mean I’d be content if it were still wriggling on the plate. But this crazy lady (nutritionist) comes in the room telling me that I can only have red meat if it is well done. I can’t choke down a well done steak and can just barely ingest an overcooked burger. It was truly a sad day when my mom heard that lady talking, because she’s taken it as her personal mission to make sure that I do not get anything that was not approved on her list. I’m going to go on a strictly steak diet when this is all over. Or just return to my previous dining habits I suppose. Haha.

One strange side effect that you might not know about are the night sweats. Apparently it is a common thing while on chemo, but almost nightly I wake up at least once drenched in sweat. When this first started we were in the Hope Lodge and I made my poor mom sleep with no heat in order to try to combat the problem! Luckily we both survived without getting frostbite and were later told that they were normal and just something to do with the chemo, so now I just live with it, but it is a weird thing and something I’d never heard about until I started having them.

A final side effect that I have noticed is fatigue. I’m not sure if this is caused by the chemo, the radiation, or both, but man do I have some fatigue! It’s not that I feel tired all the time, it’s more like we’ll do something and then I’ll think, “I could probably go for a nap about now,” and the next thing you know, I’m out! I have no idea how much I’ve been sleeping, but it is definitely a lot.

All things considered, everything has been going very smoothly and I would like to thank everyone again for all of their prayers and notes of support. When I say that it means a lot, it really does. It’s one of those funny things that really does make a difference more than you, as the sender, realize. I might not remember to respond every time because of all the aforementioned sleeping I’ve been doing, but it doesn’t mean I don’t read everything and appreciate everyone who has taken the time to drop me a note, so thank you!!!

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14 Responses to The Chemo Condition

  1. peggy redfern says:

    Very interesting post. I enjoy hearing all the details. I love that you see the hair loss as
    a sign of the chemo working, that’s powerful.

    Just voted for your photography again with 5 stars! Go Rob.

  2. Maria Garza says:

    Hi, Rob. I love your perspective on hair loss. I’m totally convinced that the secret to happiness is all in the perspective we take on a situation. There are such few things in life that are black or white, right or wrong. Most everything is gray and it’s up to each of us to find a perspective – on any situation – that is positive, productive and uplifting. It seems to me that you don’t have any trouble doing that in life and I think that’s what’s going to make all the difference for you in your healing and full recovery. As for napping, I’m all for them! :-) Take care of yourself – stay warm and germ free.

  3. Alli says:

    I’m not really one to post a sentimental or mushy comment, but WOW. Your perspective on the hair loss and really everything is truly awe inspiring. I am one of your daily readers, and as strange as it is to say, your blog on such an intense situation somehow manages to brighten my day. That’s pretty incredible if you ask me. Anyways, as a “thanks”, I think I voted for your photography about 1000 times.

  4. BJ says:

    Rob – your amazingly good attitude and courage to face the greatest health challenge of your life is absolutely awe inspiring. I admire you so very much for being such a wonderful example to all the rest of us. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to surround you each and everyday. P.S. Your photography is Fantastic!!! We are voting you 5 stars everyday!!!!!

  5. Zona Trahan says:

    Well now won’t you have a wonderful appreciation for you wife about the time she turns 50!!!

    Rob, your attitude is off the charts, what a blessing you are to everyone who gets a chance to read this! I’m looking forward to sending you a box of steaks as soon as you can eat them to your liking.

  6. Brent Turnipseede says:

    You, me, ribeyes, big green egg, 4 minutes of cook time. This May.

  7. peggy redfern says:

    I just read this quote and it reminded me of you:

    David Hawkins writes in Power vs. Force:

    “One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of optimism
    And a willingness to be nonjudgmental of others will counterbalance
    the negativity of 90,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower
    weakening levels … ….

  8. melixa perez says:

    Tips for side effects of chemo.
    nausea: Ativan IV before chemotherapy, IV hydration enough 500ml. Sometimes the nausea is due to a decrease of bowel movements or gas, do any work with massage in the abdomen and fiber. Ginger tea is good for the discomfort they can add lemon and honey. Walking and distract the mind.
    head without hair, wash it with shampoo and conditioner
    rod is healthy.
    night sweats: it is normal to feel a burning sensation, keep drinking water during the night.

    I have been working very well …
    melixa, hope lodge

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