If I had to write a review of 2020, it would not be good. The world has gone mad, there is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on everyone’s lives, and it’s a presidential election year, which always seems to bring out the crazy in everyone. But this blog is about cancer so I will stick to the subject at hand.
From a cancer point of view….. 2020 has sucked as well. In August of 2019, I had my best scan ever. No evidence of cancer so the chemo was working great. I remained on the chemo for another two months and then went on a “break” until the end of the year. The break was great. My energy came back and the neuropathy calmed down. It was so nice not to be on chemo for the holidays. Then came January 2020 when it was time for another scan. As expected, the cancer popped up again and so we went back to the chemo that had been working so well. Then, surprisingly, my April scan showed additional progression. The chemo that had worked so well, stopped working. So we agreed to go onto another chemo called Doxil. It’s a rough one, so I had to have some tests to make sure my heart was strong enough to handle it. The good news was that this chemo was once a month instead of once a week.
Fast forward to the end of July and scan number three for 2020. More progression. Some areas of bone were stable or improved but my liver was full of lesions…..including one large one at 3.5 centimeters. I know that doesn’t sound big, but in cancerland, it’s big. And so it was onto another chemo called Gemzar. Back to once a week for three weeks with one week off. I’d love to say that the new chemo is going well, but nothing is that simple.
My first dose was easy. I had a couple of flashes of nausea, but I took some meds that quickly took care of it. Then came dose two. About 48 hours after the dose, I started to feel pretty bad. Chills, fever, headache, fatigue. It was not good. And of course, it was the weekend. I emailed my oncologist who called Monday morning and sent me to the ER. [insert eye rolling.] I hate the ER and the hospital.
They spent several hours testing me for everything under the sun (including Covid), started me on IV anti-biotics and told me they were going to admit me. Then, when all of the tests came back negative, they pulled all of the tubes and said it had to be side effects from the chemo and sent me home. It was a pretty quick 180 degree pivot. However, the rest of the week, I just continued to get worse. On Thursday (chemo day) I told my oncologist that I didn’t feel up to coming in. She said…..go back to the ER! [more eye rolling.]
ER visit number two for the week landed me in a hospital bed for three nights. The doctors were still convinced that my symptoms were side effects brought on by the new chemo. I argued with them and told them that I was far enough out from the chemo that the side effects should be getting better, not worse. They were having none of it and I continued to spike fevers about twice a day. Finally, they reluctantly put me on some anti-biotics. And, guess what? The fevers stopped. Go figure. After three nights, I went home and my doctor and I decided to put off chemo until the next cycle scheduled to begin on August 27th. That was last week and so far so good. No fevers or other horrible side effects.
The worst is that I’m tired. I know everyone knows what it’s like to be tired. But this is a much different tired. Like I literally have to give myself mental pep talks just to get off the couch. Like I wake up, shower, get dressed, and I’m ready to go back to bed. Like a day without a nap is unheard of. I feel so guilty too. Guilty that my dog’s walks have to be shortened. Guilty that I can barely contribute to housework and cooking. Guilty that I am not a lot of fun to be around right now. Although none of it is my fault, I still do not like this lifeless creature I am becoming. It scares me.
There are other things that scare me as well. Since May, I have lost 26 pounds. Normally that would be cause for celebration. However, unintended weight loss in cancer patients is not a good sign. At first I thought it was due to the fact that I no longer needed to be on steroids for chemo. But the weight loss continues. Slow and steady, but it scares me.
My last visit with my oncologist was also a scary conversation. She said that if this chemo doesn’t work or when it stops working, it’s time to think about clinical trials. Clinical trials aren’t necessarily scary in and of themselves, but there is that lingering feeling that we are coming to the end of what the tried and true treatments can do for me. Scary.
What is most scary is that I may be in my final months, years (hopefully) and my travel dreams are completely on hold. Thanks Covid-19. I have the desire and ability to travel, I just can’t. I have dealt with the disappointment of two big trips being canceled this year. One to Hawaii and one to Europe. Hawaii shut down just like every other state in March and Europe will not allow Americans to travel there because of our high number of cases. I guess that I may have to accept that my traveling is over. I hope not, but who knows what the future holds. I’m glad I took advantage of the past couple of years and took some pretty fabulous trips.
So that’s the update from cancerland. Not the most uplifting, but I always try to balance optimism and reality. Right now, I’m drowning in reality. 2020 has just not been good in so many ways. I won’t wish away time, but I also won’t be disappointed to see this year come to a close!