Chemo -Half Way Woohoo!!

Me in my favorite fuzzy hat.
Me in my favorite fuzzy hat.

Dr. Wonderful

On February 26, 2009, I was back at the Cancer Center for my last AC/Red Devil Chemo.  I was thrilled!  My PICC was inserted in my right arm and this was going to be the first time that it was accessed.  First, I met with Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist) to review my progress.  She was surprised that during my last visit I was able to take the AC chemo in the vein and today would be the last AC treatment. YAY!  She  examined the port site and there was no improvement.  In fact, it looked even more suspicious so she was very confident in her decision to not use the port on the last visit.  After a review of lab work, I was off to the chemo chair.

The only downside to a PICC is the bandage removal each time that it is used.  My skin was very thin by this time and if the bandage was ripped off, a layer of skin would come with it.  Some nurses were more patient than others.  Once the bandage was removed, the site was cleaned and the chemo infusion began.  I put my feet up and listened to my praise and worship music while I updated my notes regarding my visit.

Routine At Home

When I went home, I ate a light dinner, visited a few minutes and went to bed.  By the 4th dose of AC chemo, more of the drug was in my system and it hit me hard.  I took my anti-nausea medicine regularly with my purple Gatorade.  I laid very still so I wouldn’t  get sick.  I stayed in bed until mid afternoon the next day.  I rested Saturday, Sunday and stayed home from work Monday.  I usually went to work by Monday but this was different.  I was extremely exhausted, weak and nauseous. I kept hearing Jerry’s voice (my 1st chemo nurse) in my ear. “Don’t be a hero.”

I returned to work Tuesday, March 3rd because I needed to prepare the FCAT test booklets.  I worked all week from March 3rd until the following Monday, March 10th. During that week, I noticed a couple new symptoms: shortness of breath, extreme exhaustion and a low-grade fever, 99 degrees. Gale was helping me with testing preparation and she noticed that my breathing had changed. My breathing was labored and every now and then I had to take a deep breath just to catch my breath. I called my doctor’s office and the nurse told me that I should be okay as long as it wasn’t a high fever. So, I went on working for the entire week and the following Monday, 3/9/09, I still had a fever so I called the doctor.  She told me to come in that afternoon.

The Unexpected

When I went to the doctor that afternoon, she was concerned with the redness around my port site and that I had a fever for a week.  She put me on immediate bed rest.  I told her that I had FCAT that week and she said, “I don’t care. You don’t go back to work until I tell you that you can go back to work.”  OH MY!  This was a major roadblock.  I called my principal to tell her and I apologized profusely. Then I was sent to the chemo lab for IV antibiotics because they were supposed to work faster than the pills.

The next day, my mother-in-law went out of town with some friends.  I told her that I would be fine. I did not feel well at all.  I could barely breathe and I hurt all over.  I ate popsicles and stayed hydrated with purple Gatorade. By mid-afternoon, my fever was getting higher.  I went to the chemo lab for my IV antibiotics and my fever was 101 degrees.  It was definitely getting worse.  The chemo lab nurses had to report my condition to Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist) and well….she sent me to the hospital.  I called Doug and my mom and told them that I was being admitted to the hospital.  Even though I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I loved my doctor.  That’s why I call her Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist) because she was so smart.  She suspected all along that the port was infected and that is why she refused to use it. She admitted me to the hospital because she was concerned that the infection would lead to Sepsis, a condition in the body fighting a severe infection spread through the bloodstream.

I stayed in the hospital 7 long nights and 6 long days.  No wigs…just my fuzzy hat, minimal makeup, and occasionally I got dressed and sat in the chair.  My dearest friends visited me and saw me in my fuzzy hat.  By Friday, I really wanted to go home for the weekend but Dr. Wonderful said no!  I had to stay the weekend and on Monday, March 16, 2009 that infected port was removed from my chest by the Breast Surgeon.  She had to take several inches of the surrounding skin so that she could ensure that the infected skin would be gone. I have a really bad scar but I am alive.  I was released from the hospital that night and I went back to work the next day.

I was half way done with chemo!  Woohoo!

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