A Week Off From Chemo

I gotta say, the previous 7 days after my most recent infusion have been revealing. They illustrated the effects of accumulated toxicity. My nausea went longer, for example. When I’d previously gotten to the last 3 days of an infusion interval I would be fine, without incident. It was different for these last 3 infusions though. Those last 3 days usually included a sudden urge to get sick, seemingly out of nowhere.

I’ve learned to be both grateful for the melt-in-your-mouth version of the drug ondansetron (“Zofran”) and disgusted at its lame, bitter flavor. Ondansetron works like a charm. I was worried that it would be habit forming or somehow would lose its wonderful effectiveness so I looked it up. No need to worry. In fact, “It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.” Here’s more info if you’re curious – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondansetron.

With the gemabraxine chemo you get 3 infusions, once a week, and then you take a week off. The week off is critical, because underneath it all, parts of your body are not keeping up with their self repair. My drug trial had me on 8 weeks of it, and departed from the normal protocol by taking up the next 8 weeks with a different chemo, known colloquially as “folfiri”. I’m grateful for that, even though the folfiri was pretty rough in its own way. At least it’s been rough in a different way than the gemabraxine.

So following those previous 16 weeks of gemabraxine followed by folfiri, I went back on the gemabraxine, this time for 4 weeks, and since that interval includes a week off, I’m happily taking that week off starting yesterday and going until next Thursday, when I’ll do 2 infusions of folfiri over 4 weeks.

Nevertheless, the side effects of the gemabraxine came back a bit harder that even the last week of the first 8 weeks. Subtle stuff like hair loss, the nausea at unpredictable times, the aches and pains as if I was coming down with a flu, and most recently, the realization that even though I was keeping up with work, I was indeed fighting some “brain fog”. I didn’t even notice that until Tuesday this week, when it cleared. I’m grateful that I can clear the toxicity well enough to get rid of that. The brain fog is what scares me the most.

I have no plans for what I’ll do in these next days off, but I know that whatever I do, it will be much more precious to me. I feel and experience the wonders of life much more vividly, even when I’m down, and even more when I’m taking a break. It’s with me despite the knowledge that underneath all of this is that little tumor that would kill me if I did nothing; that still might kill me with its crazy, out of its biological mind unpredictability. Those cells in this f-ing tumor are like the Trump supporters in my body; useless, irrational, with their own insane agenda, and ultimately fatal.

I was inspired to write this entry because I just read this article in the New York Times, written by a person whose cancer is much worse than mine. Despite that he’s written of something that I feel too. Once a person starts feeling it, I think it’s with the same intensity regardless of what stage one’s cancer is.

“…I’ve lived more fully than ever before in my life, holding my wife and son tighter and saying “no” more readily to work projects and other demands on my time that wouldn’t enrich my life. I’ve learned to let life’s frustrations roll off me more casually, though the hospital parking garage still manages to make my blood boil. I’ve made sure to tell my family and friends that I love them.”

I don’t have a wife or sons, but I do have a 10 year life-partner who is somehow beyond being my wife, and I have 2 fully amazing and wonderful adult daughters. Here’s link to that article. You should read it.