Chemo sucks. No two ways about it. Now, I realize I’m not the one going through it physically, and I don’t have to feel the effects of the drugs on a daily, sometimes seemingly by the minute, basis but I still feel the chemo through my wife. I see it in her actions, in her emotional state, in her physical motions and it isn’t fun to experience that. I am still forced to watch her struggle at times with the effects of the toxins on her expectant and consequently sensitive immune system and that sucks.
The one thing that has kept me going and positive and moving forward through all of this is witnessing the unparalleled courage and strength that that same beautiful, loving weirdo that is my wife. The irony of her being where I derive my strength from in times like this is a tad ironic, don’t you think? It’s like the shirts that Sam so graciously created and all you amazing people have purchased in support of Lindsay and our family say, “We don’t know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice we have.” That hits the mental state of this battle right on the head. We have no choice but to be strong and I found that watching my wife fight her ass off the way she is despite going through this fight is nothing short of awe-inspiring and strength-provoking. I knew it before and I said it many times over before this point but I got an incredible, one-of-a-kind girl and seeing the support, prayers and love coming our way in all the various forms; donations, t-shirts purchases, food, lending a friendly ear, being there when we need to talk and so much more exemplifies that thousands of other people out there know how lucky I am too. So now that we got that out of my system, why don’t we talk a little bit about how treatment is going, sound good?
If we go back to where we left off, we were all set to get started on our treatments of Cisplatin and Etoposide the next day after our meeting with our doctors. We had to be in Peoria (55 minute drive from our driveway to the center) by 9am to get started on registration, bloodwork, a few meetings and then finally on treatment. My mother-in-law came with Lindsay and I that day to keep us company, and we’re always glad when she does as it is a new face, new mind and new set of ears to bounce all our thoughts and stories off of. We arrived at the cancer center shortly before our scheduled arrival time and got started on our registartion and then did some bloodwork before heading up to the waiting room outside of our treatment “pod”. We were all very nervous and anxious as we sat down in the chairs and looked around the room, surrounded by mostly elderly patients that looked to be just as nervous and anxious as us. I’ve found that so far, regardless of how many treatments we get under our belt, I still feel the nerves and anxiety creep in before we start. Due to these feelings, we were all mentally pre-occupied and were more or less sitting there silently and spacing out. One of us would occasionally look up from our stares to point out something or ask a question but for probably 10 min we sat in mostly silence until Honey showed up. No–I’m not talking about my lovely wife or a side-woman, 🙂 Honey was a very sweet, tender-hearted Golden Retriever who had long, flowing golden-red hair with a ever increasing amount of gray hair growing around her snout. She waddled up to us like we were the oldest of friends and immediately came to me (I’m basically a dog whisperer in my spare time) and used her snout to move my hands in a position so I could more easily pet her. The handler for Honey introduced herself and Honey and explained that she was one of the therapy dogs that would tour the facility to see the patients. Honey was so sweet, making her patented move on Lindsay; forcing Linds to pet her–there was no ‘not petting’ Honey if she got close enough to you. 🙂 After showing some love to my mother-in-law and sniffing the heck out of my jeans and my Mother-In-Law’s jeans, Honey decided it was time to move to the next stranger and make them think that they were old friends being reunited. Dog are special, special creatures and I’m so glad we had Honey there at just the right time to calm us down a bit. We then were called back to our pod and asked to find “whatever seat you’d like” by one of the very friendly nurses.
We found a seat over by the window, in between a few patients that had already got started, it was 11am by this time, and we all sat down and awaited the nurse to return and let us know what the schedule/plan looked like. We had been told that our treatments would be about 5 hours long and the nurse said that until we had the medi-port (I’ll explain later) put in, it would probably hover around the 5 hour range.
Hydration bag – 1 hour
Zofran – 15 – 30 min
Decadron 15 – 30 min
Cisplatin – 1 hour
Etoposide – 1 hour
Hydration bag – 1 hour
We started by doing a hydration bag of saline and then some steroids (decadron) and some anti-nausea meds (Zofran) which lasted about an hour and a half between the three of them. As we did these, one of our awesome nurses from Dr. Ladanyi came in with Dr. Ladanyi to check on us and answer any questions that we may have regarding our treatment plan or the medicines. He had given us a printout of the two main drugs previously and asked us to research and look over them and ask him any questions we may have. Most of these were previously explained by him so we really didn’t have many questions besides a few “what should we look out for as precursors or signs that we need to call you for advise?” or “what should we expect to feel like during our off-weeks?” and “what will this/that do for the baby?” Dr Ladanyi was very candid in his answers and after we felt satisfied, he retired back to his office area. We then started the first Chemo drug, Cisplatin, at about 12:30 or so and it would then be set to run for about 60 minutes. I probably asked Lindsay 1,000 times in an hour how she was feeling and if she needed anything and I am sorry for that, babe! 🙂 I always give my own Mom a hard time for asking us 8 million questions whenever we are sick but I see why she does it now and I’m sorry to you too, Mom. The first drug went pretty well, no reactions and it completed in about an hour. Our nurse, Mandy, returned to talk to us about something else around 5 minutes after our Etoposide treatment had started. She explained that while blood clots are a fairly big concern during pregnancy, Lindsay would be at an even higher risk due to chemotherapy so as a precautionary measure, they (Leonardi and Ladanyi) put us on daily Lovenox shots. I was about to be a designated nurse…a designated nurse that isn’t crazy about needed. The Lovenox syringes that we got are about the length of your pointer finger and about the same width. The syringe is pre-filled with the Lovenox solution and the needle is redy to rock after being unsheathed, revealing the inch and half long, 22 gauge needle. It’s a very fine needle for all the non-medical people that have no idea what gauge means in relation to needles!
We then followed Mandy to a private little room in the chemo pod to “practice” a shot. After arriving in the room, Lindsay started having a reaction to the Etoposide treatment drugs and got really flushed and her chest started to tighten. They decidede to cease the drip of Etoposide and give another dose of the sterioid, Decadron. As this started, Mandy showed me as I very intently and carefully watched her administer the Lovenox shot to Lindsay. She showed me how the needle would automatically release back into the syringe, as it was spring loaded to do so but I had somewhat forgot about this the following day, so funny story coming up! Anyway, after the steroid and shot practice were done, we started back on the Etoposide and just started to administer at a slower pace. THANKFULLY, the reaction didn’t happen this time and we were able to complete the rest in about an hour and a half. We were finally done after 4.5 hours of treatment and a 9-4 day at the treatments center. We headed home comforted that the prayers and love shown to us by thousands of people were working! We survived Day 1, and that was a HUGE step forward, one more down.
Day 2 started early again, as we were bringing along Linds’ best friend, Sam. We got over there right on time and started on time, thankfully! We sat in a different pod that day and picked a corner, as we knew we’d get a little rowdy….just kidding…it gave us more privacy and a view out of two windows, overlooking a pretty little pond behind the cancer center. The second day of treatment was highlighted by Sam’s company, Heads Up on our phones (charades), eating McAlister’s…Linds was CRAVING some McAlister’s that day and a pretty smooth day of drug administration. Things were trending up, we were bringing great company with us and focusing on all the positives and Lindsay was kicking some serious ass with being strong and upbeat through this leg of our journey. Days 3, 4 and 5 were to be spent in the hospital as in-patient due to the cancer center being closed on the weekend and us needing Linds’ mediport put in. (To see what a Medi Port looks like, click here.) I’ll mention her port a decent amount from here on out, so you’ll want to know what I’m referring to. We arrived bright and early at OSF St. Francis at 7am to get registered, checked in to our room and get the port put in before we started chemo. Keep in mind, due to the port placement procedure, Lindsay had to quit eating at midnight so she didn’t eat anything after we had dinner at 6:30pm the night before. We waited for what seemed like 5 days but was really 5 hours to get her port put in. We were both VERY unhappy at this point as she had been without food for 18 hours by the time the surgery was done. I didn’t know that I had paternal instincts already but they came out about 2 hours before her surgery, I wasn’t the nicest to the nursing staff or our oncological nurses from the cancer center and I feel bad about that now, I really do. After all, I was only looking out for my wife and son but I could have shown a little more understanding with them as it wasn’t their fault at all! Anyway, we finally got the port in and got back to our rather drab and dark room. My parents arrived while Lindsay was just headed to get her port put in and Mom and cousin, Jordan, sat with me and waited for Lindsay to get out of surgery while Dad went to get us all lunch. He didn’t get Jordan lunch she works at the children’s hospital as a pharmacist so she was coming in to work and stopped by but I’m pretty sure she brough the most complete and best get well pack that you could bring someone in the hospital for Lindsay as we spent our weekend in the hospital. When we got back to the room I think Lindsay would have eaten dog poop if I gave it to her, but she instead mowed down the grilled cheese and salad I got her from Panera. 🙂 We sat and chatted with my parents for a while, which was a great distraction during all of the chaos of the last few hours but they headed home when Lindsay started to feel “off” when they started the second drug, the Etoposide this time. We had already had an incredibly long day, waking up at 5:30am and not eating until almost 2:30pm and then not starting chemo until 6pm but little did we know that her feeling “off” was the beginning of a long, long night in the hospital.
Lindsay and I were both a crazy mixed bag of emotions and the chemo playing games with her physically and emotionally made it even more difficult. We both cried, felt frustration, felt homesick and felt confused that evening and night. In all honesty, that was kind of our entire weekend. Hospital stays suck, chemo sucks and being away from your home, your place of comfort and family sucks so we were very uneasy and uncomfortable all weekend. We eventually made it through the night, despite both of us not sleeping the best, and woke up on Saturday feeling rejuvenated since we didn’t have to wait on surgery and food but we still had to wait until 4pm so we knew it would still be a long day. We had visitors on Saturday and Sunday that included my parents, my In-Laws, my Grandpa, my Aunt Sara, Kathy and Darryl and Sam to help pass the time until treatment each day. When we eventually got started each day, though it was more of the same, the drugs just taking Lindsay’s mental equillibrium from her which was an awful thing to watch and experience with her. I feel like I’ve written the next-coming of the Iliad so I’ll close by saying we had awesome nurses during our stay that made it as enjoyable as a hostpital stay can be, I suppose, and we finally were able to leave at about 4:30pm on Sunday. We were both mentally drained, physiclaly drained and more ready than ever to get home to our house and see our pups. We pulled into the drive and I told Lindsay that we had to take a celebratory selfie to let the thousands praying for us and thinking about us know how awesome she’s doing and that she officially kicked the first chemo cycle’s ass, so we did and it’s one of my favorite pics currently because of what it represents. We were both so ready to see our dogs and she got out of the car and headed inside as I pulled the car in behind her. I walked inside and was greeted by our little white fluffball, Joey’s wet puppy kisses and our 94 pound female lab’s lap dog attempt as I sat down. Damn it was good to be home.