Up and out the door at 6:00 am – made for a very short night! As we started out, I prayed – and gave the day, the treatment to come, and this whole new cancer battle to God. I KNOW He is there for me, and I put words to the trust I have in Him to bring about His version of my story!
It was very foggy when we started, dark, warm and humid! Seeing the fog makes me think that the clouds have come down to visit earth before the sun comes up. As the sun did come up, it was an absolutely beautiful morning – blue skies, fluffy clouds and bright sunshine – putting the best face on the coming weather and my coming treatment. Due to next to nothing traffic, we were the first car in the parking lot at the treatment center…..so we took time to check email, catch up on a bit of news, and even a game of Candy Crush!
As we entered the infusion room, we were again the first ones there too – laughed to myself remembering all the church events Lucian and I have been to – and there too, we were always the ‘first ones there’ and the ‘last ones to leave’…lol! Picked out the recliner back by the huge windows that had a chair for Lucian – not nearly as comfy as mine. We then realized we had forgotten a cushion for him to put on the chair, and a book to read. – won’t forget next week!
The plan for the day was pre-meds first, then the chemo drugs, and last, the Gazyva – the big unknown in the treatment for me. The nurse got things going, and we were into treatment One – first day. First the pre-meds – for nausea and to guard against any bad reaction that might want to make an appearance. They take about an hour to administer – and on to the chemo – the prednisone – the only one taken orally, then the three chemo drugs – and all went very well – no bad reactions to them – but lots of warnings of all the ‘possible’ side effects (don’t ya just love hearing the commercials for drugs on TV – where the list of ‘possibles’ does NOT make you want to ever take it! But, these are the weapons at hand, and we will use them all to defeat this new enemy! We shall see about which one actually show up – praying hard about those!
Now the true unknown was up and ready to be administered – this is an immunological antibody – so is not technically chemo. It finds the cancer cells, and tells your body’s immune system to come and kill it – and it has been remarkably efficient in doing just that. I will confess that I was really nervous for the first 20 minutes of this VERY SLOW IV drip – for that was the timing for the massive reaction I had when I first was given Rituxan. Watching the drip ….watching the clock……prayers with each passing moment. At what a wonderful sense of relief when that deadline came…..and went……with no bad effects at all! YAY!!!
Now the deadline went out to – when will it be done? This last infusion started up around 11:20 am….and every 20 minutes or so, the speed of the drip was increased – cannot believe how many levels of SLOW there are!! Filled in the time reading a book, nibbling on snacks, and drinking LOTS of water. We were doubly glad we had brought snacks, as the coming Hurricane must have prompted the folks who normally bring everyone lunch did not come – no doubt home trying to get ready for the bad weather. Even the treatment center will be closed the next two days – something they NEVER do – but this time they did for the safety of everyone from doctors, to staff and the patients.
Before the treatment ended, I got another new experience – I had been given before a drug called Neulasta – the day following treatment to boost up blood counts, which fall with the effects of chemo. But this time was different – no coming back to the treatment center for an injection – this little gizmo is attached to your body and has the drug onboard and timed to be delivered 27 hours after chemo. Nice to not have to make another trip for that! Once we got all that squared away and instructions given, written, and demonstrated – the IV finally gave up the last drop….and about 4:30 pm – I was done, and we were free to come home – the room was empty when we left except for staff! It was a very long day – left at 6:00 am and walked in the house at 6:00 pm – wow!
Celebrating and thanking God for a very long, but well worth it first round – next week comes round two!
….and I should have known! We were busy making sure that all things were in place, that plans and information was gathered and ready – then…..
But I digress – I had gone to the hospital and the medi-port was put in, and one of the ‘new’ lymph nodes that indicated new cancer was removed and sent to the lab to identify and be sure of just what cancer we were dealing with. The assumption was that it was the same indolent (read slow-growing), splenic, marginal zone b-cell non-hodgkins lymphoma. Quite a mouthful, right?! I was discharged from the hospital, and we came home to rest up and recover from this step.
Meanwhile, we went to the Oncology office to have “chemo class.” We learned all about Gazyva (an immunological antibody) and Bendamustine ( a chemo drug). I have never had either of these drugs, but knew generally what they would do – the Gazyva would target all the cancerous B-cells and flag them for the body’s immune system to come and kill, and the Bendamustine would do much the same thing – only this drug is unable to ‘target’ any kind of cell – so it goes for all the cancer cells it can find – along with other cells that are ok, but in the wrong place at the wrong time. For me this was so good to hear – I am one of those folks who wants ALL the information, good, bad, and ugly – so this was great information. Somehow knowing what you are taking and what it would do helps immensely in feeling more ‘in control’ of the situation. Of course, along with that came the info on all the side effects and things that ‘might’ happen – makes for scary reading – but worth every bit of it when it does it’s job and the cancer is beat back into submission and me into remission!
On Sept. 5, I had my appointment with the oncologist, the nurse-practitioner, Lucian and I. And all the plans made so far got blown out of the water. The doctor had the results of the biopsy, and now there was a new player on the cancer field. Along with my NHL (non-hodgkins lymphoma) that I have been battling since 2010, now some of that cancer had transformed itself, and turned into another form of NHL. That was not good news, but not only was it a new form, called Follicular Lymphoma, it was also classed as Stage 3B. Stage 3B is not indolent cancer, it is an aggressive form of cancer……and the whole game changed with that one sentence. The old plan was tossed out, and a new one needed to be put in place – and it was called G-CHOP. Doncha just love all these weird acronyms? The good news in this was that this new aggressive form of lymphoma is also classed as ‘curable’ – meaning it could be killed for good!
Now we have a new plan – and today we went to another session of ‘chemo’ class to find out all about it. I already knew about Gazyva – that remains as the immunological targeted antibody that would go after those cancerous B-cells – but the chemo component is a real bunch of ‘bad guys’ – whew! the acronym CHOP stands for the four drugs that make up the regimen: C is for cyclophosphamide (which I have had before), H is for doxorubicin (no idea where the H is in this name). I have not had this drug before. The O is for vincristine – one of the brand names of t his drug starts with O – hence the O in the acronym. And finally comes P – which is for Prednisone – which I thing everyone is familiar with. Except for the Prednisone, the chemo drugs interfere with the cancer cells and prevent them from dividing and making new cancer cells – a good thing. Bad thing is they come with a bunch of side effects that are not so great – but if they do their job, this temporary bad stuff will result in curing this aggressive cancer for good!
The other not so great thing is I am going from getting a treatment that took 8 minutes and was just a shot in the tummy, to a all-day long IV session – first time is estimated to take 6-7 hours (yup that DID say hours!) – not only that but it is given in a 21-day cycle, and right now, the plan is 6 cycles, which basically means that every single week, my Wednesdays will be spent getting the chemo and Gazyva. At least I get to lay back in a nice recliner – my poor husband gets a sorta one step up from a metal folding chair to sit in. So we’ll be hitting the road REAL early to arrive in time for the appointments at 7:45 am. We’ll be packing snacks, bringing a cushion for Lucian, and lots of reading material – and the laptop and tablet and phones so we can stay connected. I would SO appreciate any prayers you could say for us both as we start on this new journey – and I know we’ll both be praising God thru it all – because HE is in control, and we trust Him completely!