10 March 2010

The Chemo R[egimen]hythm

Routine helps when you're faced with something as daunting as cancer. A sense of order and structure is immensely useful at this time. Leading a somewhat regimented life during my cancer treatment helped give a sense of order and control to the situation. To know what to expect when is empowering. It certainly helps in gaining control of the wheel, as it were. Who knew I would become a huge fan of the regimented life?

A year ago today, on March 11, 2009 Dr. T started my chemotherapy regimen of Carboplatin and Taxol, once every 3 weeks, for a duration of 8 sessions. He was hopeful that cancer would be treated in that time. If not, then all would be evaluated after 8 sessions.

That as a wee while -- 8 sessions -- 24 weeks. Having a set routine of things during this time helped trek unchartered territories. Who knew what was to happen, except that there was going to be chemo once in 3 weeks for 24 months? But, the structure and routine streamlined expectations and help prepare for the next steps. I'm not normally a "routines" type person. But I learned to appreciate it greatly during those times. It helped put a sense of order (and therefore, control) to things.

Chemo was consistently scheduled on a particular day of the week. Since I'd been told that all meds from chemo (including anti-nausea and Benadryl) would stay in my system 48 hours after chemo, I chose to have chemo scheduled either on Wednesdays or Thursdays. That way, I would only miss one day of work (chemo day) and could be functional for the rest of the week. That would leave the weekend to contend with the adverse side effects setting in after the meds wore off. This worked, I'm pleased to say. So, I highly recommend mid-week chemo sessions, if you don't want your work life too disrupted. In my case, I'm happy to say that I didn't miss a day of work due to post-chemo side-effects during my treatment. It was business as usual, just the way I wanted it.

The evening before chemo, my boyfriend would come and get me from my place and I'd spend the night at his so he could drive me to chemo in the morning. We would usually eat something decadent or nice (mostly to indulge me) that evening. Nothing fancy. Hydrate!

Chemo day, my boyfriend would drive me to Dr. T's office where I would first make a stop to see the phlebotomist for blood work, then a 15 minute check-in with the good doctor to see how I was doing. And then off I would go for chemo treatment for the next 5-hours. After the drip was done, I was always given a Nulasta shot. Then, I would call my boyfriend to come pick me up and take me back to my place where my daughter would be waiting for me. I would spend the rest of the week with at my place with my daughter and also go to work.

Weekend right after chemo, I would pack up and go to my boyfriend's to spend the weekend and be "miserable" after the meds wore off and the chemo side effects were in full force.

Week after chemo, I would feel a bit flu'ish and fatigued, but I still managed at work, although by the end of the week, I would like someone just beat me to a pulp. Thank goodness for weekends! Weekdays would be spent at my place with my daughter and weekends at my boyfriend's.

Second week after chemo, I would feel good -- as if nothing had happened. Outside of the long-standing chemo side effects like neuropathy, I would feel normal. Ring the bell! Next round!

This would be my structured life for the months ensuing. And I did not mind it. As a matter of fact, in concert with my oncologist, I created it. Who knew that at this juncture of my life, I would finally succumb to a regimented one? Having been brought up in in a strict and disciplined life, my knee jerk reaction to the notion of structure and routine, was to stay as far away from it as much as possible. It's ironic that regiment would help give my life back to me. To make it palatable though, I referred to it as rhythm. It's the same thing, but at least I could dance to rhythm.

Believe it or not, I actually looked forward to dancing to this 3-week rhythm. And, as unpleasant as the side effects were, it was a rhythm that I'd grown to anticipate and, dare I say, like. Because although chemo was poison and for me, it was ironicaly "good" because it was getting rid of my cancer. And I would go through any routine, structure, discipline, pattern, or regiment to effect that.

So, to those of you who are still in a chemo regimen, I encourage you to dance to the rhythm of your soon-to-be wellness. Kick up your heels and show cancer some moves!


Bonita said...

There IS an odd comfort to the rhythm of visits, nurses, doctors. It felt almost easy because you're so focused on the treatment, then the side effects, then treatment again. Plus many other life issues just faded to the background. "I'll deal with that later." Surely rattles your priorities!

ce_squared said...

indeed! at times like these, routine is a very good thing....auto pilot.


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