My first chemo regime - known as AIM (Google result here) - was last winter. It's a notoriously tough chemo, and to be honest, I did way better than expected. Through 4 rounds, each lasting 4 days, I think I threw up only once or twice. The fatigue was real, my taste buds were temporarily rendered impotent, and the "chemo brain" or "chemo fog" was real. Plus, nausea.
So, when I started a new chemo regime, known as "gem/tax" (Google result here) this past Friday, I wasn't especially worried. Yeah, my hair is going to fall out again. Yeah, I need to get a chemo port installed to reduce damage to veins in my arms. There will be nausea. There will be fatigue.
I did have some vein pain during the infusion itself. but nothing too bad. I even went straight from the hospital's infusion clinic to the gym and did a (modified) CrossFit workout. It wasn't that bad.
By that night, I needed the anti-nausea medicine. I woke up overnight on Friday night and needed some more. But, during the day on Saturday, I went out for lunch with my wife, I did some grocery shopping, I spent hours tying flies, and despite the foggy thinking, I even got out the grill in the middle of winter and grilled some steaks for dinner.
Sunday was about the same. I made it to the gym and walked for 75 minutes. Organized some of my fly tying gear (with my ski season being severely affected by chemo, my brain seems to be focused on April and trout season). Cooked a lot. I made a nice shrimp risotto for dinner on Sunday night and it came out great and my stomach had no problems eating 2 helpings.
Then, I went to bed and things started to change. I kept on waking up from weird dreams. The brain fog seemed worse, and I was confused as I was trying to figure out the weird dreams I was having. Then, the chills started. In the middle of the night, I asked my wife for another blanket so I could try to get warm.
At this point in time, we were having a serious snowstorm and my wife was out of bed very early on Monday to run the snowblower, so we could get to work. I felt terrible, and I felt even worse because I felt too bad to run the snowblower for her. About 6:00 a.m., she finished and I asked my wife to take my temperature. I was 100.5F - right at the threshold that my instructions tell me it's time to go the ER.
I knew I wasn't going to make it to work on Monday by this point in time, but I was hoping to avoid the expensive trip to the Emergency Room. I asked my wife to wait at home until 8:00 a.m., so I could call my oncologist and get instructions on what to do. I was told to go to the nearest emergency room, so that's what we did.
I honest felt like I was going to die. It was like the worst flu ever, and I sat there, wondering how I could ever tolerate 7 more rounds of this chemo. And yet, I know there are much worse chemos out there. A friend who died last year from a glioblastoma spent a full day hugging the toilet every time she took her chemo meds. Me? I felt rough, nauseous, achy, disassociated, but no nausea. I was ambulatory.
The ER took their time, I must admit. It certainly felt like an emergency to me, but it didn't seem like one to the staff. They failed in their first attempt to insert an IV. I always hate when that happens. I have pretty good veins from all the lifting I do, yet it seems like too many people miss with the IV.
They gave me some Tylenol for my fever. Drew some blood. Had me pee in a jar. And then, I finally dozed off. Around 11:00 a.m., they had seen most of my lab results and they were fine. They had talked to my oncologist and she thought I was fine to be discharged. They offered me the option of an IV antibiotic, but I saw no compelling reason to accept, and they discharged me. They modified a few medications to help with the side effects as well.
I dozed most of the afternoon after my wife took me home. I slept so well in the afternoon that I didn't really sleep much last night, but I'm feeling better today. The chemo brain is still there, but I was able to drink some coffee and eat some breakfast today.
On Sunday night, my wife and I had made late reservations for Valentine's Day. Nothing too crazy - just a hotel room near our offices (2 commute trips removed from our lives) and dinner at one of our favorite Burlington restaurants (Church and Main).
Yesterday, I was ready to cancel all of it. Today, I think I'll make it. Dinner might be cheap because my appetite isn't really there, but it will be nice to spend the evening with my wife. Plus, she can drink the Champagne and I can drive.
It's only 10 days until my next chemo session. I can hardly wait.