Taking Down Cancer: First Treatment Cycle in the Bag

Treatment two. Check. Four more to go!

My first cycle of treatment is in the books and aside from a couple days of feeling ‘meh’ due to nausea-like symptoms and a weird day last week of low energy, it hasn’t been too shabby.

With that very general synopsis of my last three weeks, here’s a longer rundown with a little more specifics. (I’m not sure if people with NHL will ever come here for advice/motivation but I’ll try to format this for those people as well.)

The First Week

  • They broke up my treatment into two days in order to see how I responded to them. I assume some people could have a bad reaction on the first dose. I did pretty well but did get real sleepy on Day 1 when they gave me the Benadryl and the anti-nausea medicine. Day 1 was a little Rituxan and the Rest of R-CHOP. Day two was all Rituxan. Both treatment sessions were about 4-5hours including blood tests and other delays and whatnot.
  • On Wednesday morning I received a Neulasta shot which helps keep my white blood cell count up. (Also, this cost $17,000 *mind blown*)
  • I luckily didn’t feel bad after the treatments. I think I’d call it a little fogginess but nothing too bad.
  • Then on Wednesday, the nausea feelings hit me but I never threw up. I made it to work but eventually left early because one of the two anti-nausea meds didn’t work. The other one did, thank god and I was able to eat normally that evening. Thursday and Friday I took the meds just to stay on top of things. (Evey person I’ve talked to in the medical field has said staying on top of pain/nausea/whatever is huge so it doesn’t overcome you.)
  • Ever since the first Saturday after treatment, I’ve felt great! I’ve been to the gym a couple of times to walk on the treadmill (I’m up to 1.25 miles after work), I’ve jumped rope, and done other low key exercises. I’m waiting until January to start lifting again.

The Second Week

  • This is the week they said I’d feel the worst as my white blood cells would drop and I’d feel less than ideal… All I got was a little runny nose. Big victory.
  • The end of this week I went hiking out in the Superstitions. Don’t worry, we probably only did 4-5 miles and it was mostly flat and low-key. But damn did it feel good to get out and about.
  • No other real news this week (which I think is a good sign).
  • I ate normally and have no dietary restrictions.
  • I met with a Young Adult Lymphoma specialist at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. She was awesome and gave us some good info and resources. Even though I’m not getting treatment at Mayo, it’s real nice to have them in my back pocket in case things turn for the worse (but let’s not go there). We learned she consulted with my doc on a treatment plan as I have this weird Hodgkin’s/Non-Hodgkins mix called (drumroll please) “The Grey Zone.” (If you’re wondering why I’m not at Mayo full-time, that would have delayed chemo at least a week and my treatment office is literally (dictionary definition) across the street from my work.

The Third Week

  • Started the week of really good. Even tried doing some push-ups (five). Nothing hurt, so I did five more the next morning… And then later that day, Wednesday, I had super low energy and my chest hurt.
  • But then I went out to our company holiday party and bowled a 140+ game so I’m not sure if that makes me crazy or a robot but it is what it is.
  • I hiked again! This time I did a 9-mile loop out in the Superstitions. I was pretty zonked afterward but the next day I didn’t feel anything other than the usual hiking soreness – which I had missed oh so much.
  • When I told the nurse I couldn’t tell if she was angry or impressed but couldn’t show it. Or absolutely shocked because I feel I’m one of the younger patients in the place.

  • I also went for it and shaved my head. I’d been getting really annoyed everything I rubbed my head that hair would come out so the obvious step was to get rid of the hair. We had a mini party. The support you all have shown me has been incredible. You’re all rockstars.

How the Second Treatment Went

  • To be blunt, not good. The four hours there was fine but after eating lunch I passed out for five hours before suffering through nausea-like symptoms the rest of the night. Merry Christmas Eve to me, huh? Christmas Day wasn’t much better but the symptoms were much less severe which allowed me to eat some food. This is the part of the cycle where I don’t have much of an appetite but when I do I try to eat as much as I can to make up everything else.

Some Facts about Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

(From MD Anderson Cancer Center)

  • 66,000 people will be diagnosed with NHL
  • Around 95% of those cases will be adults around 60  years old (it appears I am not the target audience for this show)

January 14th is the next treatment with a PT Scan scheduled for the Friday before which will give us a good idea of how far the tumor has retreated/been killed.