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BEP Chemo Round 2 – Day 3 – Hell Week

7:45am –  I got in a bit early this morning since my chemo nurse had a staff meeting so I am the only one here in the chemo room for the next hour or so. It is quite nice being able to sit here without faking conversation with other patients and their guests. Because of my size, personality and demeanor people sort of figure that I am all about chatting it up whist sitting here. Not so, I prefer to stay the “Socially Awkward Penguin” that I am… Here is your daily internet meme reference for those not familiar with this particular internet meme. I find that I associate with this quite often so here are a few examples..

 

Last night I had only some slight stomach gurgling, much like one with indigestion has. I took some of my nausea meds and was fine. Not really worth noting but since I have so little else to report on in the side effects category I may as well report something!

I did find out some interesting news from my chemo nurse about the Neupagen (bone marrow growth stimulant) that I was given last week. The nurse (chemo) told me yesterday that after hearing me describe my pains related to the injections she looked into my dosage and found that it was 480 (units) versus the 360 (units) they normally give people. This would explain why I was feeling the pulses of body numbing pain all the way down to my toes versus just my sternum and hips as was expected. She decided that in the coming doses we will reduce it to the 360 (units) that normal humans take. Note: I say units there because I have no clue what measurement she was using and I know the second I post something like mL someone out there will jump on me, so I was covering my ass! :)

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BEP Chemo Round 2 – Day 2 – Hell Week (and more)

The last few days have been pretty busy so I thought I would catch up here a bit

A quick recap from yesterday’s post as it was pretty important.

First things first, I am starting up my second round of chemo today and am, in fact, sitting with the IV back in my arm getting my pre meds. As I have mentioned before, the first round of chemo was a “test” in hopes that the tumors were responsive. If they were not then we would have gone the surgery route, however yesterday I had my follow up post chemo CTscan. The CTscan indicates that the tumors have not only been responsive but have actually reduced quite a bit in size. To be exact, one tumor is now “no longer identified”… Meaning it is gone.

The other tumor has gone from the size of 8.3 x 5.7 x 6.9cm to 5.5 x 2.8 x 2.4cm. This is about an 89% reduction in size. This was welcomed news because it means I will not need to explore the alternative; surgery. I never really spoke/wrote about the surgery option because of what it really meant. Aside from the surgery being very long, the worst part of option two is the fact that it meant that we would be dealing with teratoma cancer cells. This is a nasty type of cancer that spreads VERY quickly and cannot be killed by chemo or radiation, instead it requires surgery. Needless to yesterday’s CTscan results were very exciting.

Hair loss – A few posts back, I talked about the fact that my hair was starting to come out. That continued to happen throughout the rest of the weekend. I made the decision to go ahead and shave it Monday morning because it had become so thin and was starting to cover my pillow. I had been waiting to get some photos of my hair at its worst but could not hold out much longer.

Interesting notes about losing your hair during chemo:

  1. Your hair does not fall out in clumps unless pulled on. Instead it is really thin and rather saddening to look at.
  2. Not all hair on your head seems to fall off at the same time.
  3. Other hair that seems to come off in the first round of chemo around day 16 is chest, pubic and hair on your head. Nasal hair has come out a bit, enough to notice runny noses but I can still see hair in my nostrils.

Here are some photos of my new hair cut, before, during and afterwords. Even before you can see that my hair had been falling out and becoming very thin, especially in the front. I guess I will not be going to the hairdresser every month like I had been. (I just realized how crazy I look in the second photo!)

 

 

Neupogen – I did not go through many if any side effects from the Chemo during my first round including the two follow-up bleo weeks. I have been really lucky in that way so I can only hope that this continues that way. The same was not the case when I had to inject the Neupogen in my belly on Day 17th and Day 18th. I mention my belly because my chemo nurse told me that we needed to inject it into my fattiest area. Normally she said we would use my leg but well, I guess that is not my fattiest area. :)

I have never injected anything in myself before and although I am good with needles, I am not sure how I feel about injecting myself thus this was going to be a bit of an adventure. I only practiced a few times at the docs office on some rubber “practice using your needle” skin and an old needle figuring (a bit too soon) that I had the hang of it. What got me was that they were NOT using the Neupogen needles so I could not tell how long they really were. The practice needle was about ¾ of an inch long which kind of scared me. When I finally got home and prepped for my 9pm shot on Friday night I pulled the shot out of the fridge a thirty minutes early to let it warm up to room temperature and then sat down at 9 to attempt injecting myself for the first time ever…

The moment had come, I was now going to have to take a needle and knowingly inject it into my body. I was not really nervous as much as anxious. If I was to “mess up” somehow and waste the injection that would be $800 dollars down the drain as this is not a cheap drug.

Let it be known that I am now confident that I will not be able to join the legion of intravenous drug users now that I have gone through this injecting yourself process.

Even though I had practiced twice on the fake skin material my mind was flooded with all of the different things the nurse told me.. Push the needle all the way in, don’t worry about the air bubble like they do on TV (this amount won’t kill you apparently), go in at a 90 degree angle, don’t start injecting to fast of it could burn, pinch the skin to numb it up, and so on…

I started with pinching my belly (works wonders on one’s self confidence) around 8:45pm in mental preparation for this big injection process I was about to go through. I was told to inject this medicine at 9pm so that “if I felt any of the expected side effects, I could take some pain medication and go back to sleep” which I will get into the failed logic of in a moment. I sat there with pinched belly skin for about 25 minutes before I was finally able to poke myself. Shockingly, it did not hurt at all. It was still about ½ in long and I had to put the needle all the way but I manned up and did it.

There you go ladies, yet another skill to add to my resume of desirable traits I bring to the table.

I was waiting for the expected side effect that I was told about and had read about which included “aches in your bones, specifically the sternum area and the hips”. I will be completely honest and almost shrugged these off because of how I had dealt with the first round of chemo so far and how I felt the first day after the first Neupogen shot. I felt 100% normal after shot number one. This was not the case on day two. I took my shot the second night in half the time, this time it only took me 15 minutes to finally get the needle in me. All felt fine until 3 hours after injecting the second dose of Neupogen then my world began to change in a matter seconds.

The nurse told me to give myself the Neupogen shot at 9 so that if I felt any of the expected side effects, I could take some pain medication and go back to sleep”. Let’s talk about these side effects. Neupogen stimulates the bone marrow growth in the body thus increasing my white blood cells to a number that allows me to be outside in public but also in preparation for the next hell week of chemo. To speak in numbers that might help others, my white blood cell count was 3700 on 1/18 and after 2 days of Neupogen it was up to 7600 by 1/20. Needless to say it was working…

The pain felt as your bone marrow grows from inside you is that of pain one cannot described but I will try. Out of nowhere I started to feel pulsing throughout my body that came in waves. These were pulses come from my bones, although I did not recognize that at first. I think the best way to describe that first initial feeling (that lasted about 45 minutes) as the first hour of LSD (I tried it in college) where your body is a little achy and makes you want to yawn and stretch the muscles. After that period of time it moved to intense pulses that would take your breath and make it near impossible to breath due to not wanting to trigger the pain coming on worse. I was surprised at how painful it can be as your bones decide to remind you that they are there. Thankfully the nurses had prepped me that it might hurt and not to think I was having a heart attack as many people do mistake the pain for. The nurse had offered me a prescription for a pain killer (opiate) and I said we would go with ibuprofen and get the prescription only if needed… this was a bad idea since I had to start the injections on a Friday night. Come Saturday night when the pain was actually kicking in it was a little too late for me to have the doc on call phone it in to my pharmacy. Lesson learned there.. If you are offered/suggested a medication by your doctor, at least get the prescription in hand even if you do not fill it.

I will not lie to you and say that I did not shed some tears of pain in that second night on the Neupogen. I was trying to find the best position on the bed that allowed for the least amount of pressure on my bones. This rotated between being on my back and being on my sides. Gravity was having a field day on my bones and additional weight. I was up all night Saturday and then slept Sunday until about 6pm. I was catching up for the lost sleep the night before. The pain continued on for about 24 hours after the second injection. At 8pm I called the doctor on call to see about getting meds for the next day and to ask about taking some that were already around here. The pills that were already here were mild Percocet (Oxycodone 5 / Acetaminophen 325) and the doctor on call said that I not only should take them but that I needed to be taking two. The doc hung up and called me right back to tell me not to give myself the 3rd shot of Neupogen (thank the heavens!) I did sort of figure that all of the pain would stop immediately when I took the Percocet however that fantasy was brought to a halt when I continued to feel the throbbing pulses of pain for another 12 hours of so. I was able to sleep better though. Simply said, this drug (Neupogen) put me in my place and put my ego in its place!

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BEP Chemo Round 2 – Day 1 – Hell Week

The last few days have been pretty busy so I thought I would catch up here a bit.

First things first, I am starting up my second round of chemo today and am, in fact, sitting with the IV back in my arm getting my pre meds. As I have mentioned before, the first round of chemo was a “test” in hopes that the tumors were responsive. If they were not then we would have gone the surgery route, however yesterday I had my follow up post chemo CTscan. The CTscan indicates that the tumors have not only been responsive but have actually reduced quite a bit in size. To be exact, one tumor is now “no longer identified”… Meaning it is gone. The other tumor has gone from the size of 8.3 x 5.7 x 6.9cm to 5.5 x 2.8 x 2.4cm. This is about an 89% reduction in size. This was welcomed news because it means I will not need to explore the alternative; surgery. I never really spoke/wrote about the surgery option because of what it really meant. Aside from the surgery being very long, the worst part of option two is the fact that it meant that we would be dealing with teratoma cancer cells. This is a nasty type of cancer that spreads VERY quickly and cannot be killed by chemo or radiation, instead it requires surgery. Needless to yesterday’s CTscan results were very exciting.

 

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BEP Chemo Round – Day 16 – Round 1

8:30am

The hair loss has begun…..

Hair loss

I showered this morning and found quite a few hairs in my hand so I pulled on some of the hair on my head and there was a nice little chunk of hair between my fingers. Same with my chest hair. It comes right out when I pull on it. Arm and leg hair is not coming out yet as far as I can tell although I am told that is next. I feel like a kid finally going through puberty! How exciting!! I finally feel like this chemo thing is real..I mean up until now I have not had the side effects that the others are having so the hair loss is my only little milestone thus far to put towards the “Chemo Experience”.

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BEP Chemo Round – Day 15 – Round 1

11:00am

Last day of chemo for round 1. Today is Bleomycin (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000586/) day which means I am only in the doctor’s office for about 4 hours versus the 8 I had been going in during hell week.

Today they are giving me 30 minutes of IV hydration before we get started followed by the Zofran (anti nausea), Dex (steroid), Tylenol and Benadryl before getting to the Bleo push. The Bleo push is actually really quick. The nurse hooks up a syringe to one of the ports on my IV and SLOWLY pushes it into my blood stream. I can’t feel it but apparently this is the drug that can cause me to go into anaphylactic shock (stop breathing) so they sit with me instead of putting it in an IV bag like the others. The first time it was given to me they gave me a 2 unit test with it where the doctor sat with me checking my pulse. I did not have any reactions to it so they gave me to remaining 28 units. I asked the nurse about this last week and she said this office just doesn’t give many people Bleo so they are very cautious when dispensing it.  :)

As planned, I got my blood count numbers back and found that my white blood cell count is low enough to justify the bone marrow growth stimulant, Neupogen (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000912/). This consists of injections I will have to give myself. Ugh.. so now, not only does my arm look like a junkie due to all of the IV’s I have had in the last 3 weeks, I will now be receiving lessons on how to inject myself with Neupogen later on today.

1:53pm 

I just got done with my lesson on how to inject myself with the Neupogen. I am not looking forward to doing this injection tonight at 9 pm but apparently it is needed for the next few days.

Now that I am on day 15, according to other folks I have been following on blogs that are going through the same process, I should start losing my hair in the next few days. I made the choice not to shave my head in hopes that I can get a few photos with the “mange” look. I figured it I was going to be losing my hair in chunks I may as well get some good photos where it looks like I have been attacked by a rabid dog or raccoon. This will require some setup when it comes to photo time (ripped tee shirt to look like I was clawed by a raccoon) however, I think it will be worth it. I mean when else am I going to have a photo op where I will have chunks of hair missing?!! Last Friday I received a call from the salon where I get my hair cut to remind me of an appointment needless to say, I canceled it. At this point if I don’t end up losing my hair soon I am going to need a haircut and I would be pissed if I got a haircut only to start losing my hair three days later. The other thing is that I have all of these caps and hats that I have ordered or been given as gifts that are to be used when I lose my hair.

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Flair Hair cap(s) from my Aunt Mary

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I love them! (She got me three – Red, White and Black)

More photos to come when I start losing my hair.

Thanks Aunt Mary!

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BEP Chemo Round – Day 11 – Round 1

I have to start off by saying that if you did not tell me that one week ago I was in the hospital getting chemo I would never know. I have felt 100% the last two days.

I figured I would spend this weekend catching up on and reviewing this last weeks adventures.

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BEP Chemo Round – Day 10 – Round 1

8:00am – O:0 N:0 T:0 P:0

Another morning where I feel great. I hope it continues on this way although I know it will not based on what I have read on the TC-Cancer site (http://www.tc-cancer.com/forum). I will talk more about this amazing site later on today, but for now, I am getting ready to go into the office again! Funny that one is actually excited about going into the office. :)

I will post more updates and some of the news from the last few days later tonight. Work comes first though. :)

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BEP Chemo Round – Day 9 – Round 1

7:00pm – O:0 N:0 T:0 P:0

I went into work today to have lunch with my colleagues and what a difference it makes to get out and see friends. I will be going into work tomorrow as well even if it is for a limited time. I did eventually become a bit queezy but that is to be expected due to all the meds going through me.

All in all, today was one of my best days thus far.

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BEP Chemo Round – Day 8 – Round 1

8:00am – O:0 N:5 T:2 P:0

Back in the doctors office for a day of fun. Today is my follow up Bleo day. I will be getting my pre meds (Zofran – anti nausea, Benedryl, Tylenol and hydration) first then on to some Bleomycin. Today I will also find out what my blood count looks like. It should be much lower due to a week of chemo so we shall see in a few hours.

Came home and rested. Nothing exciting to report.

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