It has been a long week. After receiving a precise diagnosis of Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma on March 1, my chemotherapy was able to start on Thursday, March 3. I was relieved because—after two long months—I finally knew what type of lymphoma I had, and I had a schedule for treatment. My relief was coupled with apprehension. I was about to embark on a road to recovery that involves having, in essence, poison pumped into my veins. R-CHOP is the gold standard for this type of lymphoma, and we have heard from others who had been similarly diagnosed and recovered with flying colors. But the week had more in store for me than I had bargained, and I hope to not have a repeat of it.
My specific form of treatment is six cycles occurring every 21 days. On day 1, my chemo port was accessed, and I was infused with “R-CHO”—four of the chemotherapy drugs (“P” is for Prednisone given in pill form for 4 days following day 1). This took several hours. I arrived at 8:30am and was not done until close to 3:00pm. Future treatments might be shorter by 1-2 hours. I felt no pain or nausea. In fact, they gave me a dose of Benadryl (I’m not sure why), which made me sleepy, so I slept for a good portion of the day. On day 2, I returned for a white blood cell shot, which is given in the fatty, flappy part of the arm. This is to help my body build white blood cells as the chemotherapy does its work to destroy cancer cells. My next appointment was scheduled for a little over a week later—a follow-up appointment to make sure I’m doing well and to check my bloodwork. Unfortunately, they saw me several times before then!
It all started on Friday, March 4. I went in for my white blood cell shot. I was feeling fine. We picked up some food at Smithfield BBQ and went to our daughter’s house to wait for our youngest daughter, Rachel, to arrive from Boone. She was on spring break and was flying to Belgium to visit a friend for the week. We had a wonderful visit with her Friday evening, went back to the Airstream, and were greeted with text messages and phone calls in the middle of the night from Rachel. She was sick and was certain she had food poisoning. We both felt fine, and it really didn’t cross our mind that she might have a stomach virus. We took her to Urgent Care Saturday morning where she was given a shot for nausea and vomiting, and she soon was starting to feel better. We were able to reschedule her departing flight to Sunday, which gave her a day to recuperate.
Enter Sunday… I was still feeling good, maybe a little tired. Carl went to work, so I spent a little bit of time with Rachel then took her to the airport. Carl and I had a normal grilled chicken dinner and watched NASCAR. I was feeling exhausted so I went to bed early. Within a few hours, I was so sick. I haven’t been that sick for a long time. Everything was coming up and out, and it was violent. Why does getting sick have to be so violent?
Of course, we didn’t know if this was a side effect of the chemotherapy or if I had caught the stomach bug from Rachel. It wasn’t until Monday morning that I stopped vomiting, but by then I had lost a lot of fluids, I was still nauseous, Carl was worried because I couldn’t take the “P” like I was supposed to, water tasted bad, everything tasted bad. He tried everything to cajole me into drinking something, but I could manage only a few sips now and then. Later that evening, he called the doctor, and was advised to bring me in the next morning.
I spent all day Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at the doctor’s office being infused with fluids, potassium, and magnesium. On Tuesday, I was completely dehydrated, but they were able to get my levels to buoy a little. I was starting to feel more normal on Thursday and thought that Friday would be just a follow up, but because I have been experiencing diarrhea all week (a side effect of the chemo), my potassium and magnesium had bottomed out, thus needing to be infused some more.
The timing of catching a stomach bug could not have been worse. (Is there ever a good time, though?) It makes me wonder what to expect when I go in for my second round of chemo on March 24.
I have felt much better this week, but a weakened immune system means a slower-than-normal recovery time. My appetite is back, water tastes much better (but hot tea and coffee, not so much), and I’m working on getting a good night’s sleep.
The walls of the Airstream are starting to close in on me. Traveling in the Airstream and visiting new locales is one thing; but living in the Airstream in one spot for months on end is another. When we are sitting still, we tend to accumulate things, and, in 240 square feet, space gets gobbled up quickly. Plus, we only have one piece of furniture to sit on—the couch—and it gets more uncomfortable with each passing day. When traveling, we tend to be in places where we are outside much more frequently. Being stationary during winter in North Carolina, sitting outside is much less appealing because of the cold temperatures and rainy/windy weather.
I will be forever grateful to my friend, Chris, for letting us moochdock in her front yard these past several months, and I am grateful that our renters have purchased a house and will be moving out of our house by the end of April (instead of the end of May). We will be moving back into our house temporarily until the end of my treatment, and the timing could not be better. May can be hot in North Carolina, and I fully intend to use the air conditioning at our house. Using A/C in our Airstream is not an option at our current location.
I am sure each week, if not more frequently, will bring new discoveries on this current health journey I’m on. Right now, we are taking each day as it comes and trying to think and stay positive in the face of some uncertainties.
Live in the moment. Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – By the way, in the midst of all this, Carl and I celebrated our 34th anniversary. Well… it wasn’t much of a celebration this year, but we will make up for it soon!