My plan was set and I was finally feeling like I was fighting. I seemed to have tolerated the first couple of treatments well, but I knew at some point the effects of chemo would set in. It wasn’t until my treatment just prior to Memorial Day Weekend that I understood how chemo would affect me. Since being diagnosed I was determined not to let cancer limit me from doing anything I loved. Annually we go camping with a large group of friends, and this year would be no different I was going and chemo wasn’t stopping me. I reassured Matt that I would be okay, if anything we would come home if I needed to, but on the inside my gut feeling was that I was in for a long weekend. I reassured my oncologist that if there were any issues I would call and not hesitate to go to the hospital. I am stubborn, so I did figure I could manage any symptoms that may arise, I was thinking more as a nurse than me as a patient. Matt and I drove home on that Thursday from Sebago, Maine to go to chemo. It was a very early start to the day and chemo generally lasted four hours give or take depending on how busy it was and how long it took to get my bloodwork back. I did have the option of bumping my chemo to the following week after the holiday weekend but there was no way I was delaying a treatment, in my mind everything had to stay on track, and despite knowing it would not have a negative effect I was keeping everything as planned.
Everything went as normal with treatment, pre work up to make sure my blood counts and my kidney functions were good so that I could get chemo; pre chemo cocktail of medications and then waiting for the clearance to have my treatment. This time there was a new treatment I was also going to get. We had discussed it previously prior to starting chemo so I knew eventually I would be getting an additional treatment. I just happened to have visitors that day at the cancer center, Laura and her husband stopped in to say hi; Matt and Vince stepped out for a few minutes to do something so Laura and I caught up. She happened to be present when my doctor was explaining the additional treatment she wanted me to start, neulasta. She was also present when the doctor reviewed the side effects. And if you know Laura there was no way I was getting away with anything, and be certain she made sure, without me knowing Matt knew what to look for. I’m grateful for that, it was ok to let someone worry even if I did not want to. Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) is a medication used to reduce the risk of infection in patients with some tumors receiving strong chemotherapy that decreases the number of infection-fighting white blood cells. I was offered to have it another day or have it after my treatment that day, I was there so I figured get it then. The doctor explained the side effects and exactly her concerns; she was very explicit on when she wanted me to call, at the first sign of fever I had to call no questions. The plan would be to continue Neulasta throughout the course of chemo, which was not uncommon. Of course as with any medication there were side effects but again as with chemo the benefits far outweighed any side effect I may experience. It just happened to be this was the week I would start the Neulasta. Side effects could be severe, but common side effects included aching in the bones and muscles, tolerable I thought. I did let Matt know what the doctors concerns would be and what to watch for, well at least what I wanted him to hear; Laura admitted she filled in everything I left out after. I was determined not to let my treatments ruin the weekend for him, it was something he looked forward to and I hated the thought it wouldn’t go the way he wanted. Treatment went as usual, Red Devil, followed by the Neulasta; at that point I was feeling good but it would take a couple of days to know just how I would respond.
Matt and I made the trip back to enjoy our weekend with family and friends, or so we thought. That evening and the next day I felt good, my pre chemo cocktail helped keep the side effects of chemo at bay initially. A couple days later the chemo and Neulasta side effects hit, I felt horrible. I literally hurt from the hair on my head to the tips of my toes. I could barely move I was in so much pain and discomfort and I couldn’t eat. It was actually very cold and rainy that weekend, thankfully I had all the comforts of home in our camper; I stayed in my bed and literally could not move. I remember telling Matt I was freezing, he was shocked it had to have been 85 degrees inside. I took my temperature 101.4, crap I thought I will have to go to the hospital. I talked Matt out of it, but honestly looking back I know I should have gone. I convinced him I would take Tylenol and be fine, the temperature would go down. It worked slightly I think my temperature dropped to 100.4. I can recall thinking to myself, if this was what the next few months was going to be like I was not sure I could do it. I was miserable, I consider myself to have a high pain tolerance, but I have never felt that way before. I did not want Matt or anyone with us to worry but I was scared. The reality of my fight truly set in, up to that point I had been tolerating treatments, and I also knew that as a nurse the side effects were not going to last forever, I reminded myself over and over in my head that I could get through this. Matt was nervous I could tell, he didn’t want me to know but I could see it in his face; he wanted to put me in the car and take me to the hospital, but I was refusing to let cancer take our weekend away from us. Truly I should have gone to the hospital, my oncologist was not pleased to say the least, and never again will I try to battle through a day like that. Our family and friends who were with us that weekend were nervous as well, for some who truly had not understood what my diagnosis was or what the fight would entail, it was a glimpse of what was in my future. We shared lots of tears together, I have maintained a positive outlook from the beginning and I did not want anyone to ever worry. I have always been the caregiver; it is so hard for me to be the patient, and I hated to see everyone worried and concerned. I continued to tell myself if I could just get through that day, things would get better or at least until the next treatment. How I felt that day was also intensified by having had the Neulasta as well, lessened learned despite my willingness to fight through the side effects of treatment never again would I try to the additional treatment on a chemotherapy day.
I learned something about myself that weekend; I was stronger than I thought I could ever be. I truly did not think I could live through another day like that, but I also learned that for me to keep fighting every day I would need to learn to be a patient; allow people to care for me. I had to accept that my fight was a marathon, not a sprint. I do not need to always be brave for everyone, if I have a weak moment that doesn’t mean I am giving up, the weaker moments will make me stronger. I have embraced cancer as a part of my life, I could sit and dwell on the fact that it’s happening and why me, but I chose to be stronger than cancer, I choose to fight and keep going. Maybe there is a reason this is my journey, I will stay positive, raise awareness and continue to hope for a cure, but without a doubt I will fight.
Moore Fight Moore Strong!