Here We Go Again…

In 30 minutes I will leave for the NYU Cancer Center to receive Round 4 of Chemo.  The routine is becoming so familiar, almost as familiar as an old shoe.  I know the nurses.  I know that the needle will hurt when it goes into my port.  I know that Josh will show up and we will have lunch together.  Other than the needle prick, there is no pain for me during chemo.  In fact, I enjoy the quiet time, time to spend with my husband and the friends who show up to keep me company and take me home, time to try the vast variety of food that is offered in that area of Manhattan that is brought right to my chair by the delivery man, time to chat with the social worker who listens to me and Josh so compassionately, and time for me to talk to my body and the chemo about minimizing and withstanding the collateral damage from this round and about the importance of winning this battle in our ongoing war.  I find chemo days strangely comforting and peaceful. 

I’m learning that what I dread about chemo comes in the hours and days afterwards.  Each round seems to take a little bit more out of me in terms of fatigue.  With the last round, I felt true fatigue on Wednesday and Thursday at a level I’d not experienced previously.  I fought through it to go to the gym and then catch up with a friend for several more hours. But by the time evening rolled around, I had no energy to play with the girls.  Even during the off-chemo week, I was feeling some bouts of fatigue, although I couldn’t tell whether that was a result of the chemo, of me contracting a bug from the girls or from the general ickiness and discomfort stemming from hormonal shifts in my body which in turn is due to the chemo screwing with my female rhythms.  It was probably a combination of all those factors.  The nurse practitioner has told me from day one that fatigue begets more fatigue and that the best way to overcome it is to fight through it.  Based on my own experience, I agree with her.  However, it’s also important to recognize and accept one’s limitations and allow oneself to rest.  Knowing when to fight through fatigue and when to rest — which generally goes against my nature as well as my role as wife and mother — is a subtlety that I continue to work on

Nausea was also a bit more annoying last time although it continued to be generally well managed with the medications.  But I think I’m gaining weight and not in a good way.  The steroids which are infused right before chemo are making me feel bloated and have been known to cause significant weight gain.  Yuck!  I’m not supposed to gain weight during chemo!  That is just wrong!

The neuropathy was shockingly less troublesome last time, although I’d say only marginally so.  I have to give full credit to the acupuncturist for this — thanks so much E.V. for the recommendation!  I love my acupuncturist.  I walked into her office last Wednesday with an achy back from the hormonal issues, something I asked the acupuncturist to address in addition to the neuropathy.  By the time I walked out of her office, the pain was completely gone.  The discomfort did come back in subsequent days but acupuncture is something that must be done on a consistent and ongoing basis, as with any other aspects of Chinese medicine.

As for my hair, it continues to hold on.  I haven’t noticed any hair loss, other than maybe a couple strands falling off in my hand during a shower, but that would have happened in any case.  And yet, I feel like my hair is thinner.  I don’t know if it’s just paranoia, or if it’s because I cut my hair right before I went to the ER in July and had a lot of layers put in and now that’s it’s growing out it doesn’t feel as full as it did with prior haircuts.  I can’t believe I’m even talking about my hair so much, I who can barely be bothered in use a brush in the mornings.  I’ve been blessed with thick straight Asian hair, whose only problem has been premature graying.  And as with so many things that come so effortlessly, I never thought about it much.  And now, as I face the prospect of losing it entirely or, more likely, losing a significant part of it, I do care about it more than I thought I would.  I suppose the reasons are obvious.  Hair is part of one’s feminine identity, even for someone as unfeminine as me (I’ve never cared much for makeup or fashion or any of the other things that I would say make one more feminine).  The absence of hair also makes one stand out like a sore thumb, especially as a woman.  So in advance of every round of chemo, while I wonder about what my fatigue and nausea levels will be, I wonder just as much about whether this will be the round where I start losing my hair.  A friend suggested that if I do end up losing enough hair to warrant a wig, I should do something wild and crazy, like go around as a strawberry blonde.  I think I will.  Why not?

It’s time to sign off as I head off to Round 4.  Bring it on!  Woohoo!!!  Die Cancer Cells!  Fucking Die!!!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paddleboardgirl
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 12:28:16

    yes – die cancer cells die!


  2. Christia
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 14:55:00

    Holding you and your family in my thoughts always, and especially today and alternating Mondays, darling.


  3. Manton
    Sep 25, 2013 @ 13:22:49

    Julie — I just wanted to say that you are an amazing writer and person. I have been following your blog, and Adrienne and I are pulling for you.


  4. Trackback: SUNBEAM ON A SPECK OF DUST | onethousandandtwo

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