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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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