Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chemo Reality

Reality is starting to sink in.

I knew chemo was going to be tough, I researched as much as I could before it started and was ready for all of the expected physical side effects. I have a collection of products to help with dry mouth and nausea and itchy scalp. We hired nannies to care for the kids while Jason is at work. My mom was here for the first few days after chemo. I paid all of my online bills in advance. I stocked my pantry. I thought I was prepared.

I was not prepared for being gone for a whole week. That is what it feels like. I have been sleeping about 20 hours per day for the last 7 days, and when I am awake I am in a fog -- there are a couple of days I don't even remember. It is such a strange feeling, as a homeschooling mom I normally mentally track about 100 different details but at this moment I can't even tell you what my kids ate for lunch today. I haven't left my house in 3 days, and I didn't leave my bedroom on Monday because I could barely walk.

Along with the physical fatigue and mental fog, my body also stopped producing saliva. I have never really given much thought to saliva, but trying to eat a saltine cracker without it sure made me miss it. I was constantly sipping water to keep my mouth from drying out, but I have not been able to eat anything since Sunday at lunch. I haven't had any nausea, but just physically could. not. eat.

My mom was worried about me and flew back up on Monday evening. She took me in to the doctor today, they suspect I have an infection somewhere (I have had bouts of fever that my whole body gets drenched in sweat) and drew 3 vials and 5 large syringes of blood to have cultured, along with a urine culture (it was very bloody) and chest x-ray. We should get the results in a couple of days, but they have put me on a strong antibiotic in the meantime. It is the same antibiotic I was on for the third round of treating my antibiotic-resistant mastitis 2 years ago, and I know how it affects me -- joint pain and fatigue, just what I need more of. They also confirmed that I was dehydrated and gave me a bag of fluids. I have been drinking lots of water and even some Gatorade, but not enough to stay caught up.

I wish I could tell you that I was doing great, and I guess if I dig deep enough for a silver lining I can add that I have not had any nausea or mouth sores (though I am taking 3 different anti-nausea meds, and sores probably require saliva to form). I was finally able to eat something tonight -- a few bites of mashed potatoes while at the doctor, and a few bites of pasta stars at home. It was pretty exciting. My mom was proud.

I am not really sure what to expect going forward. On one hand I now realize that dry mouth is normal, but complete lack of saliva is not. Fatigue is normal, but sleeping 20 hours every day is not. I can keep a better eye on these things now that I know the difference. On the other hand, I have read that some of the effects of chemo are cumulative, meaning they get worse as treatment goes on. I can't really plan for these things.

My dad is arriving later today to take care of me for a while. After what happened on Sunday and Monday, my moms and dads decided that I need full time care and they are rearranging their lives to take turns being here, to be sure I stay on top of my meds, to drive me to doctor appointments, and to help with the kids. It is a strange thing to need to be taken care of by your parents at 33 years old, a time when some of my friends are starting to take care of their aging parents.

Jason has been great all through this, but he has to go to work during the day, and he has to do double duty in the evening. It has been hard on him practically being a single parent. I'm glad we chose to keep traditional wedding vows, he's getting a good dose of better/worse, richer/poorer, sickness/health all at once.

I think my boys are doing ok, though I only see them for a couple of hours each day. I am hoping that I will feel a little better today and spend some time with them. The nannies we hired are great, but they just don't know my boys like I do. I am trying very hard to fight off the guilt of how chemo is affecting their lives.

I guess that is about it for now. It is 5 in the morning, but all things considered I don't have the right to complain about not being able to sleep.


  1. I don't even know what to say, except that I think about you and your family constantly and that you are in my prayers.

    Stay strong and keep fighting.

  2. Colleen, you and your family are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. I know that you will beat this!

  3. Sweet Colleen, my heart hurts reading your words. All I can do is pray and beg God to be merciful. You are strong, and you are a fighter. You will beat this! It's just going to take time and perseverance, but if anyone can do's you! Praying hard!

  4. I am so very sorry. This sucks. I am happy though your parents have chosen to help. It is very important everyone helps you get through this.
    I think of you often. Please know we are all pulling for you. Your raw admission of how this feels is really helping us all. Ive thought to myself quite a few times WHAT ON EARTH am I complaining about these last few days.
    Seriously kick myself in the butt in comparison to you.
    You inspire me to be a better wife, mother and friend.
    Hang in there. We need you. Your family needs you!