Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Maybe His Blessings Come Through Raindrops

I realize that I've been slacking a little on these updates. It's not because there isn't much going on, but more a lack of energy & motivation on my part. Starting with the 5th treatment, my chemo drug changed. While my first 4 treatments were Cytoxan and Adriamycin, my last 4 treatments are the drug Taxol. I was really excited about the change in drug because my doctor had told me it usually didn't make patients sick. To me, there is no feeling worse than that of nausea. In addition to being free of nausea, I was going to be free of the day after shot that boosted my white blood cell count.

The  new drug can cause allergic reactions, so they try to prevent them ahead of time. My part is to take steroids prior to my appointment. Their part is to give me Benadryl prior to the drug on treatment day. This means that I sleep through the majority of the treatment time. While I would be free of nausea, I wouldn't be free of side effects. This new drug offers the lovely side effect of bone pain. When I heard bone pain, I thought a few aches & pains; but that is an understatement! I felt fine the day after treatment #5. I woke up with the intent to go in to work on Thursday (2 days after treatment). I was a little achy in my legs that day, but really thought it could be managed with could not. I did go to work and took ibuprofen all day. I realized on Friday that my eagerness to go in to work on Thursday was probably not the most intelligent decision I've made. It was my decision to go in and not an expectation. I couldn't ask for a better place to work during this journey!!! They have been so great to work with me and are flexible with me to allow me to get well. The great thing is that I know they really mean it when they tell me they want getting well to be my first priority.  I know this is a big part of why I've done so well with these treatments.

I spent that weekend taking pain meds around the clock, and felt so much better by Monday. The off week of chemo was one of the best weeks I've had since beginning chemo. I had plenty of energy and felt good! When I got to chemo #6, I was shocked to learn that my white blood cell counts were not high enough for me to receive treatment that day. I have been planning for my final chemo treatment to be May 1st. I am planning to take a little trip to regroup after my final treatment. In addition to my trip, I planned to have my reconstruction surgery mid-June (my levels have to return to normal counts & it usually takes about 1 1/2 months). While I realize some may think the reconstruction surgery isn't a big deal and could wait, it is important to me. I want to be able to enjoy my summer, which means me in a swimsuit. I wouldn't feel comfortable in a swimsuit in my current condition because chances are I wouldn't be able to wear a top without prosthetics and may not be able to find one to work at all. I can manage to make myself look normal in regular clothes, but a swimsuit is an entirely different matter! 

So, when they told me no treatment that day it meant all of my plans after chemo would be affected. My oncology staff knew my plans and wanted to work with me to keep me close to my initial end date. I started throwing out ideas of my own thinking we could come up with something! After throwing out a bunch of options, we finally decided on a plan. However, this plan required approval from my insurance company. We sat in the room waiting on that approval for about an hour. I won't lie, I was disappointed. I couldn't believe I had come this far to be hit with this challenge. I really struggled with being disappointed and discouraged about this minor setback because I know I have had a much easier time with chemo than some people. I'm so glad Ashlee is my chemo buddy for moments like these because she has no problem telling me exactly what I need to hear, which was that it was OK for me to feel that way! We FINALLY got insurance approval (Thank God for GREAT insurance)! 

Now that we had the approval, we discussed the plan. I would get up to 3 injections during the week to boost my white blood cell count. These shots force the bones to create bone marrow, and they cause bone pain. I got the 1st injection on Tuesday and went back on Wednesday for injection 2. We were going to attempt chemo again on Thursday. Since Ashlee couldn't make theThursday appointment, I found a new chemo buddy for the day. Once they got my bloodwork back, my levels were still not high enough for treatment. My #1 infection fighter had been a big fat goose egg on Tuesday and was only at .5 on Thursday. They gave me injection #3, and set me up on the schedule for chemo on Friday. By the time I got up Friday, I was already feeling the bone pain from the injections. I took a pain pill & was ready to go when my chemo buddy for that day came to get me. I'm so thankful for friends who are available & willing to help when things don't go as planned. When we got the bloodwork back on Friday the #1 infection fighter had gone from .5 to 5, so I was good to go for treatment.

Since my white blood cell count dropped so much after treatment, my doctor decided that it would be best for me to go back to getting the day after shot to boost my counts. Remember, this shot causes bone pain. So, I had 3 injections, a chemo drug, and on Saturday got another shot...all causing bone pain. Needless to say, I was in terrible pain following treatment. In addition to the bone pain, the new chemo drug has a side effect that has some getting used causes numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. It is the strangest feeling in the world to walk around with your feet feeling somewhat asleep! 

So, here I am on the eve of my next to last chemo treatment updating my blog. I feel confident that I will be able to get treatment tomorrow since my counts were all good on Friday. I was in my car tonight and a song that sums up how I've felt on this journey came on the radio. I have sung this song as a prayer to God countless times! The song is "Blessings" by Laura Story. I love the chorus of this song: "What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

If you haven't heard this song, I definitely recommend you take a listen!