Chemo... Part II.

Prepping Cold Caps.

Prepping Cold Caps.

Round two was much like round one, but with a little less chaos. This time it was just myself and my husband, and he was doing the cold cap work. So, we still had some chaos, but with just the two of us, it was a little more peaceful. I felt for him, needing to check temperatures, rotate caps, make sure they were cold but not too cold... sitting on dry ice, but with protection, etc. 

We drove down in the morning with back windows down and a cooler full of dry ice and cold caps. Took a walk in the parking lot before heading upstairs. Once upstairs, we got settled, the nurse took my weight then started the IV. Turns out I don't have great veins for an IV when it is an IV for chemo. This was the first day my nurse and I discussed a port... but with only two more rounds left it seemed kind of silly to get a port placed. So, we decided to power on for the last two. 

At the end of the infusion I still had four hours of cold capping. They were nice enough to give us an exam room to hang out in for the four hours, but it was not comfy or relaxing, at all. I was definitely questioning my attempt to save my hair. I wasn't sure it was worth it, that is for sure. 

Scarf time.

Scarf time.

The next few days went pretty much like the first round. My breathing was a little bit tighter this time, and the fatigue was definitely stronger. My hair was also shedding, a LOT. I started to have some pretty serious balding spots. By day 6 after the second infusion I had decided to wear a scarf like a headband to cover the bald spots on top. 

Then, on day 10 post second infusion, I had a great day at work after a big set of presentations. I came home and got changed for the afternoon and evening. Took a nap, had a snack and was enjoying a nice dinner with my husband. Then... bam... hives. On my head, my face, my neck and shoulders. They were enormous hives... like I've never seen. 

Benadryl was to the rescue and I went straight to bed. Well, I woke up in the morning with hives from head to toe, with a lot of swelling. Breathing was a little tight, but mostly I was one big hive that itched something fierce. I took more Benadryl and e-mailed my doctor. It was a Saturday. She e-mailed me back right away and moved me to prednisone given that Benadryl was doing nothing for me. 

Prednisone. I took this as a kid for my asthma and I didn't love it. I was not happy I had to take it, but was happy that it would help the hives. This whole thing meant the next chemo was on pause until we knew the hives were gone, or at least much less severe and managed well. After a couple days, things were much better. Then, I saw my doctor a few days later and things were looking very good. We were going to change my regimen, for sure, as she and the entire pharmaceutical team agreed that the chance of severe allergic reaction was likely (anaphylactic shock was all I needed to hear to be convinced we had to move to something new).

Hives... hives, everywhere.

Hives... hives, everywhere.

Things were looking good. Then we drove home and by the next morning I was in full hive mode again and my entire right arm was swollen up to the armpit, the left was swollen to the upper arm. I was worried I'd now triggered lymphedema, and the itching was unbearable. I e-mailed my doctor, with pictures, and she immediately prescribed a second round of prednisone and cancelled the next chemo round, which put me a week behind schedule, in the best case.

It was in this moment that I... Lost. My. Shit. I was uncomfortable, unable to do any activities because it made the hives worse, and it was a hot summer, which didn't help. I felt trapped and my hair was falling out in big clumps. I told my husband we were done with the cold caps and asked him to get them ready to ship back. I then got pissed off at my hives and just had a pissed off day. I took the first pill in the new round of prednisone, then called my friend and asked her to come over and shave my head. I poured her a glass of wine, me a glass of sparkling water and the prednisone kicked in and with every lock of hair that fell I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. It went from being the worst day to the best day! 

Those cold caps... they were NOT for me. They made me feel less in control, not more, and they limited my activities and stressed me out on infusion day. I am so glad I gave them up (but also glad I tried)! 

Because I was allergic to the Taxotere drug, I was moved to a new cocktail of Abraxane and Carboplatin. Abraxane was to be administered weekly for six weeks and Carboplatin would be every three weeks. Turns out Abraxane is pretty much the same drug as Taxotere, but the delivery chemical is very different. For Taxotere it is a synthetic material and with Abraxane, it is an animal fat. 

Now, as you can see, I'm would now have six infusions, instead of two, so it was clear that I'd need a port. So, as soon as the hives got managed (thankfully, it was only a week delay), I did have my first new drug cocktail, via IV and then got a port a couple days after that. My nurse helped me see the beauty of the port (and my arm with blown veins also made it clear). She took me through the entire procedure of getting a port, and told me all the things that would be easier if I had one. I was sold! 

First chemo post cold caps.

First chemo post cold caps.

Also, I should note, this was the first infusion with no cold caps and it was glorious. I got to relax, get to know the nurses, spend a nice couple hours with my husband and just... be. The nurses both said they felt like they saw the real me that day, and they were right! 

With the new cocktail, I had similar symptoms for the few days after the infusion, but the Carboplatin increased my nausea quite a bit. But, no additional itching or swelling. The hives were still around (and according to my oncologist, might take months to really go away) but the prednisone did its job and my daily Zyrtec did keep them at bay. I was so thankful to have just a few patches at any given time.

So... I was well on my way to completing chemo. Still had 50% left to get through, but the new plan felt good. I was on the upswing, and ready to get my port in for the rest of the infusions! 

I never thought I'd be so happy to be able to get chemo again!