This is part three in Lucy’s story about her battle with breast cancer. You can read the first part here, and the second part, the mastectomy, here.
I had finally beaten the MRSA, and it was time for chemotherapy. The doctors were nervous, though, because there’s a window of time following surgery that is considered “safe” to wait prior to beginning treatment. My window was quickly closing; they were anxious to get me started.
I should backtrack a bit, however, and share that I had a port put in. Chemo is administered through an IV, and since it’s really just controlled poisoning, it can damage your veins. A port is surgically implanted, either on your chest or your arm, which allows them to insert medicine directly into a vein, with only one stick. Plus, there’s a catheter inside the device, which allows the drugs to be administered slower. It’s easier on your system, reduces side effects and protects veins. Since I was going to be given the maximum amount of chemo they can give at one time, in addition to all the blood draws, the port was recommended.
Prior to my first chemo cocktail, they discovered that I was severely anemic. In fact, when the nurse called me, the first thing she asked was if I was okay. Turns out, the normal levels of iron in women are 12-16 grams per deciliter; I had 6.2. They were amazed I could stand.
You know, it might have surprised most, but I’m the person whose body ate an entire tissue expander. I wasn’t shocked – at all. I had to go to the doctor’s office to be infused with iron (or vitamins, minerals, Cocoa Krispies or whatever the heck else I was low on) prior to treatment. Then it was time to start chemo.
I got hooked up and waited for my first round. Naturally, I was nervous so they gave me a dose of ativan to help relax me. They told me that most people fall asleep.
But this is me; my body mocked the ativan and the IV it rode in on. I didn’t even get drowsy.
The day after chemo, you’re given a drug called Neulasta. It’s some type of miracle that boosts iron levels in chemo patients and counteracts some of chemo’s effects. You’re told that it will make you feel like the worst flu of your life, and that taking Claritin prior to the injection would help. That may be, but I’m Lucy the Expander Eater – nothing works on me. I felt like a semi had run me over, backed up, hit me again, and repeated. My joints and bones hurt. I walked around with heating pads on every part of my body; even the soles of my feet hurt. I spent days in bed, wishing for a Neulasta fairy to sprinkle happy dust on me.
Seeing how lousy I felt, it was probably good there wasn’t one. If some little sprite had come into my room, waving a teeny wand, making pretty noises with her teeny bells, grinning from her teeny little ear to her other teeny little ear, I probably would have shot her.
The funny thing is, I knew I was going to lose my hair; what I didn’t think of was losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. I didn’t start losing them until after every hair on my head had taken its leave, so there were a few weeks before they did as well. I decided to try fake eyelashes, which I had never worn a day in my life. I poked myself in the eye with a tweezer, stabbed my finger while trying to trim the lashes, and glued my eye shut. It took a long time before I could wear them, and even then it was only when I was going to be in public. These days, I can slap a fake eyelash on faster than Lindsay Lohan can wreck her career.
After what seemed like an eternity (but was only a few months), I went for my last round of chemo, my final Taxol infusion. It was on to the grueling daily drive, 25 minutes each way, five days a week, for radiation.
The good thing was, I could finally see the end in sight. Almost.
You can follow Lucy on her Facebook page. The above video, The Hat Song, was made this year for Mother's Day by Lucy's children. She still can't watch it without crying.