My cancer saga started when I was diagnosed at 38 with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I have a twisted sense of humor and have tried to continue with laughter and optimism on my journey...

Chemo + Strep = Long Week

Episode XXXVI - Well the landslide will bring it down...


Taxotere Dose #5


Overall, chemotherapy has become pretty standard. I have gotten used to the routine and am more prepared for what each treatment will be like. Each session builds on the other and each week creates stronger reactions to treatment. I had an off week after my first full Taxotere doses, so that time my reaction would be slightly less intense than the next two treatments. Each treatment would bring new challenges and make old ones more difficult. In the end it really does not matter what treatment brings because I will do whatever comes my way. Bring it!




Oh... the week brought it... good and bad! Guess that was what I was going to get when I wanted it to "bring it". Today was going to be the first chemotherapy treatment where I had a friend along for the session. I have had family before and I have been taken by friends to my shot, but it was the very first time I shared the chemotherapy session with someone. I usually had just gone on and got it over with by myself, but today I was in for a treat.


5:30 am - Port is ready...


However, before I could enjoy my chemo buddy I had to do the general check in and blood work routine. I had woken myself up early to prepare my port area, but it was going to be one of those days that no prep would help. It seemed my nurse missed the port spot. In the moment where the needle entered my skin I shot up straight, kick my right leg out, and tried to remain still while wincing in pain... while I heard "Oops, I missed." It was definitely not something you want to hear as a person was sticking a large needle into your chest. It was definitely not something you want to feel either. It was extremely painful. It was the first time I had ever been stabbed feeling completely and utterly hurt. So much so that my right leg took an immediate kick out just missing the nurses chair. There was no stopping that leg... it was a guttural reaction. Bring it... less please!

Afterwards, I gladly left the blood work area and met back up with my friend. I was extremely glad to have the distraction and company because I was still shaking from the pain. I also knew that my chest was going to hurt long after chemotherapy, because any time I have a challenging needle experience I pay for it later too.

Once back in the treatment area, I got to have some fun. I step backwards on the scale where the nurse tried to peer around my junk in the trunk to see my weight. Now a joke with me and all the nurses! I got to once again break or mess up the blood pressure arm cuff. I have no idea why, but my arms must repeal the blood pressure machine. For some reason my giant cancer arms were so massive and amazingly strong that the blood pressure machine cannot handle them. I call them my "cancer arms"... made of cancer strength and bound to break blood pressure arm cuffs!!


It's a bird... It's a plane... It's CancerArm!!


The nurse and I discussed my new or newly developing symptoms. I got some medicine to help with the swelling from chemo. It forced me into the bathroom every twenty minutes to urinate. I have never gone so much in my life... it was crazy! We also discussed the ever growing nervous system issues... the list just keeps growing. In general, there was very little to do about it other than live with them. It was hard for my friend to hear all the side effects I listed and it was so endearing to see her upset for me. I think I am so used to them that I forget how bad they must seem and are. They are part of my every day and even if they are horrible, they are just woven into my life. I believe in making the best of any situation and I wake up every day with issues and go to sleep every night with issues, but I refuse to let them let me stop me!!!

Chemotherapy was fun. Yes, I can say that! We had a good time. Usually chemotherapy itself was not a bad experience. Some days can be more boring or quiet. Some days can be more exhausting or sickly. Some days can be more lively and fun. Today was a fun day! We got to hang out and talk for hours... and we did. Even though she was more prepared than I was with a bag of games and entertainment, we spent the time just talking about our kids, our lives, and general girl talk.


Having too many laughs & fun during chemo...


I felt very lucky have a friend drive me to treatment as well as hang out with me during the day. I was getting not only good company and laughs, but I was given a lot of love and attention. I am learning to take those things more and more... and finding out how much I enjoyed them! Not only did we survive chemotherapy we went out for a great lunch afterwards. I did sneak in a small cup of broccoli & cheddar soup - which I should not have done due to the constipation. Hey, you only live once! We ended up eating, talking, and laughing. She was going to make sure I was well taken care of and that I had eaten before side effects began to take effect. I have to say I am lucky to be cared for so generously... Bring It!

I took my pain medication while at lunch to help alleviate the foreseeable future. It helped because even as the mouth sores, pain, nausea, and nervous system got worse, I was managing it. I was managing it for a day or so until I went from that...



Me after chemo & lunch...


To me dealing with a very sick child while handling my own illnesses.


A very sick little girl was on my hands... with a sick mommy too!


There was a lot of vomiting and coughing going on and not from me. I was doing everything I could to avoid it... The Masked Mommy! But even though I was doing my best to avoid her symptoms, I was also having a lot of problems myself. My lymph node was a bit swollen and my throat sores more intense than normal. I was exhausted and beyond my normal fatigue. Plus, I had my normal aches and pains. However, mom duty was never a non-option. There was nothing that was going to stop me from holding my sick little girl. Momming out-ways risk any day of the week for me!!!

After a long night, my daughter was still coughing and my son complained of a sore throat. We were only two weeks into the school year and it seemed our house was already sick. All four of us went to the doctor's office first thing to see if we could prevent any potential colds or illness coming my way.

Too late... all of us had strep. I was shocked. Even my husband with no real symptoms had it. My son with mild symptoms had it. My daughter with odd symptoms had it. They just looked at me and said there was no option and did not even want to test me... I had to be treated. So, now our whole house was a strep infested nightmare. I changed my mind... Don't Bring It!


No need for a mask now... we were all sick!


Even though I was sick, I was still mom. Every mom knows that even when you were sick you were not really allowed to be sick. I will say that it did explain the additional and more intense side effects I had and I was upset that I did not figure it out sooner. Instead I was so exhausted by 5:30 pm I was half dead and unable to stay awake. I was doing all I could to manage some general strep disinfecting, helping sick kids, and trying to take care of myself.

Thank goodness for my dad! He was the only one available to come at such a short notice. He drove to and from here for two days to help out. We live about two hours away and he canceled his work schedule to be here. When he was here he went to the store, he watched the kids, and he really did what he could to help out. I was grateful for the assistance, because I was feeling pretty worn out!



Holy sickness... I felt bad!!


I was lucky that my temperature did not go above 100... at 100.2 I would have been calling the doctor. Anything around 100.2-100.4 would put me in the hospital. I did not want to be in the hospital!!! Each day I felt mildly better, but I was not by any means well. As I have learned in the past, being sick with a low immune system could be disastrous. I was going to pay for strep a lot longer than anyone else in the house. I was just glad that I was on antibiotics and only hoped that it would not affect my next treatment. Thank goodness for the Labor Day holiday... I got an extra day to get better!!! Ok... Stop Bringing It!


In my head...


As with most things in life, there never seems to be an easy. In the past couple of weeks we have had a job change, insurance change, school starting, and a family strep infection. Besides all of the chaos described above, I spent hours on the phone with my husband who was trying to expedite his new insurance quickly. I spent more time trying to get the pre-approval necessary for chemotherapy and finally turned it over to the cancer center after days of frustration. Later, I spent more time trying to fix insurance that was somehow started and canceled on the same day in error... knowing that more time will be needed to argue over the chemotherapy that I was just given was not covered appropriately. We had family craziness and illness and in general upside-down-ness that made me wonder if we had landed in some opposite world week. In the end, I am not looking for easy... maybe I am just looking for slightly easier!

I was still very lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be at home. Lucky to be! I was also really lucky to have so many wonderful people wanting to help me during the week. I was beyond grateful for the neighbor's driving kids home from school, meals brought by, and the general care and offerings of help given. It seemed everyone understood the risk and potential issues that being sick brought for me. And I was only at the beginning of the school year... who knows what the next few months will bring. Hopefully, less germs and illness! I know... I can hope!

Even though it did not keep strep at bay, my house is and has been covered in hand sanitizer products. The kids are constantly fussed at to be clean. However, I decided I should opt for a hazmat station to be placed at the front door for them to go through before they enter the house. It might be the only way I can get them disinfected!!

So much happened in a short amount of time. Some of it so stressful. Some of it really taxing. Some of it good. In the end, I just had to focus on what I needed to do to make it through, as well as put what I need to do in the forefront. A concept I have a hard time doing. Usually, I am so focused on what others need that I get lost in the decision. I have to constantly remind myself I am in chemotherapy and some of the limitations it brings... I guess I tend to forget!!! 



"There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, 
comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” 
- Erma Bombeck



Episode Reference: Landslide, Fleetwood Mac song
or
Landslide, Dixie Chicks song 

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About Amy Brock

Amy Brock is a cancer fighter and survivor. Diagnosed with Infiltrating Breast Cancer at 38 she has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, and other procedures since 2013. Post treatment she has been diagnosed with lymphedema, chemo-induced neuropathy and bone degeneration in her back, as well as other issues including dysphagia, bilateral hearing loss, and arthritis. From being completely healthy, to having a variety of issues, Amy began blogging about her experiences as a way to help others. Read more about finding humor in the craziness of cancer at her blog www.tatawarrior.com Amy is the mother of two children and has worked for various non-profit agencies. In addition, she is a fine artist creating works in multiple mediums which can be seen at www.amybrock.com

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