I had my first chemo treatment on a Thursday…it was scheduled on that day intentionally. I was told that the effects would hit me about 24 hours later. Then it would take need a couple of days to rest and recover before I would bounce back. So if I had chemo on Thursday I should be good to go by Monday!
Well, bouncing back was harder than I EVER thought! I remember people telling me, ‘oh you’re so young and healthy you’ll get through this with no problem’; ‘my friend had to do the same thing, you’ll be totally fine’; ‘you’re so strong, you’ll fly through this’.
Let me just tell you that regardless of what type of mental or physical shape you are in, chemo doesn’t discriminate.
It hit me in the middle of the night. The nausea, the fogginess, the no sleeping. I just wanted to be able to sleep it off. But there was no sleeping. The insomnia was insane. There would only be tossing and turning and praying. The fatigue was unreal! l was so tired but just couldn’t sleep. As I wrote in my journal “these past 2 days were not just hard physically but also mentally and emotionally because I felt like my body was failing me. I’ve worked so hard for so many years to be as healthy as possible…I naively thought it would help me through this journey but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It makes me sad and I feel defeated.”
That Monday, my oldest daughter was scheduled to be at a softball camp.
It was about 3 hours away at the University of Oklahoma (don’t worry, I’m still an Aggie to the core!!! WHOOP!). I rode with my friend up to Norman where we got the girls checked in. I remember how steaming hot it was. Y’all, July in this area is like a steam bath combined with a fire pit!! It’s not real refreshing and ESPECIALLY when your body is fighting so hard to find some sense of normalcy! I stayed with my girlfriend in a hotel for a few nights while the girls were at their camp…it was several nights of unrest and tossing and turning. And no pooping. Yep, I’m going there y’all…I promised to be real and THIS is the reality.
Our bodies are MADE to get rid of waste.
When that system is compromised, it causes a chain reaction of events. Not only does the chemo have the side effect of constipation but the anti-nausea meds amplify it. So it had been over a week without a bowel movement. My infusion nurse called to check on me and gave me some tips to try to help…she suggested magnesium citrate (the stuff you drink prior to colonoscopies) and suppositories. She said both are needed so that there is no compaction. GoodNESS! What had my life come to?!?! LOL!
In addition to all of that, I was experiencing quite a bit of tightness in my chest. It was like I couldn’t take a deep breath without feeling super tight. Lying down was not comfortable unless I was on my back, and y’all I’m a side sleeper! I don’t sleep lying on my back so this was proving to be even more of an issue. Come to find out, it was my port.
My pec muscles were working hard to get used to this new object in my body! But, it was causing spasms and tightness. It lasted a few weeks, but it eventually became just a part of me. It was like my new little appendage that would show through every outfit, always be prominent, and make my life easier for every needle stick of chemo that was to come.
One thing that was pretty awesome was when the head coach of the softball team came up to me. Y’all, when you KNOW the Lord is working in big ways, it shows up. Coach Gasso came and embraced me. God was moving through her and it was incredible. The words she said to me chilled me to the bone!!! Granted, part of it was a complete blur because 1) chemo brain is no lie and 2) I was hugging the national champion coach! But what stuck with me were her words:
“I need for you to feel me and feel what I have to say…I and my prayer team having been praying for you. And He has you. I need you to hear me. He has you.”
It was literally a full 7 days before I felt any sort of normalcy again. And my way to celebrate was to get in a workout 😉 So on that Thursday, I hit the gym and it felt SOOOOO dang good. “It was so good to be home—I had really missed the kids and Kaleb. Since I felt so good I went to an evening workout…it was just strength so it was good to start back with and it felt AMAZING. So so so happy to feel good today”.
That next day I got my hair cut…I knew that it would start to fall out soon, so I wanted to try to baby step my way into it. I got a pixie style. Once it started falling out and I had to shave it, I wouldn’t be so shocked. I actually liked it! And Ky (my son) even told me that I looked like a rockstar and he loved it…that sealed the deal! I mean when your kid legit thinks you look like a rockstar, you can conquer anything!!!
One week post chemo, I went to have my labs checked…it wasn’t the news I had hoped for.
ESPECIALLY since I had only had one treatment! I mean I would expect my system to start having issues once the meds had built up, but it hit me hard from day one. My WBC (the Ft Knox for letting germs enter our immune system) and ANC (the military surrounding Ft Knox to keep germs from even knocking on the door) were significantly down. I wasn’t allowed to go into public places or be around people other than my family. If I HAD to go somewhere, I had to wear a mask. It was heart breaking for me…only because it really made me feel like I was ‘sick’. It made me put my daily life that made me feel normal on hold…no teaching classes, not being at kids events, etc. That was the hard part.
It was like as soon as I started to feel good from treatment, there would be another obstacle to get get through.
07/21/2018 Journal Entry: “I’m not sleeping well again, it’s so frustrating! I’m not even doing bad mentally. I’m in a great place but for some reason I’m not sleeping AND I’m not pooping! UGH! My next chemo is 7 days away. I want to have an AMAZING week while I can, going to do my best”
The next several days I just mentally geared up for my next treatment. I was able to go to lunch with friends again, workout and spend some amazing time with my family.