Last week was tough. A few days after my last post, I developed a blistering, peeling, painful rash over the weekend. Since I am not allowed to go to Emergency Rooms due to my low immunity, my hospital offers an oncologist on-call who is able to give you advice on what to do in case of an emergency after hours (very cool service, btw). By sending him a few a pictures, he diagnosed me with shingles, a not uncommon side effect of chemotherapy, but made extra complicated because of several factors. Shingles is very contagious and mine was located on my face, a place that is difficult to keep covered and away from prying little hands. The doctor also told me that my children had already been exposed. While my 5 year old has been vaccinated, my 14 moth-old was not old enough yet to get his vaccine. Ryan has had chicken pox but was still at risk of developing shingles as well. Pox-baby, cancer-wife, Ryan-with-shingles AND March Break? Sounds like my idea of a good time! I haven’t even talked about what my face looked like! Let’s just say being bald was the LEAST of my problems. It looked like a fungus had invaded the entire skin around my mouth. I am definitely not brave enough to post a picture of THAT. On top of all that, because shingles is a viral infection, my chemo for the Monday was also cancelled, putting me back a week with my treatments.
All that news was a bummer. I’m not going to lie. But things got better. After four very long days with no treatment for my face (which was on fire, let me tell you!), my oncologist got me an emergency appointment with a dermatologist who said it was NOT shingles! Apparently some people are prone to getting skin infections while undergoing treatment and that this is a sign that the chemo is working well?! Yay?! Listen, I was just happy that there was no pox-baby to deal with! So with that good news, I took my extra week with no treatment, where I had a bit more of an appetite and a decent amount of immunity, as a little mini-vacation. I took Maddie out for a few activities, went out for dinner with Ryan, went out for lunch with family, saw some friends and tried to make the best of it. Face fungus and all. 🙂
PS: A HUGE thank you to the amazing Karl Lagerfeld, esquire for this blog reboot. Doesn’t it look so much better?
Bone pain. Shingles. Nail loss. Throat and mouth sores. Early menopause. Infertility. You didn’t know that these were common side effects of chemotherapy? Neither did I, my friend. Probably the most frequently asked question I get is about chemotherapy. I get it. You guys don’t know what it’s like and it is scary. This post will walk you through a chemo session which really is a piece of cake compared to what happens after one of them, but that is for another post.
The day starts at 9 a.m. with a whole lot of pills. Most are to help with nausea but some are steroids to help with recovery.
Once I get there, I put a patch of numbing cream on this bad boy below:
What is that you ask? That is port. It is a device I had surgically implanted into my chest that has a catheter that is inserted into a central line in my body (medicine is amazing!). This means I do not have to have an IV done each time I have chemotherapy. They simply feel for my port and insert a needle into my chest. Does it hurt? Well surgery was short but recovery was still pretty painful for two weeks. The actual insertion of the needle each time at best feels like a flu shot to the boob. Still better than them digging around in my tiny veins, in my opinion. It also means that I don’t have sore IV sites and I can play with the kids more easily. This is me at the chemo clinic waiting for the cream to numb the site before the needle is put in, it usually takes about 45 minutes. Fun fact: I now get something called “anticipatory nausea” which is when my body begins to feel extreme nausea and anxiety before I go in for my chemo sessions!
This is what it looks like with the needle put in. Not too bad.
This is my set up. I get a big chair, a TV, a window, snacks, whatever I need. The drugs usually take about 2 hours to administer.
I started at about 10 a.m. and was done by about 1:30 p.m. Then I go home and rest.
I know it has taken my a long time to write. This was the week I lost my hair. The pictures above were taken last Monday. By Tuesday, my hair was falling out by the handfuls and on Thursday I had my head shaved by the lovely Sarah at Turning Hedz and looked like this:
Sorry for the blurriness. It is a big change over only 3 days. Hair loss happens very quickly and is no joke. It is a tough thing to constantly find your hair everywhere and all over everything. I struggled for a whole week, wondering if I would post this picture but, you want to know the story and I want to tell it to you.
You guys, I am overwhelmed by the amount of support you have shown me. Your messages of hope, resilience and encouragement are getting me through these rough, rough days. I know I haven’t responded to many of you but please know that it is my intention to do so in a way that honours each of your messages to me. It just takes me a lot more time right now. The chemotherapy makes it hard for me to concentrate and screens are particularly hard. Please know that your messages are appreciated and have made me laugh and cry at how lucky I am to have all of you. It has been a hard week full of challenges. My hair was falling out by the handfuls and I decided to shave it yesterday. I knew it was going to happen around day 14 of treatment but I still felt unprepared. Cancer sucks.