Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

Favorite Links
Eularee's bookshelf: read

Snow in AugustWatchersRising SunThe Andromeda StrainThe ShiningThe Hunt for Red October

More of Eularee's books »

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
Mad Mimi Email Marketing

Entries in chemo (3)


The Comeback Kid

As I look ahead to round three of a six cycle chemo treatment of Gemzar and Carboplatin, I must admit that I am beginning to feel human again. From my bed to my office has been a slow process, only managing a few hours a day, but certainly giving me a sense of purpose besides sleep. Thank goodness, Baseball was there to keep me sane, through hours of mindless television.

I have yet to establish what side effects are present from this chemo treatment. Both drugs are administered on Day 1, then just Gemzar on Day 8 and then three weeks from Day 1 we begin the next cycle for a total of six go arounds. The chemo in 2015 was weekly, with the Carboplatin delivered on week 3. I managed the weekly Taxol treatments fairly well, but the Carboplatin would knock me out for a few days with headaches, extreme fatigue, lack of appetite and flu like body symptoms. I could count on these side effects and generally plan accordingly.

This chemo cycle has been so fraught with other unforseen issues, that I hesitate to point to anyone of them to say this is why I feel lousy. Guess I just feel lousy. My doctors keep telling me that I am in such great health, except for the cancer. Now that these issues seem to be under control, round three may reveal what is truly chemo related side effects. 

With the port now neatly inserted under my left chest wall, I face tomorrow's stick me adventure with less intrepidation. Blood will still have to be drawn from my exhausted veins but the chemo IV should be a piece of cake through the new port. The surgery was as fast as eyes shut, eyes open. A few aches and pains the next couple of days at the surgery site, but in comparison to what I have been through, it was nothing to write home about. 

Here is what I know. I survived the last two months against the odds. The Cubbies went seven to win the World Series after 108 years against the curse. I am writing again. Life is good. I am still ahead of the count and the fat lady is still not singing, Cancer. Wait till next year!


Detour, There is a Muddy Road Ahead

If you are old enough to remember this song, then welcome to the last six weeks of my life. We went from change of plans with the Keytruda, to running off the muddy road of tumors, chemo, and kidney stent. The road was dark and at times scary with multiple trips to the hospital for treatments to stop the progression of the cancer and to keep me from having to deal with a colostomy.

I have to say that the last six weeks have been in pure survival mode. I took a months leave from work. Everything was geared toward how does one survive such pain, and once the pain was under control how does one help the body to survive the horrors it has been through. Food was not my friend. The only constant was whatever went in, was bound to come back up. I lost 20 pounds and found myself confined to bed and depending on family and friends to take care of me. Quite the twist and lessons to be learned.

Fast forward and I am finally beginning to feel like we are leaving survival mode and taking the first steps into healing and recovery. It has been a long and challenging journey to be here today. I went from having a no meds list when I went into a doctor's office, to several pages of everything but the kitchen sink. Bottom line, patience, good doctoring and the belief, cards, flowers, food, prayers that screamed just say "NO" to cancer, that put me back on solid footing and the road ahead although still uncertain, looks clear.

Next stop, I am having a subcutaneous port implanted tomorrow morning. I have resisted this step for the past two chemo rounds. My veins are no longer cooperating and having to be poked several times on both arms to try and get an IV for the chemo and fluids, has become a weekly challenge. With blown veins, and the painful experience of multiple pokes, I decided to let go of my 25 year old stereotypes and listen to my doctor. After showing me the port, how it is inserted and the fact that my veins were screaming for help, I find myself at another cross road. Should breeze through this one and will see you on the other side to fill in the blanks of the past six weeks. Climb aboard. This ride is bound to get better.




Every Journey Begins With The First Step

After hearing the news that the cancer was back, I had a good cry and then tried to listen to the "good" news Dr. Anderson was telling me. The take-away from his news was that I was about to embark on a new journey and it was my choice of paths to take.

The first path led to chemotherapy again. What little was coming through the screaming fit in my brain, was that it would do the job, but would most likely be a chemo maintenance program. This sounded more like looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life, not to mention being sick and bald again. A thorny path, indeed.

The second path was an anti-hormone drug. Not much of this information sank in, as it too, sounded more like a way for me to keep my eye on the rear view mirror than looking ahead to the future.

The third path was the clinical trial. Anderson talked about the Jimmy Carter drug, the advances in brain, lung and melanoma cancers, along with how I was the perfect candidate. But what resonated with me and finally broke the sound barrier in my brain, was the word immunotherapy. Finally, a drug that was saying it was there to HELP my body, not destroy it.

I was given a stack of paperwork to review and two weeks to read and sign. This always strikes me as odd, because if you read through what could happen while on this drug, why would you ever sign? Do you notice how fast they read through all the disclaimers on the TV ads for certain drugs? Again, why would I take this knowing all that could go wrong? Doesn't it seem more prudent to put them in a graph or something colorful that has the shimmery part be the good news? Oh well, that is another blog post.

Although I did my due diligence and read through the entire stack before signing my name, I told Dr Anderson, I was ready when he was to start the trial. It began with removing the obstacles from the path.

Obstacle #1 - Insurance. I had to switch companies from Medicaid to Trillium. This was not an FDA approved drug and therefore was not covered by a federal or state subsidized insurance. The paperwork was approved but Trillium didn't cover it either. We were at a standstill. The cost of the treatment was $20,000 a month.

Miracle #1 - Oregon just passed legislation that all insurance companies must cover the cost of clinical trials. The cost of the trial itself is covered by the study, but any resulting issues must be covered by your insurance. Remember that list of all that could go wrong?

Obstacle #2 - Tumor size. Mine are VERY small and attached to the pelvis wall. To qualify for the trial they had to be in a certain size range. Hard to qualify this as bad news, but it was an obstacle.

Miracle #2 - Combined the tumors met the criteria...just barely. I'm in!

My pack is filled with boredom busters, per the doc's orders. My biggest challenge now is to learn how to pronounce the name of the drug. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet to me right now. I am on a new adventure. Taking the pills every 12 hours for the next two years, with regular screenings every Tuesday to begin and then every three weeks for the duration. I have my own room, a desk of sorts and a fabulous view from my Tuesday office window.

Taking that first step was a no brainer. Hoping the path, albeit uncharted, is passable. 

Feel free to leave questions or comments. We are on this road together.