Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chemo class was a real education

I can't tell you how glad I am that I attended chemo class today. I am in a much better frame of mind now.

The "class" began with blood work, then the lovely Jessica, my oncologist's assistant, told me what my particular treatment will entail. The nurse will insert an IV and give me anti-nausea medicine before two chemo drugs are administered. The first takes about 10 minutes and the second takes about an hour. The whole thing takes about two-and-a-half hours, rather than the much longer time I was expecting.

I will be able to make the half-hour drive to and from the treatments myself. Since they don't know how I'll respond to the drug, they want someone to be with me for the first visit in case they have to give me something that may make me drowsy.

Chemo can't distinguish between good cells and cancer cells and has a nasty habit of killing them both. White blood cells are particularly vulnerable, so I have to go back the following day for a shot that will boost my white cell count.

Jessica said I will definitely lose my hair (sob), my nails may become brittle and I may get mouth sores. Any nausea I may experience can be controlled with a prescription she has already sent to my pharmacy. She said I will be probably be a little more tired than usual for a day or two.

I am to call right away if I have a fever above 101.4, if nausea is worse than expected or if I get dehydrated. I must increase my water intake, and I am not a water drinker. I mean, I wasn't a water drinker.

After Jessica talked to me I got a B-12 shot and then met with Sara, who gave me the bad news about the cost. I'm amazed that I survived that part of the class! Each of my four treatments will cost about $10,000! Ten grand! My insurance will cover a big part of it, however, and Sara told me about some options to help with the rest so I could breathe again.

The class ended with a trip down the hall to the Chemo Room, where there is a row of recliners and their accompanying IV stands. It looked pretty boring, but hey, they have free wifi.

I'll begin treatment next Friday, Feb. 7, and have three more three weeks apart. I don't expect it to go quite as smoothly as I was told today, but it sounds like it will be much easier than the nightmare I was dreading so. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks to everyone who sent prayers and good wishes my way. They are much appreciated!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cancer pulls a fast one

On Dec. 18 I had surgery for lung cancer. The surgeon said I had a small cancerous tumor that was confined to the upper lobe of my left lung. Take out the lobe, remove the cancer. That's what I thought for over a month.

I was discharged from the hospital on Christmas (best gift ever!) and my recovery has been good. I can't even tell I'm missing half of a lung. The sugeon said the operation was a success and that I should should follow up with my oncologist.

I did so on Friday, expecting a brief visit just to arrange for future follow-up scans to check for the possble reoccurrence of cancer.

Imagine my surprise (shock, dismay, fear and anger) when he advised me to have chemotherapy! He said microscopic cancer cells were found around the tumor and on lymph nodes that had been removed during the surgery. I had been mistaken in thinking that the surgery was a "cut and cure"
procedure. I had all I could do not to break down right then and there, but I made it to my car before shedding a tear or two.

So many questions ran through my mind. Why was I finding this out now instead of right after the surgery, or at least before I left the hospital? Will chemo be as horrible as I have heard? How will I get to and from the treatments? How will I cope, living on my own? How will I be able to care for my grandchildren? What will it cost?

I will attend a class on Tuesday that will address some of my concerns, including the financial bit, but  there are so many variables with chemo that I will have to experience it for myself to answer the rest.

I've even questioned whether I should have chemo at all, but the oncologist says it will increase my chance of a total cure by as much as 20 percent, so I'm going for it.