NO MORE CHEMO!!! CHEMO GRADUATE OFFICIALLY !!JUNE2012

So I made it!! one year of chemo in the books!! Another chapter of this hilarious journey closed. No more beeping infusion pump alarms, port access, poking, prodding , and a little less anxiety. I had become a solider in this war on cancer… every Tuesday I marched into the infusion center with my posse in tow ready for the next batch of toxic agents that would kill this cancer.  I would miss all these beautiful and supportive faces that had been woven into my existence and into the fibers of my new life. Each one of them had touched and changed my me personally during my most vulnerable time and while they were mere strangers in the beginning they grew to be part of my family.

Now, the side effects I would come to learn would worsen and linger. The  exhaustion, the waves of nausea, and OH the neuropathy in my legs and hands would be the most torturous,  almost debilitating. I had a hard time walking short distances or holding a pen,  the pain was maddening. I could  not get to it, I was unable to rub it away it, it literally was nerve-racking. As time progressed… eh almost 2 years later it was all getting better. Despite being done with the infusions I was still dealing with the lasting effects both physically and emotionally.  I would be excited for my hair and eyelashes and taste buds to grow back. Oh how I longed to be able to savor flavors again. Big and Small victories!

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the last drops of chemo

the last drops of chemo

PUMPED STOPPED!!

PUMPED STOPPED!!

last message on the bag!

last message on the bag!

Dr. Hahm and her chemo graduate

Dr. Hahm and her chemo graduate

these two!! always worried!

these two!! always worried!

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CHEMO GRADUATE!!

CHEMO GRADUATE!!

MARY ANNE!!! love her!!!

MARY ANNE!!! love her!!! Chemo mix-ologist!!!

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I came out of my self described “chemo suite” to share my final drops of chemo to what I had termed the “general population”.

my sweet shay!!! the bestest oncology nurse on earth!!!

my sweet shay!!! the bestest oncology nurse on earth!!!

chemo graduation celebration steak dinner!!

chemo graduation celebration steak dinner!!

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HAIR TODAY… GONE TOMORROW

THESE ARE PICTURES OF THE EVOLUTION OF HAIR LOSS.  NOW, I DO NOT WANT TO DISMISS THE COLD CAPS. THEY WORKED FOR THE FIRST ROUNDS OF CARBOPLATIN AND TAXOTERE AND I THOUGHT I WOULD BE ABLE TO SAVE SOME OF IT. HOWEVER WHEN MY LIVER ENZYMES STARTED TO ESCALATE OUT OF NORMAL RANGE DR HAHM GREW CONCERNED AND SWITCHED MY CHEMO TO TAXOL FOR 18 WEEKS  STRAIGHT INSTEAD OF THE ONCE EVERY 3 WEEKS OF THE COCKTAIL OF THC (TAXOTERE/HERCEPTIN/CARBOPLATIN),( YEAH NOT THE THC YOU WERE THINKING). AT THAT POINT COLD CAPS WERE NOT A FEASIBLE OPTION ANY LONGER AND I HAD TO COME TO THE REALIZATION THAT DESPITE MY BEST EFFORTS I WAS GOING TO LOSE ALL OF MY HAIR. I HAD ALREADY LOST MY EYEBROWS, EYELASHES  AND ALL THE HAIR EVERYWHERE ELSE ON MY BODY.. I WAS LIKE A HAIRLESS CAT. BUT LOSING THE HAIR ON MY HEAD WOULD BE DIFFICULT BECAUSE UP UNTIL THEN I HAD KEPT A DECENT AMOUNT OF HAIR AND I HAD HID MY DIAGNOSIS FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE.  WITH NO HAIR, THEN PEOPLE.. WELL ….EVERYONE WOULD KNOW I WAS SICK.

THIS WAS A PICTURE THE MORNING OF MY FIRST CHEMO!!

all this will be gone soon...

all this will be gone soon.. first moments after my brother shaved my head

AFTER: first moments after my brother shaved my head
ONE OF THE MANY UNPLEASANT SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMO

ONE OF THE MANY UNPLEASANT SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMO

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FIRST STEP TOWARD HAIR LOSS. FIGHTING IT ALL THE WAY FIRST STEP TOWARD HAIR LOSS. FIGHTING IT ALL THE WAY

WHAT YOU MAY NOT BE AWARE OF IS HOW PAINFUL IT WAS TO LOOSE MY HAIR AND I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL SIDE. I AM TALKING ABOUT THE PURE PHYSIOLOGICAL SIDE OF CHEMO INDUCED HAIR LOSS. MY SCALP HURT TO THE PHYSICAL TOUCH AND WHEN I WOULD RUN MY FINGERS THROUGH MY HAIR AND THE STRANDS WOULD FALL OUT IT FELT  LIKE A RELIEF OF SORTS, THE FOLLICLES WERE ALSO LETTING GO OF WHAT THEY COULD NO LONGER CONTROL.  I SWEAR THOSE DARN FOLLICLES WERE HOLDING ON WITH ALL THEIR MIGHT AND FIGHTING THE RAVENOUS  EMINENT DEATH THAT CHEMO WOULD BESTOW ON EACH AN EVERYONE OF THEM. BUT SOON THEY ALL SURRENDERED.

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STILL HOLDING ON TO THE FOLLICLES

STILL HOLDING ON TO THE FOLLICLES

BELOW YOU WILL SEE THE WIG IN MY LAP. I CALLED HER MATILDA. I PURCHASED HER WITH MY MOM AND GODDAUGHTER ISABELLA,MONTHS BEFORE THIS PIC AT ONE OF THOSE GINORMOUS KOREAN BEAUTY SUPPLY STORES.   VICKI , MY HAIRDRESSER STYLED AND CUT IT FOR ME TO MAKE  HER APPEAR MORE NATURAL. I THOUGHT I WOULD SHOW HER TO THE WORLD SOME DAY AFTER I HAD LOST  MY HAIR. BUT INSTEAD I ROCK’D THE BALD HEAD WITH ONLY A HAT TO HIDE IT MOST DAYS. FOR ME WEARING THE WIG WOULD HAVE ONLY BEEN A DISGUISZE , A WAY TO MAKE EVERYONE ELSE MORE COMFORTABLE WITH MY CANCER AND I DID NOT WANT TO FEEL ASHAMED OF WHAT CHEMO WAS DOING TO ME. I WAS FRUSTRATED AND PROUD AT THE SAME TIME OF MY CHEMO INDUCED BALD HEAD AND I WASNT OK..  AND FAR BE IT FOR ME TO DEPRIVE PEOPLE OF THE REALITY OF CANCER AND MAKE THEM MORE COMFORTABLE WITH WHAT WAS  HAPPENING TO ME! YUP NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

VICKI CUT OFF ALL THE LOCKS AND TRIED TO CREATE A STYLE WITH THE LITTLE AMOUNT OF HAIR I HAD LEFT

VICKI CUT OFF ALL THE LOCKS AND TRIED TO CREATE A STYLE WITH THE LITTLE AMOUNT OF HAIR I HAD LEFT

I HAD REMAINED WORKING THROUGH MOST OF MY CHEMO AND ON THIS PARTICULAR FALL DAY I WAS DRIVING WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN HEADING TO AN OFFICE AND I REACHED UP TO RUN MY FINGERS THRU MY HAIR AND WHEN I PULLED MY HAND AWAY IN MY HAND WAS A BIG CHUNK OF THE LITTLE HAIR THAT I HAD PAINSTAKINGLY TRIED TO PRESERVE. I REMEMBER FREAKING OUR AND THROWING IT OUT THE WINDOW. LITTLE LIFELESS STRANDS HELD ON TO MY FINGERS AS IF NOT WANTING TO LET GO…AND AT THAT MOMENT I CALLED MY BROTHER AND TOLD HIM TO COME OVER THAT NIGHT SO THAT HE COULD SHAVE MY HEAD. SO AFTER A COUPLE OF GLASSES OF APOTHIC RED … MY MOM, MY FRIEND KIM MILLER AND MY PSEUDO BARBER TOGETHER WE TACKLED YET ANOTHER RITE OF PASSAGE IN THE CANCER JOURNEY.  OFF WITH HER HAIR!!!

IMG_1471I WAS SO SILLY, I TOLD THOMAS TO USE THE GUARDS AND CUT IT  OFF IN STAGES, ALL WHILE THINKING THAT I COULD TRY FOR A SHORTER CLOSE CUT  BUT NOT SHAVED HEAD.  HE AGREED BUT IT WAS OF NO USE BECAUSE AS HE DID IT MY BALD SPOTS WOULD BECOME MORE VISIBLE AND I LOOKED LIKE A RABID HYENA.  SO RELUCTANTLY AND WITH TEARS IN MY EYES  AND PAIN IN MY HEART, I HAD TO SUCCUMB TO THE IDEA THAT ALL OF IT HAD TO GO… AND SO HE DID IT! THIS DISEASE WOULD ROB ME OF SO MANY THINGS THAT DEFINED MY FEMINITY, MY EYELASHES, MY FINGERNAILS (BC OF CHEMO) MY BREAST, AND NOW MY HAIR.

I KNOW IT HAD TO BE EQUALLY HARD FOR MY BROTHER AND I COULDNT HAVE DONE IT WITH OUT HIM!! THANKS THOMAS!

THOMAS SHAVING MY HEAD

THOMAS SHAVING MY HEAD

THIS WAS SO HARD AND SAD

THIS WAS SO HARD AND SAD

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THOMAS GOING BALD IN SOLIDARITY

THOMAS GOING BALD IN SOLIDARITY

IMG_1504ME AND MY BRO! I WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED THAT I DIDNT HAVE A BIG OL COTTO BLOCK HEAD UNDER ALL THAT HAIR.

A FEW TEARS LATER… WE LOOK DARN GOOD!! LOL

KIMMIE COMING OVER TO SUPPORT ME WHILE I GET MY HEAD SHAVED

KIMMIE COMING OVER TO SUPPORT ME WHILE I GET MY HEAD SHAVED

IMG_1514COULDNT CONVINCE MOM TO SHED HER LOCKS.  THOMAS AND I GAVE HER A HARD TIME BUT I UNDERSTOOD.

DAD WANTED A BALD HEAD TOO!!

DAD WANTED A BALD HEAD TOO!!

IMG_1033BALD IS BEAUTIFUL!! DANG DONT WE LOOK ALIKE????

My days @ the chemotherapy infusion center of NWGA Oncology 2011-2012

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Here is a montage of pics from my year of getting chemotherapy:  Let us first chat briefly about my experience and what I felt during chemotherapy treatments.  Everybody will have a different experience from chemotherapy, none of it is fun or easy. My doctor explained it  to me in this way, “  it was going to feel  like I was bringing you  to the brink of death … in order to save your  life”.  For the record, She could not  have been more right!

So, depending on the pre-meds on average my chemotherapy took anywhere from 2 hrs-6hrs. Yup, toxic agents take time!!!Slow and steady is the best otherwise you will just get sick faster… I  mean lets be clear you ARE giong to be sick there is NO question!!. Although they will pump you full of steroids, anti-nausea and benedryl to help some with the immediate effects of the Chemotherapy. Chemo is a tricky tricky jerk, because most likely you will only feel extremely tired the day of chemo and  then BAM!!! 2-3 later is when the storm hits and your new friend become Zofran and Compazine and you feel like complete and utter dog poo!! The  infusion of the actual chemo is where I felt like there was metal in my mouth, somedays I felt like there were bugs crawling under my skin, tired (thank you benedryl) and overall anxiety about how little I could control. Chemo will rob you of you hair, your fingernails, a couple of toenails, eyelashes and taste buds, it will kill red and white blood cells but its  all in a days work in the path of destruction to eradicate your body of those dam cancer cells.

In those moments when you feel out of control all you have is your faith. God strips away everything else and asks you to put every ounce of everything you have left in him and the power of the medicine and the team of healers who he has sent to cure you.  So it doesnt matter if you pray to God, Jesus, Muhamed, Budda, Allah, Ganesh or whomever , cancer will test your faith and you will need something bigger than yourself  to hold on to , something to give you the strength which will   guide and comfort you during this dark and confusing time. I say do not limit yourself to one diety… emplore them all… there is power in numbers. lol

IMG_1230 THIS IS A PERFECT GLIMPSE INTO THE WEEKLY RITUAL : THEY GAVE ME CHEMO/HERCEPTIN THROUGH MY PORT-A -CATH BUT DESPITE THE NUMBING CREAM I ALWAYS FELT LIKE THEY WERE STABBING ME IN THE HEART. THE AGONY.   LISTEN PEOPLE IT NEVER GOT BETTER OR EVEN LESS PAINFUL!!

YUP! PRETTY MUCH SUMS IT UP!!!- CARD FROM MY BROTHER THOMAS

YUP! PRETTY MUCH SUMS IT UP!!!- CARD FROM MY BROTHER THOMASIT NEVER GOT BETTER OR LESS PAINFUL!

BETTER OR LESS PAINFUL!

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THOMAS AND ME

THOMAS AND ME

AMANDA AND ME

AMANDA AND ME

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messages from Mary Anne on my cancer juice!

messages from Mary Anne on my cancer juice!

ME AND MY DAD

ME AND MY DAD

once porta-cath was removed bc i was encapsulated my viens got abused from the chemoonce porta-cath was removed bc it was encapsulated my viens got abused from the chemo

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CHEMO SELFIE

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IMG_1037 THANKS TO SHAY AND THE GIRLS, I ALWAYS HAD MY OWN TREATMENT ROOM. I JOKED THAT SHE KEPT ME OUT OF ” GENERAL POPULATION” I AM GRATEFUL FOR THAT .I ALSO THINK I WAS AWARDED (AS I LIKE TO TERM) , A PRIVATE SUITE WAS BECAUSE I ALWAYS HAD A  ROWDY  ENTOOURAGE OF SUPPORTERS IN TOW. IT WAS INTERESTING OBSERVATION WHEN I LOOK BACK, GIVEN THE REASON I WAS THERE… WHICH WAS  TO HAVE THESE  TOXINS PUMPED THROUGH MY BODY TO KILL  THE CANCER and SAVE MY LIFE …  AND AS TENSE AND UNCERTAIN THIS TIME WAS, EVERYONE WHO ACCOMPANIED ME TO THE INFUSION CENTER ALWAYS MADE IT AS POSITIVE OF AN EXPERIENCE AS POSSIBLE.  THERE WAS LUNCH BROUGHT IN, TREATS, FUNNY YOU-TUBE VIEWINGS (GO THE F$%& TO SLEEP) , SHARING OF  STORIES AND SURPRISINGLY A LOT MORE LAUGHTER THAN TEARS. I REMEBER THE DAY THAT THOMAS, KIM MILLER AND MY FRIEND AMY GARDNER WE THERE WITH ME AND WE WERE CARRYING ON LAUGHING SO MUCH SHAY HAD TO SHUT THE DOOR. WE WERE HAVING ENTIRELY TOO MUCH FUN AS POISION PUMPED THROUGH MY VIENS. IT IS STRANGE TO THINK OF IT AS A HAPPY MEMORY BUT IT WAS JUST THAT!!

THE B TEAM AS SHAY SO AFFECTIONATELY TERMED THEM: AMY, KIM AND THOMAS

THE B TEAM AS SHAY SO AFFECTIONATELY TERMED THEM: AMY, KIM AND THOMAS

I AM SO FORTUNATE TO SHARE THAT THROUGHOUT MY ONE YEAR OF CHEMOTHERAPY  I NEVER ONCE HAD TO  ENDURE A SINGLE INFUSION ALONE!!! I  WAS BLESSED AND HONORED  TO HAVE AT LEASE ONE PERSON WITH ME EACH TIME. I KNEW HOW DIFFICULT THAT TASK WAS FOR MOST EVERYONE BECAUSE THEY WERE WILLFULLY ENTERING A PLACE THAT FEW PEOPLE GET TO SEE, WANT TO SEE AND UNFORTUNATELY IS NOT THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.  BUT SHOW UP SOME OF THEM DID!! THANKS TO MOM, DAD, THOMAS, AMANDAD, AMY, KIM, TRAVIS, TERRY, LATOYA, ISABELLA , LIONELL, JOHANNA AND MELODIE ! I OWE YOU A DEBT OF GRATITUDE FOR SELFLESSLY  SHARING YOUR TIME WITH ME AND VISITING DURING CHEMOTHERAPY.

I WAS OFTEN HUMBLED  AS I WANDERED THROUGH THE OTHER AREA OF THE INFUSION CENTER WHERE I WOULD SEE  OTHER PATIENTS THERE ALONE AND  I JUST  COULD NOT IMAGINE GOING THROUGH THIS BATTLE WITHOUT  ALL THE AMAZING AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE WHO SOMEDAYS JUST SHOWED UP UNIVITED !! TO EACH OF THEM I SAY THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME DO THIS ALONE!!                                                                                                                                             IMG_1585IMG_1786IMG_1109IMG_0872

THE  EVERY SO FASHIONABLE AND STYLISH CHEMO CHAIR:IMG_1597 NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE SURROUND YOU, THIS IS WITHOUT QUESTION, IS THE LONELIEST PLACE ON EARTH!

Day after chemo you get a wonderful shot called Neulasta.

Neulasta is an injection they give you the day after chemotherapy, it helps rebuild the red blood cells that chemotherapy is killing, in order to save your life. Red blood cells are made in the marrow of your bones and you usually feel the effect of the drug in the largest bones in your body, femur, pelvis etc. The trouble with this shot is that it made my bones ache like I can hardly describe. My hip bones and femurs were  actually sore to the touch. My doctor said it was a good thing, it meant that the Neulasta was working. Along with my worsening neuropathy ( sharp stabbing  pain in my legs, feet, arms and hands from the  chemo) this made walking and moving around so hard. I felt like I was living in a 90 year old body, I was exhausted, nauseas and in pain most every day. I could not stand or walk for very long. Here I am almost 2 years after this treatment and I still suffer from exhaustion and nerve damage( neuropathy) in my legs and hands from the chemotherapy. Its like the gift that keeps giving.

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