Friday, September 24, 2004
Sailing & Flying & Chemo
The Rolling Stones sing, "Time is on my side," but it sure didn't feel like it. Holy Cow! Talk about a waiting game! Chemo Thursday was one long day. Please join me while I recap.

Let's just say they were a running a little behind with the doctor's appointment. It was more than an hour before I was called in which is highly unusual for them. I typically barely have a chance to finish the e-tablet questionnaire on symptoms and side-effects before getting called in. I eventually had my exam and went over the lab results. My hemoglobin count dropped another .4 so this weekend I get to start the Aranesp injections. Aranesp is very similar to the highly advertised Procrit except it works longer so the injections are less frequent. It stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. This helps the chemotherapy-induced anemia and also boosts the energy levels a bit. Other than this issue, I believe her exact words were, "You are sailing right through this!"

Chemotherapy-induced anemia occurs in 7 out of 10 patients. The chemo drugs can't distinguish between the good cells and the bad cells and unfortunately, take out some of the good ones. Anemia can be very danergous. Without the proper levels of red blood cells, the heart works harder to get enough of the oxygen-carrying cells through the body. Without the proper oxygen, your organs don't work properly. While I am grateful that there is a treatment for this, I was a little surprised to hear this news since I started a mild iron supplement and had felt so great for the last 8 days. Once again, this is a pharmacy benefit under my insurance so I get to self-administer the shots every two weeks.

Next I was off to chemo for the Taxol. Prior to starting the Taxol, I was given two Tylenol and a Tagamet pill. This was followed by a 50 mg Benadryl injection into my groshong. People can have allergic reactions to the Taxol, so they provide the Benadryl as a precaution. Lucky me! The injection hit me so quickly and made me light-headed, queasy, agitated, and gave me leg twitches and spasms. But next came the Taxol. It was set for a 4-hour drip to make sure I could handle it. My favorite chemo nurse came by every so often to check my vitals and make sure my blood pressure was not dropping as can often occur. It stayed pretty steady so she increased the rate a couple of times. Her exact words were, "You are sailing right through this!"

At first I was chilled so she brought me a warm blanket and then my sister Joyce, my coffee angel and nurse extraordinaire, came by with a soy latte and a penza bar from Starbucks (could the day have gotten any better?). This perked me up a bit and I was feeling a little better. I was at a comfortable temperature and feeling okay. A little while later I enjoyed my very first full blown hot flash. Hot flashes are an expected side-effect of treatment. It is actually surpsing that I haven't had them sooner.

Let me just say that if men experienced hot flashes, had their makeup float off with their perspiration, and had their hair go flat and stick to their heads, they might be a little more sympathetic to menopausal women. But I digress. . . . I dragged my IV stand to the restroom and splashed some cool water on my pulse points and relaxed a bit. That seemed to calm me down so I returned to the chemo lounge. An even better diversion was when the nicest gentleman came to sit next to me. Talking to him helped pass the time.

His name was Jimmy and this is his third round of treatment for lymphoma. He was first diagnosed and treated in 1997. He has been in remission twice since then, but is back for round three. You wouldn't know it to look at him. He seems like a healthy athletic man. In fact I thought he was my age, but it turns out he is twenty years older. We had a lovely time talking about treatment, our families, and our faith. He committed his life to Jesus Christ in 1974 and has been a devout Christian since then. For someone going through everything he has battled, he had a great attitude and just a peace about him. It gave me strength to be in his presence.

Like this entire journey of ups and downs, even though the seven hour marathon at the oncology office was taking a toll on me, in the end I was blessed. All I can say now is . . .

Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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