I’m Sick

Yep. Working around sick people finally got me. I’m (finally) writing an update from the comfort of my couch, all bundled up (in a heavy coat, sweats and uggs), pounding fluids, Vitamin C, zicam, and yes, i started antibiotics (despite knowing this is most likely viral etiology). You see, i’m suppose to have chemo tomorrow and i REALLY just want to get it done, so i’m doing everything i can to feel better so we can start cycle 5 of chemo (out of 8) and not have it be put off a week (which would really mess up things considering my birthday is next week).

I can’t believe i actually want to have chemo tomorrow. That is the complete opposite of how i’ve been feeling for the last few rounds….i even told Carson that he might have to drag me into chemo kicking and screaming because i DO NOT like it. And to be honest, cycle 4 was really really hard on me mentally. I had chemo one week before Christmas and had NO holiday spirit and i just sort of spiraled into a dark place. I won’t go into details but it was bad and i’m glad i’m not in that place anymore. Yes, i know i should see a therapist. Yes, i have one but with the holidays, it was hard to get together. But 2020 i know i need to work on my mental health……step 1…..I’m attempting to work on finding Joy in all that i do, including chemo. So bring on cycle 5. I can do it and i’m going to be ok.

It’s funny that it takes an illness (another illness) to get me to slow down. I’ve spent the last 12 weeks (4 chemo cycles) taking minimal time off and working as much as i can….not going overboard, but just to keep myself occupied. But working at a hospital comes with risks….and working around sick people means that i can get sick too. I need to make an effort to wear a mask AT ALL TIMES (which i rarely do). So now……i’m slowing down (for today) and hope, and pray, that i can get chemo tomorrow.

I started chemo

I forgot to write an update 1.5 weeks ago when i started chemo. It really wasn’t that i forgot…..i got the chemo and then felt like i had been hit by a bus. Then 6 days later i felt better and went back to work and now, 10 days after i started it, i’m finally updating my blog. Such is life.

I am currently doing 6 months (8 rounds) of CAPEOX. That is Capecitabine (oral chemo) and Oxaliplatin (iv chemo). The IV chemo is an infusion at Hollings Cancer Center once every three weeks and then the oral chemo is something i take for 14 days, twice a day. Then i don’t take the oral chemo for days 15-21. And then the cycle starts all over again. I’m ALMOST done with my first round of the oral chemo (three more days), so i’m hoping the 7 days of no chemo at all will be GLORIOUS!

The oral chemo is the same one that i was on during radiation. It makes me nauseated. It can cause hand/foot sores (i’m trying to keep them moisturized and work out a lot to keep the blood flow going to them). I did ok on it the last time…..this time, it is just a lot longer time being on the medicine, so i hope the side effects are minimal. The IV chemo is a beast. Side effects are cold sensitivities (like not being able to drink anything but room temp liquids and requiring gloves when going into the fridge) and neuropathy (tingling in hands/feet). To combat both side effects, i am doing “icing” of my mouth, and hands and feet. I ate ice during my infusion and put cold packs in my socks and held a cold pack in my hands. I think it worked pretty well for the first infusion (although it scared my chemo nurse a little bit) and in the days after chemo i was able to eat icecream and i did not have any cold issues with my hands or feet. There is a journal article that came out this year (Journal of National Comprehensive Cancer Network, April 2019) that shows cancer patients who kept ice chips in their mouth during their oxaliplatin infusion reported that they subsequently developed less cold sensitivity in their mouths and could eat and drink with less discomfort compared to patients who did not keep ice in their mouth. I thought it was worth a try and i’m going to continue to do it as long as i can. 🙂

The IV chemo really kicked my butt. For the first few days, i spent most of the day sleeping. Slowly but surely i started feeling better after a couple of days and as i’m writing this, i’m feeling decent. Not 100% (not sure i will ever feel that way while doing this 6 months of hell) but good enough to work out and eat what i can and feel like a normal person. I’ll take it.

I waited….you shouldn’t

So i’m going to be honest about my diagnosis, which is really hard to do because this is the thing that crushes me when it comes to my cancer story. But if me being honest helps ONE person, then there is a reason why i am going through this.

I had colorectal cancer symptoms for over two years.

There it is. I shook my head as i wrote that. I also can see people’s eyes when i tell them that. And i hear “Oh Lara….” when i say it. I had symptoms for over two years. And i didn’t go to my doctor about it. Because why would a young, healthy DOCTOR believe she had cancer. I thought i was stressed. I thought i had IBS. Cancer was not a thought in my mind.

I started having blood in my stool (very little) when i was studying for an exam 2.5 years ago. I was stressed out to the max and figured it was that. Then the blood went away once i finished studying and life was normal. See, it was the stress (that’s what i told myself). The blood came back a couple months later but was very little and then it was gone again. I never had constipation or pain and being a physician, we see blood in stool ALL THE TIME. Guess what it usually is? Not cancer. And so my symptoms went on like that for two years, but got a little worse over the past holiday season. So when i saw my PCP this February i told her and she urged me to get a colonoscopy.

I sometimes go down the path of “what if i had gone earlier?” What stage would i be? Or if had gone right when it started, would it just have been a pre-cancerous polyp that was removed? And alternatively, what if i waited even longer? I was (well still am) a busy physician who felt like i didn’t have the time to take TWO days off for a colonoscopy. My life would be so different when i think about all of these things. But i cannot dwell on that part. I cannot change my past and can only control my future. So here i am, battling Stage 3 cancer, for better or for worse.

So i’m once again sharing symptoms because Colorectal cancer (cancer in the colon or rectum) first develops with few, if any, symptoms. Please be proactive and talk to your doctor and don’t wait like i did. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  1. A Change in Bowel Habits, including diarrhea, constipation, a change in the consistency of your stool or finding your stools are narrower than usual
  2. Persistent Abdominal Discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain and/or feeling full, bloated or that your bowel does not empty completely
  3. Rectal Bleeding- finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  4. Weakness or Fatigue- can also accompany losing weight for no known reason, nausea or vomiting

Additionally, the American Cancer Society recently recommended that adults without a family history should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. This is a change as of this year- it use to be 50, so take note!