This is Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

CHEMO WEEK 1, Treatment #2:

Back to the cancer center. This time I dressed a little nicer and carried a lighter bag. I was starting to realize what a time consuming thing it was to have cancer.

Today we would be accessing the IP (intra-peritoneal) port under my left breast for the first time to administer Cisplatin, the anti-cancer drug, directly into my abdominal cavity where the tumor had been removed. We would also be accessing the chest port at the same time to administer fluids and anti-nausea medicine.

Chemo

Whereas yesterday I sat in a recliner, today I was in a bed (which was actually more like a gurney). This was so that when the Cisplatin was administered I could rock back and forth to coat the area where the cancer had been. It sounds more exciting than it really was.

Chemo

Two ports, tubes, and the top of the nine inch surgical scar.

I had been told that today would be a longer day, as in seven to eight hours of chemo. I was pleasantly surprised that I was done in only three.

I had also heard all about the horrible side effects of Cisplatin: abdominal bloating and cramps, nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. The nurse told me that the nausea usually took a day or two before it showed up.

The nurse took a lot of time to explain everything she was doing, and she gave some great advice about handling the nausea. There were no immediate side effects this time, like there had been with the Benadryl and the restless leg syndrome the day before.

Chemo paraphernalia

Chemo paraphernalia

Before we were done, the nurse saw that my CA 125 test results were in from yesterday’s blood work. The CA 125 is “a protein that is a so-called tumor marker or biomarker, which is a substance that is found in greater concentration in tumor cells than in other cells of the body. In particular, CA 125 is present in greater concentration in ovarian cancer cells than in other cells” (courtesy of medicinenet.com).

The night before my surgery my CA 125 was over 450. The current test showed the level was now 37 before I’d even had my first chemo treatment. The nurse was amazed, saying they rarely see numbers that low before the first chemo treatment. The norm is anything below 35, so it was definitely a good number.

CA 125 results

Celebrating the news with my daughter.

As we were leaving the center after chemo, I ran into my oncologist coming from the hospital. She had seen my number, had already called to tell my family physician the good news, and was ecstatic. She actually said that we had a good chance of “curing” my cancer. The word “cure” is not one you hear very often when speaking of cancer. It was the best thing she could have told me.

Jut like yesterday, I felt pretty good after chemo. My daughter, Dominique, and my son’s girlfriend, Nicole, took me to Target and Buffalo Exchange for some shopping. Other than feeling fatigued, I ate a good dinner and thought to myself: maybe it won’t be as bad as everyone keeps saying it will be. I slept well and hoped for the best.

The next morning, Saturday, I woke up and felt a little tired and queasy, but nothing too extreme. By lunchtime I felt nauseous. Really nauseous. And nothing helped. It got progressively worse as the day wore on.

I took the anti-nausea meds the doctor had prescribed (Zofran and Compazine), but really didn’t notice that they helped all that much. The Compazine made me feel woozy and drunk. All I could do was stay in bed and not move. The slightest movement made me feel nauseous.

The entire weekend was a battle. I was too nauseous to eat, but I knew that not eating and having an empty stomach would only make the problem worse. I ate some crackers and tried to drink water. I wasn’t used to being in bed all day, and being so inactive was driving me crazy. On top of that, the Cisplatin made me feel like there was electricity coursing through my body, so trying to stay still was impossible. My friends Liz and Todd came over to see what they could do.

Sunday was even worse. I had constant nausea and felt restless, anxious, and like I had lost all control over what was happening to me. If you’re the type of person, like me, who is very active and doesn’t even like to take an aspirin, having your body pumped full of poison is not an easy thing to go through. I thought I would first go mentally crazy, and then the chemo drugs would kill me off after that.

Sick

If I wasn’t in bed, I was usually on the couch.

I ate nothing more than a small amount of white rice, more crackers, and drank water and Gatorade. The nausea was so bad that putting anything in my mouth, even water, made me gag.

Nicole, bless her heart, cooked dinner for the rest of the family. Within ten minutes of starting dinner I had to run to the back of the house to escape the smell. Within another two minutes, when the scent of sauteed garlic and onions wafted into the bedroom, I had to sprint to the bathroom. Once again, my stomach was empty. She felt horrible for not realizing how sensitive I was to strong smells, I felt bad for her for feeling so bad, and we opened all the doors to air out the house.

After dinner we all drove to Liz and Todd’s house. I needed the fresh air and a distraction from feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin. The house was starting to feel like a prison. It was great to see good friends and it took my mind off feeling so horrible. When we left, though, I was so weak and out of it, I almost passed out when I stood up from petting their cat. I literally felt myself falling backwards as Michael caught me from behind. I laughed it off and thought I was just sleepy.

Blow drying hair

I was too exhausted to stand up and blow dry my hair.

I called my sister the next day and told her I didn’t know if I could do this, that chemo was scary and much harder than I thought it would be. She told me I “just had to do it,” that I didn’t have a choice, and that it was going to save my life. My friend Alex, who is a doctor, called to check up on me and gave some great advice. He told me I was going to have to find something to occupy my mind during chemo.

Trying to concentrate enough to read a book or write something was out of the question. I tried to meditate using some guided meditations I had downloaded onto my computer, which helped some. The thing that really got me through this tough week: watching all five seasons of Breaking Bad. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman might be two bad dudes, but they saved my sanity during this time.

I slept off and on all week, which was a blessing. I felt nauseous, lightheaded, and so tired I could barely walk from the bed to the bathroom without stopping halfway. I told my husband I understood why some people opted out and refused to do chemo, especially if they’d already been through it before.

Sick

Going from the bed to the bathroom.

The extreme nausea lasted until Tuesday, and Wednesday I could eat and drink a little more. The nurse had told me I was going to feel like a truck hit me, and she was right.

I still had one more treatment in this first cycle, another IP of Taxol, on Thursday, the very next day. Wednesday night, however, I mustered up the energy to meet my running group at Alex’s place for pizza afterwards.

Seeing all my friends, even if I couldn’t run, was the best medicine for me. And I had a great excuse for getting out of a hot, sweaty, Texas summer run.

WRRC

The White Rock Running Co-op

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106 comments

  1. Richard

    Angela & family, simply things such as the family dogs, the one when your on the couch …your surrounded and they are protecting you, you can see their empathy.

  2. iRuniBreathe

    I’ve been nervously mulling over signing up for my first ultra when I read this. Not only do you have super healing powers to get your CA-125 number so low (so quickly!), but you have endured and persevered through uncomparable unpleasantness. I was starting to feel nauseaous just reading about your nausea – and it only took me 5 min to read it. Tonight as a change of pace you and I can go run intervals on the track. I know much much we both love this, but it’s good for us. (btw, I’m running faster since I virtually started taking you along with me for my runs.) Hugs to you!

      • iRuniBreathe

        I chickened out of the first one and then registration closed because it was full. It sold out in just over 24 hours! I have another one on the horizon, a little later in the year, so will register when that one opens. You are inspiring me from afar!

      • Mind Margins

        Wow, that must be a popular race. If it’s a 50K, it will be a walk in the park for you. It really isn’t much more training than for a marathon. I have lots of tips to share if you decide to do it!

  3. Patti Ross

    You are so courageous to go through what you are and sharing it with us. Keep it up. We are all there with you, even if we cannot truly take on your experience for you, we are there in spirit. Your bravery is contagious!

  4. Gary and Jenny

    You’ve come a long way since Chemo Day 2. You can’t stop now. You have a lot of people pulling for you. You can do it.

  5. Michelle

    I like your sister! ‘Tough, kid, you’ve got no choice.’ Sometimes that’s just what we need to hear, that you can do it and you will do it. I hate that you have to keep going through it over and over again in these three week cycles, but at least the third week is a “free” week. At a certain point, I guess it would become a little bit of a routine, or at least you would get used to how it’s going to be. On the other hand, it would get old pretty quick and still you have to keep on. Like the first day of class, I would think, “okay, I got through that and now it’s over and I got through it mostly ok.” Then I’d remember that I had to do it all over again the next day.

    • Mind Margins

      It’s actually more like childbirth in that the third week, when you can eat again and feel somewhat normal, you forget how bad it really was. Then when it’s time for chemo you think, “It won’t be so bad this time,” and you go in with a good attitude. That optimism eventually wears off, of course, and you start to get mopey the closer you get to chemo, but by that time you’re able to see the end in sight and accept that you really have no choice, and you just get it done. Plus, when you get used to chemo and how it works, you eventually lose that panicky feeling of having no control. Or at least I have. Now I’ve learned what I have to do to get through the bad chemo days (Netflix, fluffy chick lit, and naps) and know that every day will be a little better than the day before.

  6. melissabluefineart

    Hey Angela,
    That is great news on the number! Hooray! I’ve been trying to think of good jokes with which to distract you, and I realized Michelle has some great ones on her Pinterest page. Also, I find I can easily be distracted there (on Pinterest)…. hope it helps.
    I love how close your dogs are sticking to you.
    Hugs and good thoughts!

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you, Melissa. I have so far resisted Pinterest, if only because I know once I get on I will spend hours there. I didn’t know people could have their own pages on Pinterest. I will certainly check out Michelle’s jokes, so thanks for the tip! As for my dogs, they make everything bad feel just a little better.

  7. Grace @ Cultural Life

    I’m sorry that things are getting tougher. Keep going! That CA-125 number is awesome news! That must have given you a boost.

    Thinking of distractions, have you ever seen Downton Abbey? I think it’s on Netflix and it is very addictive!

    • Mind Margins

      Oh, yes, I’ve been watching Downton Abbey from the beginning. I’m anxious for the next season to begin in January. Breaking Bad only has three more episodes until it’s gone for good. So sad!

      • Grace @ Cultural Life

        I am so excited about season four of Downton Abbey! And I heard that they are planning season five already, so we have lots more Downton Abbey to look forward to!

        Although I have heard a lot about it, I’ve never seen Breaking Bad. I’m not usually a fan of crime drama but maybe I should give this one a try.

      • Mind Margins

        You really should give Breaking Bad a chance. I wouldn’t call it a crime drama at all. It’s one of the best written shows I’ve ever watched, but the characters are what make the show. And you never expect what’s going to happen next. It’s also seriously funny. Just don’t watch it around the kids!

  8. Tobey

    You are such a beacon of strength and courage – for what you are going through and for opening up to let us all be in the journey with you!! Hugs, humor and positivity!!

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you, but you would do the same, I’m sure. Maybe by sharing what it’s like I may help someone else who is just starting out on a similar journey.

  9. westerner54

    I continue to be so impressed by your fortitude. And I love that your pup is always by your side. Have you watched House of Cards? Not as intense as Breaking Bad, but it might prove distracting enough.

    • Mind Margins

      No, I haven’t watched House of Cards yet. I’ll give it a shot. I tried Sons of Anarchy but it was a little too violent for my taste. I found myself cringing a lot!

  10. Nancy Loderick

    Wonderful news about the CA-125. I have a feeling that your strong and positive attitude is helping. I so admire your courage – chemo sounds really tough, to put it mildly.

    Sending you lots of healing thoughts from Boston. Hugs to you.

    Nancy

    • Mind Margins

      Yes, writing does help, but I can’t write about it when it’s happening. No brain power and I don’t want to dwell on it. A certain amount of time has to pass before I feel like delving into it again. It is actually hard to revisit since I’m still so close to it.

  11. Beverly

    Isn’t the exhaustion terrible? I had to take a nap after showering. Walking expended too much energy. No one warned me how tired I would be. Excellent news on the CA-125…a 37. Wow that is a big deal to ovarian cancer patients. Congratulations! I know that felt good to hear.

    • Mind Margins

      It’s even lower now, but that’s for a future post. Yes, the exhaustion is horrible. I knew I would feel tired but had no idea it would be so extreme.

  12. pwhent

    Angela, do you remember you told me about the banner over the road at mile 20 in the Dallas Marathon that says “start”. Well it sounds like metaphorically you just ran under your own start banner and its getting tough. I can’t imagine anyone better equipped to handle it – with your courage and our prayers you’ll get there. Fantastic news on the numbers!!

  13. MikeW

    First, I celebrate 37 vs. higher numbers. Thanks for your brave example and smiles in your photos. As before, pulling for you!

  14. monica

    you are so strong! your strength shines through in your writing! many healing blessings to you. you are in my thoughts nearly everyday!

  15. Still a Runner

    Congrats on the CA 125 results. Sharing this experience is a brave and wonderful thing. Love that you are seeing running friends. There something about them that is so healing.

  16. Shakti Ghosal

    A very empowering post. It does need a special level of courage, inner strength and self-awareness to be able to be able to write under such circumstances. May I acknowledge you for that.

    So, as you think back to that day and the Chemo session, what remained your learning in that moment?

    Shakti

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks for visiting, Shakti. I have learned so much from this entire experience and have always said from the beginning that it’s a gift. I appreciate everything about life so much more, especially family and friends and the connections we make. As for what I learned on that specific day, I saw it more as another chance to see how strong I was, and how I could find ways to get through tough times. I also learned that good friends, who will drop everything to come over and help you feel better, or go home and cook something special when they have other things to do, are worth more than anything can buy. As for the chemo session itself, I learned to let go and trust others. I am in the hands of knowledgeable nurses, strong drugs, and women who paved the way with their own treatments before mine. I have to trust that chemo will work and that things will happen as they should. And I learned to relax!

  17. aFrankAngle

    I’m on blogging break, but I had to make an exception for your update. Congrats on the great CA number, but the bout with post-chemo nausea sounds horrible. Glad to see one of the dogs stay in your presence! Stay strong!

    • Mind Margins

      I’m so honored you broke your blogging break for me, Frank. I am hanging in there. Only six more sessions to go, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  18. MikeW

    Now this one carries me a way a bit. I hope it might be your cup of tea too…

    if bagpipes aren’t your sound, disregard! Otherwise, enjoy!

  19. runningtoherdreams

    Wonderful news with the numbers! I remember helping my MIL after her treatments, definitely not a walk in the park in any sense of the word. I admire your ability to remain positive. You have so got this! ❤

  20. ridicuryder

    Hi Angela,
    I’ve liked a lot of what you comment to Michelle over the past months, I didn’t know of your health struggles until now. You do seem to explore the margins of stuff…..calling your cancer a gift. 🙂

    I guess you just gotta go blazing trails into territory most of us would avoid, just to demonstrate it can be done…… Thanks for the example.
    Mark

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks, Mark, I checked out your blog and liked what I saw as well. When I have more brain power I want to investigate further.

      The cancer really was a gift, especially just after surgery. It was the reality check that I needed, a signal that I needed to quit messing around and get serious about some things in my life. Even though chemo is doing what it’s supposed to do, namely eradicating any remaining rogue cancer cells so it never comes back, I see it as less of a gift. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through and it pretty much blows. But, in all honesty, it’s also taught me a lot, especially about not fighting things that I can’t control.

      Thanks for visiting!

  21. Irish Katie

    I feel better tonight and wanted to get back here to comment — LIST TIME!

    1) The photo of you on the sofa — your pups, they both seem to know .. they look sad. I am glad they were there to hang out with you.

    2) CA-125 …. YES! You mentioned to me also, that it went down only slightly subsequently … but it WILL go down ok. You are kicking this in the arse … and that makes me grand happy for you. Nod nods.

    3) Yahhhh for friends …. runner ones, and online ones …. you have many. And we are all pulling for you.

    Go you. You are my hero. *hugs*

  22. Alan Schonborn

    Angela – So glad to have stumbled upon your blog. Your strength just flies off the page.
    Overjoyed at the CA 125 result – a huge Woo Hoo!!
    Looks like you’ve got such great energy surrounding you, from Michael to the dogs and all the rest of the motley crew of family and friends. No doubt you’ll be squarely back on your running feet before you know it. Can’t wait to see you then!
    Alan

  23. MikeW

    Checking in, and suspecting that you’re spending your time doing more important things than popping off notes to your fellow bloggers. Good priorities I say, and still, in case you check, here is a check right back at you. Best, Mike.

  24. kruzmeister

    Hi Angela, I’m so sorry the side effects have been so horrid for you. I hope that you are starting to feel a little better. Thinking of you and sending you all the positive and healing vibes I can muster from Down Under! xoxo

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you, Andrew. I have been reading your blog sporadically, but I promise I will catch up very soon. Writing became impossible as I got further into chemo, but I am now officially done with that! I’ll be back very soon. It means so much to me that you are still around and thinking of me. Hope you are well!

  25. fahimausa

    Angela, even though we’ve never met, I think of you every day and pray for you, too. Oops and I are friends from college, and we’re wondering how you are and hoping for the very best for you. I am a retired nurse, so I know how sometimes illness makes someone just too worn out to write, but looking forward to your next words when you feel you can write them. Just want you to know that even all the way from Connecticut, someone is with you through all of this and I am so admiring of your bravery to share it with us as much as you can. Everyone can learn from what you go through, but most importantly, we are all carrying you in our loving spirits. love, marthagraham@cox.net (fahimapan)

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you for the wonderful comment. I will be writing again very soon and hope to finish the story of how everything progressed. I needed a break from living with cancer 24/7 and didn’t feel like writing for the longest time. Things are settling down now, though (thank goodness), so be on the lookout! Thank you so much for your encouragement.

  26. Beverly

    Angela,
    Glad to hear that you have finished your treatments. It’s smart to take a break so that you can come back hitting the ground running. How’s the hair growing? Has it started to come back yet? It took at least a month and a half before my hair even began to grow. I also wanted to ask you how ‘Irish Katie’ is doing?

    Peace to you and happy holidays!

    • Mind Margins

      I haven’t heard from Irish Katie in months. I’ve emailed but heard nothing back. 😦

      My hair finally started growing back last week, 5 full weeks after my last chemo. It’s coming in fast and furious now, though, and my eyelashes are little stubs and my eyebrows are all over the place–but I’ll take that! I’m hoping I have enough hair to ditch this cap by the new year. Thanks so much for reaching out, and have a wonderful holidays and new year!

      • Beverly

        It had been about 10 years since I had to renew my license with an updated picture. Ha! I was just glad I had some hair at the time instead of being completely bald. I wore wigs but they never felt comfortable and usually ended up putting a baseball cap on. I don’t know about the weather by you but it gets darn cold here in Chicago. Made me wonder how men deal with baldness all the time. I froze my ass off (until I’d get a hot flash). LOL

      • Mind Margins

        I looked pretty ridiculous wearing a cap this summer here in Dallas when it was 105 degrees outside. Now that it’s winter I don’t stick out so much.

  27. Beverly

    I just now read the comments in Katie’s last blog. There is a recent update if you haven’t checked it lately.

  28. Beverly

    One of my teal sisters here in Chicago passed away a few months ago. She was fine at the NOCC walk in May. She was so upbeat and happy and simply wonderful. It broke my heart to hear that she lost her battle not long after the walk. I was very sad to read about Irish Katie. I didn’t know her at all except from her comments on your blog. Hearing about her fight made me want to cheer her on. It’s a crushing blow.

      • Beverly

        Your letter to Katie is a beautiful, lovely tribute. Even though she was scared, she was inspirational to those who witnessed her fight. A message not lost on me to soldier on. I wish her and her family peace.

      • Mind Margins

        Beverly, I don’t know why the Comment disappeared on the post, but thanks for leaving one here. It was her fear that brought us together and kept me strong. She was only scared because of her daughter. She was the bravest woman I’ve ever known.

  29. Chatter Master

    I’m sorry for all you have had to go through. But if I’m reading this correctly you are feeling much better and doing well. I followed you back here from Irish Katie’s blog. I miss her. And wanted to say hi to as many of her friends as I could. And remember her happily. She would be so excited for you feeling well and doing better.

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you. I’ve been sending her emails all these months, letting her know how I’ve been doing, even though I had no idea she was gone. I like to think she read them anyway.

      • Chatter Master

        Me too! I wrote her one the night I found out, then found out, then wrote her again. I think I will keep writing her. Just because it feels kind of nice to do so.

      • Mind Margins

        I will probably do the same. It’s amazing how many people’s lives she managed to touch in such a short time–and most of us never even met her. Her personality shone through so strongly in everything she wrote.

  30. Beverly

    I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I read the comment on her blog yesterday. And your letter brought me to tears. Ovarian cancer is a nasty, insidious disease that has robbed us of too many. I’d also like to think that Katie read your emails and knew that she was not alone in this fight.

    • Mind Margins

      Comment button has reappeared on the post, thanks to my husband’s help! I would love it if you would say some of these wonderful things over there. Thanks, Beverly!

  31. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Amazing to see you smiling there. I’m glad for you. Such an insidious disease.
    This is valuable reading. I truly wish you the continued best.

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