happy chemoversary!

that’s right. september 6 was my chemoversary! what did you do to celebrate??? 

in what seems like both ages and seconds ago, i started chemo and on the same day, got a port surgically placed in my chest to ease all the blood draws and infusions. time is time. 

i’ve been doing chemo for 52 weeks now. i’ve had 30 chemo treatments (with 3 to go!), and that doesn’t count the 8 extra days of fluids i got to quell nausea. or the oodles of blood draws on top of it all to make sure i was “fit” to have a drive by chemo shooting. or the day-after-chemo shots in the stomach to boost my white blood cells. or the monthly shots in the stomach i continue to get to quiet my ovaries. a conservative estimate is 134 hours sitting in the infusion chair to date, that assuming everything is on time (e.g., an open chair, pharmacy, my nurse’s patient load). so all in all, i spent about a full week out of the past 52 weeks in that chair. 

head. is. spinning. 

these numbers don’t lie. these numbers don’t run. these numbers are made for walking. what other saying can i substitute ‘numbers’ for and have it make sense? 

throughout the most acute chemo treatments–taxol, adriamycin, and cytoxin–i shared side effects with you and tried to provide a snapshot of my day to day reality. i had to keep a daily journal of my side effects as well as my temperature, weight, and bowel movements. this all in case something went awry and my care team could piece together what was happening. let’s just say I was realllllly in tune with what was up with one meaghan calcari campbell. 

i’m working on cleansing the weight of this experience, and one way to do that might be to put it all out here. so here goes, a summarized version by what was most prominent and mentioned that week:  the chemo diaries (not going to be a bestseller) (these notes are transferred verbatim).

  • week 1: flushing, skin rash and irritation on chest, joint stiffness, shooting bone pain, runny nose, gassy.
  • week 2: flushing, skin rash on torso, headache, knee and lower back pain, acne, dry lips, mouthsore, gassy, bloody nose. 
  • week 3: chest pain, diarrhea, constipation, diarrhea.
  • week 4: chest pain, back pain, sore throat, constipation, hair loss.
  • week 5: hemorrhoid, leg rash, headache, gassy.
  • week 6: hot flashes, leg and feet numbness and tingles, gassy, diarrhea, bloody nose, vision impairment.
  • week 7: headache, diarrhea, leg and feet numbness and tingles, hot flashes hot flashes hot flashes, insomnia.
  • week 8: bloody stools, headache, leg and feet numbness and tingles, hot flashes, insomnia.
  • week 9: constipation, joint stiffness, leg and feet numbness and tingles, notable memory mistakes, insomnia.
  • week 10: constipation, hot flashes, insomnia.
  • week 11: diarrhea, blood in stool, joint stiffness.
  • week 12: diarrhea, constipation, diarrhea, constipation. hot flashes.
  • week 13: nausea, bloody gums, vomiting, diarrhea, joint stiffness, bloody nose, eyebrow and eyelash loss.
  • week 14: nausea, constipation, acid reflux, cough, joint stiffness, mouthsore.
  • week 15: nausea, constipation, acid reflux, cough, runny nose, joint stiffness.
  • week 16: diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, insomnia, metallic taste.
  • week 17 and beyond through now: persistent runny nose that drips at the most awkward moments, residual acid reflux, confused digestive tract, fatigue.

during the worst of my chemo, my friend julie who had a similar treatment plan commented that chemo was a distant speck in her memory, being a year or so out of it.  i think my jaw hit the ground, like how is that even possible?  but, i’m beginning to understand. all of these things, these insults to my physical person, they are largely passed. my support network, my care team, the massive quantities of prescriptions and supplements and herbs and medical marijuana i was taking to manage through side effects–those things all helped me get here. it’s not yet a distant speck, but one day when my energy reserves are back and enough space and time has been created and my lingering chemotions start to sort themselves out, it might be.

 there’s no completely forgetting chemotherapy though, a hallmark of my incanceration (the word play opportunity here is endless). i spent months marinating in a stew of toxic chemicals whose primary goal was bringing me to the edge of death. i had to flush the toilet twice during treatment, as per UCSF instructions, to ensure that the next person didn’t get the effervescence of my peed-out drugs. i won’t ever be able to smell alcohol swabs again without getting queasy, or shake the taste of saline in the back of my throat from when they are flushing my chest port before and after treatment. the sweet, clean smell of the infusion center gives me shivers. as well, i can’t erase from mike’s memory the chemo farts that smelled bad enough to peel paint off walls. even whiz had to evacuate on occasion. 

to celebrate my chemoversary, when i get home from my work trip friday night, mike and i will dig out our 2+ year old wedding cake from the freezer, light a candle in it, blow it out, and make a wish. something along the lines of world peace…and eradicating cancer.

i hope you can find something to celebrate as well this week, and something to wish for.

ps still no PET/CT results…

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