Monday, June 16, 2008

The Grind

...and so went our lives for the next 4 months. TAC chemotherapy every 3 weeks for 6 cycles. As is much possible, it almost became routine. With the new anti-nausea meds, the poisonings became bearable.

Wednesday was a visit with Dr H. and chemo day. A quick blood test would make sure Linda was well enough to receive her treatment. I'd leave her in the chair with her blanket and remote control and head off to work. I'd pick her up again around 3pm. One of our friends would make sure the kids got off the bus ok and take care of them until we got home. With no immediate family in town, we really came to appreciate the good will of our friends and neighbors who all wanted to help in whatever capacity. Knowing she'd be out of commission for a few days, Linda would try to finish her chores as it usually took a few hours before the 'blahs' kicked in. By 7pm it was time to tuck her and the kids in for the night.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person. My biggest adjustment to the new routine was getting up at 6am to get the kids ready for school and putting them on the bus on Thursday mornings. I never knew people were actually up and about that early in the morning. Who would of thought? Hell if Linda could endure 4 months of chemo, I could surely endure 1 morning every 3 weeks right? They don't just sell those 'Super Dad' coffee cups, you have to earn them! On the agenda for Thursdays was as a quick visit to get a Neulasta shot. Neulasta helps the body create more white blood cells.

By Friday, Linda would usually be feeling better, enough so to get the kids ready for school and bring me my cup of coffee in bed in the morning (did I say that I love her?). We normally took the first weekend after chemo pretty easy. The other 2 weekends of the cycle were the standard 'how do we entertain our kids?' weekends of movies, camping and such. Linda actually had her chemo (and recovery) scheduled around the weekends to make sure the kids and I were impacted as little as possible.

By midweek the following week, Linda would go in to check her "levels". Chemo affects both blood cell types. The red blood cells carry oxygen around the body and when they are low, you feel tired and sluggish. White blood cells fight off infections. Both of theses cells end up being depleted during chemotherapy. About a week after treatment is when you are at the bottom of your cell roller-coaster and although you feel great (relatively speaking of course), your body is very prone to infection. Linda would avoid going to public places during this time and carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer with her.

Compared to round1, rounds 2 and 3 were a cake walk. After the first round, the tumor in Linda's breast and lymphs nodes began to break up and started to feel mushy. After the second round, the tumor was almost non palpable in her breast and nodes. After round 3, you could no longer feel the tumor at all. Just a small crescent shaped bump of scar tissue from the original biopsy. The nature of Linda's tumor made it extremely sensitive to this regimen of chemotherapy. The choice of pre-surgery chemo also began to show its merit as we could see that the TAC was doing its job effectively.

Chemotherapy has a progressive, cumulative effect on the body. You never bounce back to where you were before the round. Although the nausea effects are the same for each round (now under control), the tiredness builds and builds. By the time Linda had 4 rounds, in mid March, the chemo was taking its toll both physically and psychologically. She stayed in bed for 4 days straight after the 4th infusion. She couldn't even stand. She collapsed in tears one day on the bed saying "I can't take this shit anymore". She is a very strong woman but had finally came to accept that this chemo was kicking her ass. Although the physical strain had taken its toll, I believe at this point it was the psychological aspect which really affected her. Her friends, with whom she trained for the marathon, were now running the marathon. Friends were basically continuing on with their lives and she really felt left behind. It was really tough on her. I guess before you come up, you must go down and I think this was the bottom. As a typical guy, I tried explaining logically why she was feeling this way and that, in fact, no one had abandoned her and everyone was still there for her. Well 'logic' and 'woman' go together like oil and water. I think when I simply acknowledged that she had every right to feel this way did she start to feel better. The fact is no one can be upbeat all the time. My 'bottom' would come a couple months later when, after Linda's treatment, I started to acknowledge what a toll this was taking on me.

But before I get into that, Linda was starting to feel better and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Linda needed some shopping therapy...and not just any shopping...cranial prosthesis shopping!

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