Two down

So my second round of chemo comes with mixed reviews.

On a very positive note, I did not experience the extreme exhaustion that I did with the first round. The Sunday and Monday after round one it seemed like too much effort even to lay in bed. This time around I was an active participant in garage clean out day on Sunday and I was a productive member of the workforce on Monday.

On an equally negative note, I’m pretty sure that my hair is falling out, although it is not nearly as spectacular as I expected it to be. I imagined that it would leap off of my head en mass, maybe all at once under the pressure of the shower head or perhaps I would just wake up one morning with no hair. Instead, it seems to be taking its time, which is almost torturous and has left me torn between buzzing it all off to get it over with and holding out as long as possible to see if I don’t end up losing that much. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted, as I know that the world is dying to know the fate of my hair.

In all seriousness, I am trying to hold out until Friday to shave my head because Chris is off travelling the world again and I prefer to have him do it for me. We’ll see if my hair cooperates. If not, I’ll have to call in a substitute to wield the clippers because I don’t think I can bring myself to shave my own head. Not so surprisingly, the realization that my hair is falling out is equally, or even more distressing than hearing about the diagnosis in the first place.

Gross but true: I have been Googling ‘ABVD hair loss’ like it is my job and nearly all of the other victims seem to be disgusted by the massive shedding that typically ensues after the second treatment. Now for the gross part – I think Duke and our blue shag rug shed enough each day that I can’t even notice my hair adding to their daily dust bunnies. [Kai, if you read this someday, please know that I do put forth a huge effort to keep the floor that you roll around on clean.]

In other exciting news, it turns out that I am not super human as was evidenced by my white blood cell count on Friday. I was surprised as well. Seriously, I was. I assumed that they would check it and be amazed that my white blood cell count was practically normal. I figured the whole team of nurses would be totally in awe of my abundant neutrophils, but that’s not exactly how things went down.

Part of this whole chemo deal is getting your white blood cells (WBC) checked once per week. Unfortunately, mine have been trending downward even more than expected. Most people have between 4,000 and 10,000 per cubic millimeter. Two and a half weeks ago when I went in for my first treatment mine were over 8,000. One and a half weeks ago, on my off week, I was down to 4,000. When I went in for treatment on Friday, I was more in the neighborhood of 2,000; low enough that the nurses told me that they were surprised that the doctor let me do my treatment.

The upside of my crazy low WBC count is that I’m getting plenty of extra attention. I even scored a Sunday afternoon appointment for a Neupogen injection. Neupogen is a drug that can be used to help boost WBC production and I am lucky enough to get four of them this week. [Have I mentioned that I’m not a fan of needles?] On Friday I get to go back and find out how it worked. In the meantime I’m pretty nervous about this daycare drop off/pick up thing. That place has to be crawling with germs just waiting to wreak havoc on my nonexistent immune system.

As you might have gathered by now, I have been spending a lot of time in this place labeled ‘Cancer Center’. It is still pretty strange to me to be hanging around with cancer patients. I guess I am technically one of them, but I don’t really identify with that group. After all, cancer is something that happens to old people, sick people, other people, I don’t know, just not me. So, instead of including myself in that category, I will continue to attend treatment at the cancer center and I will continue to feel bad for all of those unfortunate people who got dealt a bad hand, but I won’t feel bad for me because I’m not one of them. I just happen to stop in there like six times per week.

All in all, aside from the hair issue, I suppose that things are going pretty well. I’m impressed with myself that I did not have any down days and just generally delighted that I did not feel exhausted in the same way that I did after the first round.

An update on the ducks is coming soon!

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18 comments
  1. Lisa said:

    Oh honey, I’m sorry about your hair. Honestly — I’m sure starting lose it symbolizes a lot for you (not to mention you’d just like to keep it!). Cancer is something you are going to beat, so I’m glad you haven’t gotten too used to it. 🙂

    Logistical question here: I take it you are back in Indiana for all of this chemotherapy and not still back & forth to NY?

    I don’t know how you do it. I wish Chris’ job could put him on NO TRAVEL ALLOWED for awhile so you always had his support with everything.

    I don’t mean this to be a long, sappy comment, but it’s starting to sound that way. Can’t wait to see how the ducks are growing. 🙂

    • Brit said:

      I’m doing the chemo in Indiana. I will probably do the radiation in NY, but that’s something that I’ll worry about later.

      It would be good if Chris didn’t have to travel, but, in spite of the travel, our company (we work for the same one) has been really awesome about this whole ordeal. I feel much more gratitude for how they have handled this than I do resentment about the travel.

      And yes, the hair thing sucks. I have only cut my hair above my shoulders twice in my life, once was when I was four – I had no choice about that one. Right now I’m just feeling like wearing a wig isn’t desirable, but going without one will cause me to explain the situation to many more people and probably bring on more pity from others than I really deserve. Wearing the wig is probably more simple. Ugh. I wish I had a job that I could wear my running hat to. It seems like the most desirable head covering at this point.

  2. When I had my Hodgkins, it was around the second treatment I started losing hair. But small amounts like you say. I ended up just cutting my hair into a bob. A friend who also had Hodgkins gave me her ice cap. It was huge, covered my head and yes, I looked like an idiot wearing it during treatment. But it worked. I did lose about 70 percent of my hair, but I still had strands that were determined to hang on. I never did wear a wig, but hats. I wish I had worn a wig seeing as how they are now so stylish.

    I had to get the Neupogen shots as well. I gave them to myself and that saved some trips to the doc. One side effect you might find is restless leg syndrome, but other than that, I found them to be tolerable. I did have to postpone one treatment because of my low cell count. I had 12 treatments total. How is your nausea?

    • Brit said:

      Ugh, I’m so on the fence about the hair. When I talked to Chris yesterday I told him to make me shave it when he gets home. I am not one of those ‘hair gifted’ people to begin with, so my hair baseline is probably like half that of the average person; with a full head of hair, I can put the tiny hair elastics around my ponytail twice. I’m sure I’ll cry when it comes off, but it will probably allow me to resume normal life. Right now I’m tip toeing around my hair trying to make it last as long as possible, and for what? You know? I’m going out of my way to maintain massivly shedding hair that I’m scared to wash, dry, touch, or stress in any way. It makes no sense. I need to reclaim my life by eliminating my hair. So, I’ve just talked myself into it again, but I’m sure I’ll do a 180 within a few hours.

      As for the Neupogen shots, I asked if I could give them to myself, but my insurance won’t cover them if I administer them myself. Stupid rule. I think I experienced the RLS last night. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was like I couldn’t relax my legs enough to go to sleep; I thought I was just having anxiety about my hair, who knows? It was a shame too, becauce Kai slept from 7PM – 5AM nonstop. Almost every time that she sleeps like a champ, I am awake for some other reason.

      I haven’t experienced much nausea. Maybe a little bit, but I remember my morning sickness to be far more debilitating nausea-wise than the chemo has been. When I was first pregnant, I would keep a Ziploc freezer bag in my purse at all times in case I needed to puke. With chemo, I haven’t puked at all and there have only been a handful of times when I thought that I might need to. How’s that for TMI?

      • Wendy said:

        Girl you know same with me with pregnancy and the nausea. I was puking my guts out with pregnancy and although I had constant nausea with the chemo, I never barfed. They will try to give you zofran and I didn’t really find that it helps. But just like with pregnancy, just know that ahhhhh, it will all end at some point. Your stomach will get back to normal. Hang in there, you are doing great!

        The first week of a treatment I was exhausted and had to lay down a lot. My “recovery” week wasn’t as bad. Then I’d go back for another treatment. I had 12 overall.

      • Wendy said:

        Hmmmm, can’t tell if my original post took or not. To sum it up, I too had it worse with the nausea for pregnancy. I did have the constant nausea during chemo, but no barfing. Pregnancy though, it was pretty bad with the barfing. Hang in there, you are doing great!

  3. Moshi's Paw said:

    I don’t know if this anecdote will help, but it’s what I have to offer (especially after you’ve been supporting me with my husband’s heart valve crisis crap..)

    When my mother was going through her second round of chemo, she called me crying to tell me that she was on her way to the salon to have her head shaved. She couldn’t stand the clumps that were falling out in the shower, while she ran her hand through her hair, etc. After the trip to the salon, she said it was the one thing about her chemo that she had control over. She started looking into wigs. She had beautiful silk scarves as a backup in case she didn’t feel like being a blonde or a brunette or redhead that day. She got some awesome Derby-esque hats to flaunt her beautiful face. She even took a class from the American Cancer Society on how to do her makeup now to accentuate her face without her hair (yeah, even her eyebrows went..).

    So the next day after that phone call, I went to my salon, and had my head shaved. Admittedly, my hairdresser cried more than I did as she took the clippers to my 16 inches of shiny and thick auburn curls.

    People stared. I smiled back. I got cornered in Kroger for either being a butch lesbian or being sick, and either way got prayers foisted upon me. I told them that I’d pray right back for them, because they needed it more than me. Those who asked about the lack of locks got the story about my mother, and how I was in solidarity with her during chemo. And the two of us repeated this mantra for about 5 months until hers started growing back:

    It’s just hair.

    Not having hair doesn’t make you unbeautiful. Not having hair doesn’t make you less of a badass, and trust me, you’re as badass as they get with your situation right now. It doesn’t make you less serious of a person, less funny, less friendly, or less appealing to be around. It won’t make you less of an incredible mother to your beautiful daughter. Even though it may seem like a hallmark of illness to you and those around you, it doesn’t make who you are change on the inside. If anything, it makes you seem more resilient, more rugged to the changes going on with you. And it gives you something to look forward to when you beat this thing.

    • Brit said:

      What an interesting experience with your hair. It is amazing what conclusions people jumped to!

      I’m sure that the hair thing will seem much better a few weeks out than it does now. Someday it will probably even feel like a non-issue.

      • Wendy said:

        This is true. Once you’ve got your health back, hair is a non-issue. You will forget that you had to shave it, well ok, maybe not, but it won’t be as bad for you.

  4. You have a great attitude about everything! I hope you can maintain your energy levels this time around and that your WBC rebound.

  5. Brit, If you are worried about picking up Kai at Daycare, please let Bryan and I help. We would love to pick her up and love on her for a little while!! Please don’t hesitate to ask!

    • Brit said:

      Thank you! It is hard for me not to do it because I like to go see her at the end of the day! 🙂

      • I completely understand!! I would want to see her too! But, just know the offer is always out there! 🙂

  6. Anonymous said:

    Brit if you need a hair buddy just let me know… I will be willing to cut all my hair but I just don’t think I would let Chris do the job. I have cut it off before so we could cut it off together

    • Brit said:

      Thank you. I think that everyone who can have hair should keep theirs. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the update! So sorry to hear about the hair, I hope you can find a good solution.

  8. You are doing amazing. Honestly, I would be a terrified mess right now if I were in your position! You are being a mom, still contributing to your household, raising ducks and still have the ability to so candidly write about it all. It seriously sucks that you are dealing with all of this but I am so proud of you {which feels weird to say but is so true} for being so strong!

    I’ve never had to lose my hair against my will but I have gone in to get 14+ inches cut off at once – there is definitely an attachment and an identity that goes along with your hair. Sure, its just hair but its a big freaking deal when its your hair and it isn’t the way you want it! Personally I’d hold out until Chris gets home, just so you have someone there to do the cutting and just be there! Whatever you choose remember you are truly amazing and stay strong!

    • Brit said:

      Aww! Thank you!

      Chris got back last night, but I didn’t end up pulling the trigger on my hair yet. Probably sometime in the next few days. Whenever I get the courage.

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