Monday, July 28, 2014

Week 1 of Chemo

With all the time I have spent sitting at the hospital this week I thought I wouldn't have any trouble with up dating Randy's progress on the blog. This first week has been so overwhelming that I just haven't been able to focus on anything. I can't quite explain it but my brain just feels like it's in a huge fog these days. So I will do my best to do a recap on our first week experiencing Chemotherapy.

First of all, I'm not gonna lie, this week has been rough.  I think it has mostly been the exhaustion and realization of the whole thing that has made this week just awful.  We went in Monday morning, after only getting 5-6 hrs. of sleep (possibly less) the night before. I honestly think Randy may have only gotten 3-4 hrs. of sleep. He has a slight cold and every night for the last few weeks his cough has kept him up at night. Not a good condition to start Chemo but what other choice do you have when cancer is spreading through your body?

Despite the lack of sleep, Randy went into this thing so positive. Our good friend, Gigi Neslen, had started a donation fund on and in just 2-3 days, friends, family and even strangers had donated thousands of dollars to help us pay for our medical bills as we go through this journey. I have already said this so many times on facebook, but we are soooo grateful for everyone who has helped, whether it has been money, meals, taking care of our yard, watching kids, or even just offering prayers and encouragement for our family, it has been such a blessing for our family. Going into chemo on monday, we just knew that we had tons of support and friends back at home who were cheering Randy on and praying for a quick recovery from all of this.

Although we were extremely tired, we sat in the infusion center on Monday and so much information was told to us by nurses, doctors, social workers, and pharmacists. It kind of made the day go by fast and the information they had was so helpful! On Randy's long weeks of Chemo, he has to have blood work done on the first day to make sure his levels are in a healthy range to do chemo. This first week they were, but going forward, as the chemo starts to attack his body they have to really keep a close eye on his blood count and platelet levels. If they get too low then it's too dangerous to do Chemo. Let's hope his levels stay in good range all throughout so we can get this over with!!!

Back to his schedule, while they wait for his blood tests to come back, they start his IV and begin pumping tons of fluids in his body. The first hour of treatment everyday is just a saline drip so his kidneys can filter properly with all the drugs they will pump into him. After the saline, they start him on some nausea meds through his IV. I'm not sure how long this takes, it's a little different each day. After the fluids and nausea meds, they begin the chemo drugs (if his blood tests have come back good). He has three different chemo drugs, but they mostly they only give him two on his long week, and on Tuesday's they give him the third drug. After the chemo goes through his IV, they then have to give him another hour, sometimes 2 hrs. of more saline. It's quite the process!!! By the time we walked out of the hospital on the first day, we were practically walking zombies. Randy did okay the first day, he was just extremely tired. He has a hard time each day adjusting to the sun light when we drive back to my parents house. That seems to be when he has the hardest time. He usually only complains of a headache and that he feels light headed. Luckily he was able to have a good nap that afternoon! After his nap he was feeling so much better. So the week pretty much progressed the same way each day, minus the blood tests that they only do on day 1. We usually start at 7 am and he gets done between noon and 2 pm, depending on the day. Some days he has been able to work on his laptop, some days he has been so exhausted that he tries to close his eyes and rest, although there are so many noises in the infusion room it's a wonder anyone can sleep there.

Let me explain a little bit about the infusion center. They have it set up in what they call pods. There are 8 pods that run along large windows that overlook the valley. The view is absolutely amazing!!!! At the back of each pod is a nurses station. In each pod, there are 4 stations, for a total of 24 infusion stations. Each station has a recliner where the person getting treatments sits, and a chair next to the recliner (for the person accompanying the patient) that is more comfortable than a regular dr. office chair, but not near as comfortable as a recliner. Each station also has a tv and dvd player and magazines to keep the patient entertained. The four stations in each pod are open so you can visit with the person in the next station if you want to, but far enough apart  that it provides a tiny bit of privacy. Well, actually it's not very private at all. You can practically hear what everyone is saying unless they are talking quietly with one another. However, each pod is separated with half walls so it can be somewhat private. I imagine they try to keep it somewhat private because I've noticed that they spread the patients out between all 8 pods. They aren't all full at one time and people come and go at different times all day. Some people are only there for 1-3 hrs. and then they are gone and someone else will come in their place. Here is a little picture that you can kind of see what a pod looks like. There is a section to Randy's right and also immediately behind him, and the one in the corner of the picture you can see that makes up one pod. This pod we were in that day was pod 8 and it is all the way in the back of the infusion center. The view in this pod in not fantastic, it is just the side of the mountain instead of the view of the valley. But it feels a little more private in the corner so I don't mind not having a great view.

Some days we have felt like talking to the other  patients, other days we have not. It is so interesting, and sad at the same time to talk to the cancer patients. Everyone has a completely different type of cancer and a completely different treatment regimen. One guy that I started to notice there after a few days, has to go everyday for 65 days. Another gal only goes on Monday for two weeks, but then has the third monday off, then starts over again. Some people go 1 day a week, some go 3. It's all different!!! And I'm finding that they all are so positive and happy, no matter what regimen they have. And none of them seem to complain one bit! It truly is an amazing place to be! The strength I find in the cancer patients is just overwhelming!

The fifth day of treatment this week was the hardest for both Randy and me. I was so exhausted and emotionally drained that I found it hard to sit there all day. Randy was so exhausted from the week that he basically slept the whole time or watched tv. He had so many fluids pumped into him throughout the week that his body was swollen and he said he had gained 10 lbs. just in the few days!! I know he didn't gain the weight from eating food because his appetite had decreased significantly as result of the chemo. I'd say the most side effects he had this week was loss of appetite and exhaustion. When we talked to the nurse on Friday, she said that by the middle of next week he should expect to see the side effects really start to kick in. Yikes!!!

The hardest thing so far in this journey with cancer has been not knowing what to expect. The doctors and nurses give you this long list of side effects of the drugs and it makes you so scared, but what other choice is there? None! So we just listen and nod our heads and hope that since Randy is young and strong that the drugs won't effect him too much. After going through the first week, I'd say he has done amazing!!! But then the nurse says that things will probably get worse next week and I start to get nervous. Will I have the strength to help him through this? Will I have the energy? Will I have the knowledge to help him with what he needs? It scares me to death!

Last night we had our first major experience with side effects. Randy decided to sleep in the guest bed so he wouldn't keep me up coughing. I was deep in sleep when I heard load moans, almost yelling coming from the bathroom in the hall! I jumped out of bed just terrified, not knowing what I would find. Randy was in the bathroom just puking his guts out! Sorry, it's a little graphic but somehow I have a feeling this is just the beginning. He said he has never thrown up so much in his life! I'm just glad he made it to the bathroom, because after talking to him in the morning, it sounds like it just came on suddenly and he almost didn't make it! Wouldn't have wanted to clean up that mess!! Not to mention they told us that large amounts of his body fluids are toxic. Yikes!!! Really, really  glad he made it to the toilet!!! But after that he was able to take some meds to help with nausea and he slept the rest of the night in peace. Phew!!! Survived week 1 with fairly little trouble.

Week 2 begins. We sent the kids off on vacation with my family so hopefully I can clear my head a bit and get some things done around the house that have been neglected for weeks. Probably won't happen, but I can dream right? Anyway, Randy has only 1 treatment this week and it is short 1-2 hrs. Yeah!!!!

I'm not sure what to expect for this week but I'm praying with all my heart that Randy and I will be strong and that his body can fight this war that is going on inside his body.

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