Starting the Fight!

After a few long weeks of tests and appointments I was ready to start chemo, finally I felt like I was starting my fight.  Prior to starting we had an educational session with one of many great nurses from the cancer center.  To be honest I didn’t really want to hear how awful chemo would make me feel, how I’d lose my hair, and many other side effects.  The more I heard about chemo the more real everything became, I knew what I was facing but I also knew everyone responds differently to treatment, yes there would be hair loss, weight loss and nausea but how that would be for me I couldn’t know.  As a nurse I knew what chemo would entail and the possible and likely side effects I would face, but knowing doesn’t make it any easier.  I wanted Matt to learn about chemo, I don’t think it prepared him for what it was like but gave him an idea, there is no doubt he was scared, we both were. My first day of chemo I was acting strong on the outside but I felt anxious and scared.  It was all so real, I was really starting treatment for cancer.  I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the first day, but I was staying strong for Matt I was anxious, afraid and unsure how everything would go.  We made our way to the cancer center, me sporting my “chemo bag” compliments of my Aunt, I had no idea I would even need one.  I figured if I had my phone and a bottle of water I was good to go, but my “chemo bag” truly came in handy.  When we arrived for the first treatment we had to check in and wait to be called to the back, I sat and scanned the room, I was scared, I wished I could have just left and pretended none of this was even happening.  I was the youngest patient in the waiting room, there Matt and I sat, a young couple embarking on a long journey.
We were greeted by the amazing staff at the cancer center.  My nurse navigator met us on the first day she was great, but no matter how reassuring she was I was still terrified, I didn’t show it I was being strong for Matt.  I learned quickly what treatment day would be like; I first had to have my port accessed, and for anyone who hasn’t had a port flushed the taste of metal in your mouth with every flush never goes away despite the attempts of candy to try and eliminate the metal taste. I received a pre chemo cocktail of medications to help fend off the side effects from the actual chemo medications.  The first dose arrived, “red death” as they call it, and it is literally looks reddish; nurses gowned and following all precautions to protect themselves while administering the treatment. The medication arrives in a hazardous bag, and needs to be handled properly by the nurses.  I thought to myself fantastic this is going into my body.  I was about to give my cancer a big punch in the face with this first dose, and I couldn’t wait.  I would gladly take the side effects if it meant I was fighting and killing the cancer in my body.  Oddly after my first dose I felt a slight sense of relief; I had finally started kicking cancers butt, one treatment at a time.  My plan was chemo once a week, consisting of Adriamycin/Cytoxan (AC) for four treatments then switch to taxol for four treatments.  It would take at least the first couple of treatments before I may start to feel some of the side effects.  Adriamycin/Cytoxan is referred to as Red Death or Red Devil chemo, this drug is extremely toxic.  There were numerous potential side effects; some of them include hair loss, myelosupression, nausea, and more, permanent heart damage being the most concerning.  I did have an echocardiogram prior to starting to make sure my heart was functioning normally.  The side effects were scary let alone the cancer, the chemo would have to be strong enough to attack the cancer so it made sense but still intimidating.  I knew right away that I would be losing my hair, it would take several weeks but I knew it was happening.  I was scared, I wondered what Matt would think or how I would feel looking at myself; how would others respond.  It would be a couple of treatments before I would start to lose my hair, so I was prepping myself for that day, even the first signs of hair loss I was ready to have my head shaved.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate nothing more than clumps of hair when I’m cleaning the shower, for whatever reason I have always hated it so there was no way I was going to be showering and having clumps of my hair fall out. The first couple rounds of chemo I tolerated well, I had a pre chemo cocktail of medications before each treatment to help with side effects.  Those medications remained in my system for the first couple of days to help alleviate the side effects of chemo.  Matt and I sat quietly for our first couple of treatments, just taking in everything that was going on around us.  I would sit and read blogs, research articles, watch webcasts just trying to find and understand everything I could about MBC and the more knowledge I had the better I was going to fight.
The Seacoast Cancer Center is amazing; everyone makes an already difficult situation easier.  From the moment we walk in to the moment we leave every staff member we interact with is great.  We are truly grateful to have such an amazing team; luckily I was able to have my treatment close to home.  We did ask if staying local for treatment was a good decision at our appointment in Boston, we wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing, I certainly could have the same chemo and trek to Boston once a week but I knew what a great place the Seacoast Cancer Center was it has become my second home.  Chemotherapy is scary, for me for matt for our family and friends around us, it’s difficult to see someone go through chemo but knowing I was starting my fight gave them comfort.
On the day of my first treatment I sent out a text to a number of family and friends, “Day one of kicking cancer butt!”  I knew I had a very long fight ahead of me; I would be fighting for the rest of my life.  I tried to mentally prepare for the ups and downs of treatment, the disappoints when test results come back not what we wanted, or medications not working but it is virtually impossible I still struggle every day to live with cancer, there isn’t a second that goes by that I do not think about it.  Days are filled with anxiety and fear of my future, the idea of living my life with an expiration date is overwhelming.  Days are filled with lots of tears, fearing the worst every time I have blood work done or I’m due for my scans; part of me wants to know and the other does not want to know if things have changed.  Every new ache or pain I feel my immediate thought is its cancer related, my cancer has spread; I work to talk myself out of the scenarios because the reality is it’s not in my control.  What I can control is my mindset, and remind myself why I am fighting and to stay positive.  It is a constant battle to not think negatively, and live each day to the fullest.   They say that living with cancer gets easier, I hope that is true.  I will continue to fight the anxiety and fear, stay strong both physically and mentally so that I can fight the hardest I will need too.  I pray every day they will find a cure for MBC, and every day I find the positive to keep fighting.
 Moore Fight Moore Strong!

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