“Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up.”
Wow! My first week of chemotherapy has come and gone just like that. A lot has happened during the first week of treatment, so I’m going to break down each day below followed by a summary of the first week.
Day 1 – December 16, 2013
The day before I began treatment, my mom came into town to join my dad and I for the first couple days. It was definitely reassuring to have both of my parents by my side for my first treatment. The night before, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous and couldn’t get any sleep. So many thoughts went through my head. I tossed and turned – Kept wondering how my body was going to react and how I was going to be affected. The next thing I know, my mom is in my room waking me up to get ready.
Getting ready and the ride to the hospital was a blur – Very unemotional. My parents kept asking me how I was doing and I would respond with one-word answers: Fine, good, okay… The hospital is always a scary place, it made me feel out of place. I felt so out of place because everywhere I looked it felt like I was in high school all over again – Everything was brand new to me. I know I looked like I was the “new kid” because a lot of people were staring at me. Most of it was probably because of the sheer fact that I was so young compared to the majority of the other patients. After getting my paperwork and figuring out where I needed to be, it was time to pick a chair in the “Infusion Center” to start my treatment.
The first day was going to be the longest day of the week due to learning the process and procedures for each medicine I was going to receive. So much was going on at once – From learning about everything, meeting the nurses who would be taking care of me and trying to get comfortable in this little pod-area.
Before starting treatment, the first step was for the nurses to explain everything and then try out my portcath to get some lab work (aka blood work). While accessing my portcath, one of the nurses gave me a couple of booklets to look over in order to review the potential chemo side effects. With all of the paperwork I received, it felt like I was about to start studying for a midterm. The following side effects I would potentially encounter were: A chance of itchy skin, taste bud loss, sores in the mouth, lung damage and the list goes on and on! After getting over the fact that chemo was pretty much the most awful thing ever, it was time to begin treatment.
My first treatment lasted from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and it consisted of a bunch of pre-medication, IVs and fluids prior to receiving my first bag of chemo. Starting the treatment was a lot smoother then I expected. I am definitely grateful for making the decision to get my portcath so that I would avoid using my veins over and over during treatment. The pre-medication and fluids did not change the way I felt, except for making me use the bathroom a million times more than I normally would. Speaking of the bathroom, when I have to get up to go to the restroom or anywhere else, I would have to unplug my pump machine and have it walk with me. I definitely felt like I was a prisoner when having this thing around – It felt like punishment. While I received my first rounds of pre-medication and fluids, I was updating my website and social media to announce to the public for the first time that I had testicular cancer. Although I feel very confident, it is still very scary to be so vulnerable with something like this.
The support I received that day was something I never ever expected! I was overwhelmed with positivity, support, encouragement and prayers! The messages, post, comments, mentions, etc… proved to me that I made the right decision by posting my story to the world. The support helped me become stronger and more confident in myself – That I am going to come out on top of cancer. After responding to as many people as I could, it was time for me to receive my first bag of chemo.
The first bag of chemo came in like a burning sensation throughout my chest and I was struck with fatigue. After getting past the first couple of sensations, the burning subsided and I was left to sleep off the fatigue. The chemo bags came in one right after the other – That day I received two bags of chemo (Cisplatin & Etoposide) and then I finished my day off with some fluids to flush out my kidneys.
Overall, the first day was a success and it was time for me to leave the hospital. I didn’t have any major side effects. I got all of my questions answered that day and felt more comfortable about the rest of the week to come.
Day 2 – December 17, 2013
I got a lot of rest after my first day and it was time to go back to the hospital bright and early for Day 2. This time, I had more of an understanding of what to expect, so I was more comfortable and with the nurses as well. When talking to one of the nurses that brought me from the front desk to the pod areas, she expressed that she would be able to upgrade my room to a bigger room so that both my mom and dad could sit with me throughout the treatment. It was rare for me to receive that room because it was clearly stated on the first day that I would only be allowed to have one person with me and have limited visitors since there is such a confined space in the Infusion Center. This brightened my day right off the bat! I now had a full bed and more privacy when receiving my treatment.It’s funny how the little things can alter your whole outlook for the day.
Day 2 was going to be different than the first day, for I was to receive an extra chemo bag (Bleomycin). At first, it was administered in a small dose so that we could see how my body would react to it. The treatments to come were very similar to the first day – But with the Bleomycin added, it took a toll on my body and it pretty much knocked me out for the day. I had a “twilight zone” type feeling for the rest of the second day.
The treatment on the second day was just as smooth as the first day. No major complications or anything to really worry about besides the fatigue. The support from my website and social sites continued to overwhelm and inspire me. Up until now, it still blows me away with the number of people that have reached out – People that I know, people I don’t, etc…
Day 3 – December 18, 2013
Day 3 was just as good. By this day, my parents and I had an established routine: Get up, drink a protein shake, get ready, pick up breakfast and drive to the hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital: Check-in, say hello to the awesome front desk nurses, talk to our friend who kept hooking me up with my private room and then proceed to treatment.
While going through chemo, I was conscious about what I’ve seen on TV and have always thought that I was supposed not do much of anything and just rest. That day was still just as good as the previous days, but in the morning I noticed something significant. My face was a bit puffy and fuller than what I’m used to in the morning. I didn’t continue to think much of it since I was tired – So I put it off. The treatments during the third day went a lot quicker because I did not have as much pre-medicine and I only received two bags of chemo.
Then something out of the ordinary happened. By the time treatment was over, I was about to post a picture of myself – But before I did, I got a better look at my face. I really noticed that my face was HUGE! (See photo for comparison)
I definitely freaked out a little bit on my parents because I had asked them earlier that day if they thought my face was swollen. After solidifying that my face was indeed swollen, we had to come back up to the Infusion Center to talk to the nurses about it.
My face was swollen due to the amount of fluids I received from a certain steroid medicine (from my pre-medication) and from laying down so much. Since I had no pain, my swollen face wasn’t a serious condition. All I had to do was limit my time laying fully down and be sure to walk around more during my treatments.
Day 3 was a success despite the swollen face and zombie-like state from the fatigue. Though it wasn’t a lively visit, a highlight of my day was having my first visitor.
Day 4 – December 19, 2013
Thursday was one of the best treatment days. I continued to receive amazing support from so many people – It carried me through my zombie-like state. By this day, the treatments were similar to the ones before and I continued to have no major complications. My body seemed to be handling the treatment fairly well. Also on that day, the nurses we had become friends with were awesome – They kept hooking me up with the sweet room with the bed.
During Day 4, I had a bunch of people lined up to come and visit me. I was a bit worried because when I had my first visitor, I was out of it – I was worried I would be like that again around my visitors. The only downside of chemo treatment is the major fatigue that follows – Which makes me feel out of it for the rest of the day. With the amount of friends that stopped by, I surprisingly was able to be more energetic and lively throughout my treatment despite the chemo bags. Since I had four people stop by, it allowed my mom to leave town and head back home.
Thursday was one of the best days because I made sure to not sleep as much, sit up more (to avoid another swollen face), walked around a bit more and had more energy due to the awesome visitors I had throughout the day. The support from this website was also still pouring in – It kept me busy and I was able to respond to more people.
Day 5 – December 20, 2013
The last treatment day of the week! Thank God! I was very optimistic about the day since I was expecting more visitors to come by and see me. I was determined to maintain my energy level throughout the day like I did Thursday. Everything was on track that day – I did my normal morning routine and was ready to tackle this treatment.
I had about five visitors right off the bat. I had co-workers, old college friends, new friends and people that drove a couple of hours just to visit me. They brought a bunch of “F Cancer” sweets, gifts and Gatorade! From there, that day was guaranteed to be awesome! The treatments flew by and I was able to walk around more and actually have a bit of fun with all of the visitors. It was definitely the best day and a great way to end the chemo treatment for the week.
I left the hospital on such a great note, but little did I know that it would all come crashing down. When I got home, I developed a serious case of the hiccups. Laugh all you want, but the hiccups I had wouldn’t allow me to intake any fluid or foods. I immediately searched online for remedies. I desperately tried anything and everything – From a spoon full of peanut butter, a spoon full of sugar, holding my breath, lying down, etc… Nothing was working!
It went on for about four plus hours – I started to get worried because the most important thing to do while on chemo is to stay hydrated. I was beginning to feel dehydrated so my dad called the doctor. Turns out, hiccups are a common side effect from chemo. Now, I am a proud owner of a hiccup prescription that works like magic!
The first week was finally over! Everything went quite well despite the minor set backs – The swollen face, the hiccups and some lower back pain here and there. The first week was an overall success. I did not experience any nausea, fever or any other pain. I am so happy I decided to get my treatments done at Levine Cancer Institute in Uptown Charlotte. The facility is absolutely amazing and the staff was also very helpful and just as amazing!
Notes that I took away from this first week:
- Listen to my body – Do not try to do anything past my limit. If I feel up to it, then do it – Such as walking around, going out, hanging out with friends, etc…
- Intake as much fluid as possible. My goal is to have over 100+ ounces or more of water and Gatorade a day.
- Have more visitors. Having visitors throughout the day helps me get through chemo – It makes the experience so much better!
To everyone that has reached out to me in any fashion – You guys are truly amazing and I appreciate you all SO MUCH! My next post will be about my first weekend off and my “off week” treatment. If you have any questions feel free to leave comments or shoot me an email.