Yesterday I had my second round of Taxol chemotherapy. As I noted in this previous post, the Taxol is SO MUCH EASIER on my system than the AC chemo. It does take twice as long to administer, which means I was in the chemo chair from 10:15-2:30pm. I'm also having some anticipatory nausea (ie: psychosomatic reaction that is all in my head because of the awful nausea I had during my first 4 rounds of AC chemo), so they've been giving me atavan to break the cycle, which means that combined with the pre-chemo meds (including benadryl) that they give me for Taxol, I'm crashed out and asleep for a good 2 hours of the 3 hour infusion. Thankfully Beth, who is visiting from the Bay Area, was by my side and had her laptop to keep her busy while I slept (she is working on the new yoga company she is developing--"bendy berry yoga"--a yoga studio for kids! If you're in the bay area and you have little ones, you should definitely check it out.)
Anyway, the visit with my oncologist that preceded my trip to Chemo Infusion chair #30 was pretty much uneventful. We went over my latest bout with the allergic reaction I had to the antibiotic that sent me to the ER and then discussed my lab levels--OK on the WBC, but your WBC don't tell the full story of your immune system, so I still need to be careful about contaminants/germs, which also means if you are planning to visit, probably best not to do hugs for the time being and I'm going to be extra stringent about asking folks to do the antibiotic hand wash thing. My RBC are a bit more concerning--my platelet count is REALLY low--as in, I should be avoiding all sharp objects and if it goes much lower they are going to have to postpone my chemo for a week or two until I'm back up to safe levels (sigh). I REALLY hope it doesn't come to that, but my slight anemia (which is how Dr. Carey is calling it) also explains the extreme fatigue I have been having, which she confirmed is also a result of the cumulative effects of 8 rounds of chemo (or as I like to think of it poison) in my body.
For Chemo #8 (or 2 of 4 remaining Taxol treatments) I actually had about as pleasant an experience as you can have stuck in an in fusion chair. Beth was with me (always a plus), we had peanut butter sandwiches with artisanal strawberry jam from the Santa Cruz valley sent by my friend Christine in a prior care package (so yummy!), my chemo nurse, Elizabeth, was sunny and sweet without being saccharin, and this really wonderful volunteer, Paula, came over to find out if we needed anything, remembering the scrabble match I had gotten into (and barely lost!) with my friend Shaun who was visiting from Seattle (of course now that Shaun's in Seattle I can't have a rematch with him for a while--CURSE HIM!!!). I asked Paula why she decided to become a volunteer at a chemo infusion ward, and it led to a really lovely conversation among the three of us about Paula's experiences with cancer in her family (like mine, a very high rate on her mother's side), her current second-career training as a yoga instructor--and here's where she and Beth got along like gang busters and chatted about the local instructors and training and compared notes. Anyway, Paula is a fantastic volunteer--really personable and friendly and warm, but not too intrusive and respectful of your personal space but also really helpful (she's the one who usually comes to get me gingerale and a nice warm blanket!). And then after my 2 hour nap, I woke up to find Howard, another volunteer, swing by to see if I wanted a hand or foot massage, so for half an hour Howard chatted with us about California and food.
[We recommended The Slanted Door, this AMAZING Vietnamese fusion restaurant in the Ferry Building on the SF Embarcadero--if you are ever in SF you should call a month ahead and see if you can get a reservation at The Slanted Door--the food is incredible but the views are even more spectacular--3 walls of glass, two of which face out to the bay with a view of the Bay Bridge--C'est Fantastique!]
After the foot rub, Beth handed me a card for my next appointment time that TaShawna, the scheduler for all of Dr. Carey's appointments, had run up to me while I was napping. Normally you're supposed to wait before you head up to chemo to get your next appointment time, but TaShawna was backed up, so when she saw me, she just took my paperwork and said she'd handle all my appointments and run them upstairs to me. I mention this because I have really found every single staff person, nurse, doctor, and volunteer at the Lineberger Center to be unfailingly helpful, friendly, and in many instances, are folks who go out of their way to make the whole dreadful experience much less dreadful. Just little things--like having TaShawna being willing to run up my appointments to me so I wouldn't be held up from having chemo, was really nice. And whenever I go into either the oncologist's office or the chemo room, the nurses, whether they are specifically assigned to me or not, often will pop their head into my room to say hello or ask how I'm doing.
And I have to say, having that level of care and support--and having so many of YOU, my dear friends and family, send cards and email messages and phone messages and care packages, have meant THE WORLD TO ME as I make it into the home stretch of my chemo treatment--as the title of this post says, 2 down and 2 to go.
Finally, I'm leaving you with a photo I took of myself for my dear friend Karen Seto--who sent me this beautiful silk head wrap. I had actually vowed never to wear one, but I must admit that when I put this on, I thought it was really beautiful and so comfortable, so who knows, maybe I will rock the scarf from time to time!
P.S. If there are any scrabble players out there who have an hour to kill, I'm jonesing for some scrabble action--and while I suppose it's impolite to trash talk before we sit down across a scrabble board, let me just say that I fully intend to beat you BY A LOT and even if I don't (as I readily admit that I lost to Shaun by 30 points) I will beg to replay you until I get a win! Yes, I am a COMPETITIVE PLAYER--is anyone surprised???