On Your Mark, Get Set, Chemo!

So, what was happening prior to chemo last year (2012)?  I will give you a snap-shot. I welcome not only comments, but questions as well. Don’t be concerned about asking.  You cannot offend or touch on any area that is difficult.  😀

My caregiver accompanied me on every visit with the physician people throughout this process.  And it’s a good thing. To this day I don’t actually recall but a small percentage of what was said.  While I am sure the information was registered subconsciously, I just don’t have total recall.  (Wasn’t that a movie?)

The Oncologist visits were not really fun in the beginning.  Especially the first one.  I admire anyone who takes on this most difficult task. In addition there were a lot of people praying for him and all physicians, etc involved with this case. They prayed for wisdom.  Any way … he had to deliver the news and it wasn’t positive. I heard bits and pieces. I heard mortality rates, apx times of survival, and on and on. I also heard that in my case I could never be declared “cured,” but the drugs to be used had been shown to be effective on various levels.  Then I got shipped off to the Gynecologist with whom the Onc had a relationship.  And off we went.

My name was called and the Gyn’s nurse showed me to the exam room.  (She’s a peach, btw).  Her first question was, “How are you doing?” I answered in a quiet voice, “I’m dying, how are you?” That fell out without any thought. She accepted my answer and we moved on. So I had tests and this and that. I was scheduled for some procedural schtuff and follow up (you know how it goes). Having had all that, I went back to the Onc.

During the visits with both these physicians, I heard the following on multiple occasions: “this is treatable.” For me, those words helped bring out the fighter in me in that my caregiver perceived was buried inside.They were beyond significant.

A side note: not mentioned thus far is my PCP. He is the one that had to initially tell me the lymph gland in my neck contained communist cancer cells. It was a fast growing kind. He, the nurse and the staff were and are beyond supportive.

Having had the pet scan, blood draws, Gyn procedure and testing and so on and so forth I understood my treatment regimen to the be the following:

  • Chemo
  • Radiation
  • Possibly a complete hysterectomy to remove the tumor. I really wanted this procedure as that would mean the “nest” would be gone and I knew that would be a good thing. In fact it is my understanding that at every visit to the Onc I asked, ‘when do I get the hysterectomy?’ It became comical after a while.

First up, Chemo (Started Oct. 2012, completed February 2013).

There is a whole lot more that went on, but the above are some highlights.

Given the need to get this show on the road, I attended the pre-chemo orientation. I learned a whole lot of things. The five things that stand out were:  keep smiling no matter what, keep up on mouth health, and inhale protein and vitamins/vitamin rich foods. Oh, and if drinking coffee take in an equal amounts of water.

And last but definitely the most important – “your attitude is crucial.” This was echoed by nearly everyone with whom I came in contact.

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I recommend the following site for anyone involved with this issue:  Choose Hope

My husband person (aka Caregiver) brought home a huge basket filled with an enormous number of gifts from his workplace.  One gift in particular helped keep me balanced throughout this process.  Here is the text of the bookmark I received and is available at Choose Hope:

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is to limited:

It cannot cripple love.

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot corrode faith.

It cannot eat away peace.

It cannot destroy confidence.

It cannot kill friendship.

It cannot shut our memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot reduce eternal life.

It cannot quench the Spirit.

Author Unknown


What is a Caregiver?

There are a myriad of definitions for “caregiver.”  I would like to share a little about my caregiver after I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in Sept. 2012. I was in a difficult position because the communist cancer cells had escaped and spread to all lymph nodes on the left side, lungs and, one spot on my liver.  Having shared that background, please let me introduce my caregiver — my husband person.

Here are a couple of examples of the things my caregiver gave to me …

Lessons in fighting

My caregiver has had to fight to survive on several occasions and I had never had to do that.  There were only two occasions when he really ‘busted my chops.’  The first was shortly before beginning chemo.  I was sitting on the couch, shoulders rounded, sad-looking – you know, kind of like the proverbial lump.  He spoke very forcefully and basically ordered me to ‘sit up, throw your shoulders back and, hold your head high.’  I did what he said and it worked.

Second example was when I went in for my 4th treatment and after the blood work, it was discovered that my red cell count was in the dumper.  I was sitting in the recliner dealie for treatment and right as the nurse walked away from telling me, I started to slump in my chair and cry out of frustration.  In that same forceful (and loud) voice, my caregiver said, ‘sit up, hold your head high and find out what the next steps are.’  I sat up, put my head up and when the nurse returned I found out I needed 2 units of blood.  Got it and got the 4th treatment as a result.

A new mindset

I was not able to deal with the diagnosis because of the word “cancer.”  It was so depressing.  I felt doomed for a time.  I had even expressed that perhaps I would not do anything about it.  Again, prior to my first chemo treatment I was lying down in bed and my caregiver came in to chat.  I looked up at one point and said, ‘but I have never been really sick my whole life.’  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You aren’t sick now.  You have cancer.”  Big revelation to yours truly.

From that statement I realized that I may not be able to fight cancer, but I could fight and kill cancer cells.  And that was my approach.  I was a 4 bagger.  The 3rd and 4th contained the good schtuff.  When they were started, I would talk to the schtuff as it was starting into my system and order my sword yielding samurai to kill cancer cells!  (My caregiver would send in marksmen.)

Gratitude to Caregivers

My husband person became very tired.  He still worked full-time (quite a blessing for him to get out of the house).  He did so much of the housework because, frankly, I was asleep for most of the day and night the first week after treatment.  And I wasn’t very perky at all the rest of the time.

I cannot say too much about caregivers.  From my perspective, they appear at times to be almost ignored.  Most folks, naturally, are focused on the patient.

So to my caregiver and caregivers everywhere … thank you.  You are indispensable to your loved ones.

Note:  This is the first in a series of posts about my adventure.

I welcome all your comments and questions.  If not comfortable answering a Q, I will say so.

And finally, I do not have full memory from the time I started chemo to about a month after the 6th one (that was February of this year).  Some of what I post will be based upon input from my caregiver over the last 7 months.

Thanx for visiting.

Mrs AL