Week 4-5 of Chemo: The Good The Bad The Ugly

This is gonna be a long post. I’ve missed two weeks. Word vomitting here is mainly for my sake, sanity, and heart space healing. I’m happy if you follow along and not offended if you don’t, however, my hope is to always leave with you some good nuggets you can use or you can share to help others.

Week 4: The harder the fall, the higher the bounce.

There must be some truth to the saying, “the harder you fall, the higher you’ll bounce.” I can attest to this. The 4th week was my bounce. As you recall, the 3rd week of treatment was really difficult in all realms and aspects of my being. My body, my mind, and even my spirit took a beating. No amount of positive thoughts, love or prayers seemed to help, but I kept accepting them and believing that they were helping. I arrive to the infusion center with the best amount of presence and clear sky mind as I could muster up for I didn’t want to remember last week’s experience. I had a different nurse this time. She was kind and I could sense she was very compassionate and caring and talked to me about the needles. I told her it hurt really bad last week and I couldn’t move my leg for awhile. She proceeded to tell me that maybe the other nurse used a bigger needle. She checked out my tush and said she will use the smallest needle so it won’t hurt as bad. She was right. Just a pinch and we were done.

I was surprised to get home with no symptoms, slept well and woke up feeling like my old self again. Felt strong and alive enough to take a chance and take a drive to the ocean. I haven’t been brave enough to go for a ride further than the doctor’s office for fear of nausea and getting car sick. I left the house armed with ginger tea, essential oils, blackberries, strawberries, kiwi, dry cereal and a barf bag. It was a 45 min trek to Half Moon Bay, the lesser of the windy roads. After 20 minutes in the car, I started going thru my arsenal of tools one by one cause dag-nab-it, I really wanted to go to the ocean. When we got there it felt so damn good to breathe in the ocean air and I even treated myself to a delicious, non-cancer related diet and indulged in a sandwich. Not just any sandwich, but a turkey, avocado on olive, walnut bread. I even ate olive oil rosemary potato chips. It may not sound like much of an indulgence to you, but when you’ve been eating plain, bland salads, steam veggies and wheatgrass shots all day, sinking your teeth into an olive-walnut bread, IT IS an indulgence.


Lessons are always lurking around for us to learn.

Of course before I could say “get in my belly,” I could always count on being graced by a lesson or two that needs to learned. It’s ironic that the guy who made my scrumptious sandwich was also such an asshole. Lucky for him, I was high on ocean air.

The protocol is to tell your sandwich maker what you don’t want on your sandwich from their list of condiments. I see onions and that’s the first thing I tell him because I’m allergic to the smell of raw onions so I needed to make sure those didn’t make it into my sandwich. After that I proceeded with “no cheese, and oh no mayo please.” Turned out he already had spread the mayo on the slice of bread. He showed me the mayo’ed bread in a very annoyed gesture. I said, “that’s ok, no worries.” And he still proceeded to give me a bit of attitude and mumbled “you should’ve said no mayo first. It’s first on the list of condiments.”

I really wanted to blurt out to him, “look asshole, I just had a dose of chemo yesterday and I’m a bit in a daze so pardon me if I didn’t go down your list in order. Actually you assumed I was done telling you my order instead of listening to my full order before you started making my sandwich.  Could you kindly f*cking get a new slice of bread for me without mayo and just charge me for the wasted slice? And while you’re throwing out that piece of bread, you can toss your lack of customer service and asshole attitude into the trash with it.” Since it was such a trek to make it to the ocean, I decided to not be a be-ach 😉 plus I noticed there was a kid behind me and opted to let it go and ignore him cause I was not gonna let him ruin my few hours of fresh air outside of the house. Lessons! I’ll leave it here for you to decide who really needed to learn a lesson today. I knew my lesson was to not get all worked up about a bit of mayo. It wasn’t gonna kill me. Thankfully, I recognized that and it also got me thinking, what if we all wore a shirt with what ails us or what we’re suffering from? Would people be more nice and compassionate? It’s kinda sad to think that people are more prone to being nice and compassionate when they learn of what you’re suffering from.

The higher you fly, the harder your fall.

Ocean therapy is the best kinda therapy. The rest of week 4 was nothing short of awesome. Finally more good days to be had, filled with so much kindness from all the non-asshole-sandwich makers in my life. People making home cooked food, flowers, gestures, messages, visits, donations, and the un-ending prayers and support. But of course, there’s a flip side and some truth to the saying, “the higher you fly, the harder your fall.” I can attest to this. The beginning of the 5th week was my fall. It felt like diving into a cement pool. Blood results came back with a mere 12% drop in hormone levels. I was so shocked, disappointed, angry, and confused. How could it possibly be? I felt amazing and there were no trace of chemo side effects or growing tumor effects. I thought all this positive changes meant positive results. To make matter’s worse, I get the dreaded call from my nurse at end of day Friday. She is telling me the bad news and that we need to switch drugs. She proceeded with her procedure of telling me how she’s gonna have to go thru hoops to get the drug ordered, insurance cleared and appointment rescheduled, especially since all the offices are closing soon, and “Oh, if we can’t get your insurance cleared, you’ll have to sign a waiver that you may have to pay out of pocket of some $3-$5K when you go in to get your infusion on Monday, that is if we can get the drug by Monday.” All I heard was “blah blah blah” as I was still shocked by the number 33,275 and how big it still was. I was hoping it was somewhere in the 20,000s or lower instead. She could not spend any more time trying to console me and I understood. She was doing her job the best she can and for my sake, she didn’t want me to skip a week of treatment. Before I hung up, I asked her to move my infusion date to mid week and firmly asked her to order another blood test to see if the numbers will drop over the weekend.

Be your own advocate.

No one knows your body better than anyone else. Be your own advocate. Don’t take everything the doctors say as truth. I feel like gone are the days when there was a real patient-doctor relationship. Perhaps it’s more convenient on both parties that we do as they say. It surely saves time for the doctors so they can see more patients. As a patient, it saves you time and less work for you to do in trying to research your condition and available treatments and trying to filter out who’s telling the truth and which doctors are the best. It’s so much easier to leave it to the pros, especially if you’re ill. We’ll I’m not that kind a patient. I need conversation, different view points, what if’s, how about this or what about that type of plan.

The nurse agreed to let me take another blood test on Tuesday before we decide what type of chemo I will get on Wednesday. Over the weekend and in the next 4 days, I amped up on my holistic care, more wheat grass, more greens, more rest, more prayers, more essential oils, more exercise, more lemongrass, more ginger, more clay masks and I added in dry skin brushing and infrared sauna.

Have you ever tried dry skin/body brushing? It’s painfully good, energizing and detoxifying. The process not only helps shed dead skin and encourage new cell renewal so your skin looks and feels amazing, but I was more interested in it’s assist in improving vascular blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. Stimulating your lymphatic system, helps it release toxins and since it exfoliates and opens your pores, it allows your skin to breathe!! You know how important breathing is to me. So how do you do it?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. You brush your body while the skin is dry, typically before you shower in the morning. Select a firm, natural bristle brush with a handle.Follow this particular pattern:

  • Start at your feet. Brush towards the heart.
  • For example, you may brush the length of your shin bone 10x towards the direction of your heart. Cover the entire foot and lower leg, the front, back and sides unless of course your ticklish at the soles of your feet like me.
  • Do the same on your upper leg. Be careful not to accidentally brush your private area, unless of course that’s your thing.
  • Then if you feel like it, brush the entire length of your leg several times over again.
  • Then brush the length of your arm, starting from your hands to your shoulder. Pay extra attention under the tri-cep area towards the armpit and sides of your rib cage. Remember I mentioned in the armpit clay mask post that lymph nodes are abundant in that area?
  • Then do your glutes, lower back, upper back, and lastly your chest and shoulders.

At first it may feel prickly and uncomfortable. Your skin may flush pink and feel “zingy” and invigorated. If it turns red or hurts, don’t brush too hard or do shorter, fewer, smoother strokes. Pay attention to during and after. Moisturize after you shower.

Here’s an idea… add the following essential oils into a 4oz glass spray bottle filled with filtered water, shake and spray onto face and body right after your shower. Feels like a spa!!

  • 2 drops geranium
  • 2 drop frankincense
  • 1 drop myrhh
  • 2 drops lavender
  • 2 drops grapefruit

The personal hell hot tent.

I found this thing on far-infrared spa as an alternative/complimentary treatment. These dry type of saunas omits infrared light waves that create heat in the body. As it heats the body from the inside out, it simulates a fever like environment. The idea is to trigger your immune system to kick in high gear, cause you to sweat, release stored toxins and help your kidneys and liver rid of these toxins. So I gave it a try. I tried the one pictured above which is a portable, concentrated tent-like personal space with special heaters and also the traditional wooden ones where your whole body is enclosed in the space and there are special light panels all around you. I preferred the tent version as it felt hotter faster and I prefer to have my head out in the open so I could breathe better.  I slept like baby that night.

I told you so!

Come Tuesday, I took the blood test and anxiously waited for the results. Had an appointment that day with the nurse and doc to discuss the results and what the next treatment was gonna be. Within the four days, my levels dropped another 20% making the weekly total to 32%. The doc still wanted to push the new drug because he saw it as a sign of plateau already but he also understood my concerns with the new drug and felt it was safe to give the current drug another chance. I was happy to hear that he was ok with this approach. I left the office with a satisfying “I told you so” feeling.

The 5th week – what goes up must go down and what goes down must go up.

It’s true. This is basic phenomenon in physics. I was down, then I went up, then I went down, so this 5th week must be an up. It sure was. I took the 5th cycle of chemo on Wednesday very well and my body felt great. So great that I decided to go ahead and get back to teaching for the weekend. I was in the middle of leading a yoga teacher training when I got diagnosed. Once treatment started, I postponed the training for almost a month. I really didn’t know how I was going to get through the long hours of YTT as it was scheduled to start the day after I got my injection. Many people were worried for me. I was worried too but thought if I needed to curl up in a corner, I’d cancel the weekend. Going with the flow…

Cake always makes boo-boos better.

Thurs evening YTT… It was so nice to see everyone again and happy that no one was sick. I was more afraid of being exposed to someone being sick more than not having enough energy to lead the training because the immune system is often compromised right after chemo treatment. I enjoyed the evening and survived with minimal issues. The highlight of the evening ended with surprising two of the yogis with birthday cake. I love surprising people 🙂

The power of passion and being of service.

Everyone brought so much light, energy and love that definitely lifted my spirits and injected me with extra strength and energy. Friday night was equally fun and reminded how much I love my job and how much I’ve missed teaching again. Saturday was our marathon day. 12 hours scheduled and I still took it hour by hour. By the end of the day, I not only shocked myself but also everyone else. No time to nap, to rest, to whine or cry. I thanked my body profusely that evening, “thank you dear body for being strong, for supporting me and being relentless in seeing that this body can still be the vessel to hold my spirit so that I may continue my work and help others.” I laid down that evening full of gratitude and was once again reminded that when you do what you love, time becomes timeless, pain becomes non- existent, strength and energy gets magnified and then when you add in self-less service into the mix, your own shit goes away. Even something as heavy as cancer goes away. It’s a beautiful exchange of energy. I slept like a baby.

I was determined to end the weekend strong and successful. I’m so proud of all the trainees and the progress they’ve made. They surprised me with their passion, commitment and willingness to place their trust in my shaky, broken, and uncertain self.

By the end of the YTT weekend, I felt the next self-prescribed treatment that I needed was to get back into teaching. Doing what I love might just be the medicine I need to carry me through to the end of my treatment. When I’m in my element, I am everything but the girl with cancer. It felt so good. I’m not sure what this might look like. Maybe I only teach a few classes a week and not dive in full force yet. It sounds great and have to get over my fear of being exposed to so many people, many of whom often come to yoga to “sweat things off.” Hmmm.. I’ll have to reflect on this some more…

What goes up must go…

DOWN! Here we are once again on this roller coaster of ups and downs. Week 6. There must be some truth behind the number 6 having something to do with the devil. The worst of all the weeks, even worse than week 3. I was taken by surprise (not the fun birthday cake type of surprise) by my blood test results. My markers decreased by a whooping 3%! I felt angry, betrayed, defeated. DEFEATED! I worked so hard to stay the course, eat healthier than I’ve ever done, drank my lemongrass tea 4x a day, applied my essential oils every hour on the hour, sweated in the hot sauna daily, and made sure my heart and mind were pure and I prayed everyday. I even practiced unconditional love to the tumors responsible for this situation. I prayed, “Dear Divine, thank you for being my strength and for shining the light on this dark path that I need to walk through. Dear Body, thank you for working hard to help us heal. I trust you completely and promise to do my part so you can do your job well. Dear Trophoblasts, I’m thankful for the role you play in creation. Without your cells and your process, none of us would be here. Your contribution to life is important and needed. However, your work is done now. You don’t need to grow anymore. You’re free to go take a vacation. I suggest a beautiful tropical place like Maui. Go. Amen.”

The dreaded phone call…

I had nothing to say except “ok,” when I spoke with the nurse this past Thursday.

Nurse: “You’re numbers didn’t drop as much.”
Me: “ok, I saw.”
Nurse: “I ran it by the doc and if you recall, if your numbers didn’t show at least 10% drop from the last treatment, we will have to talk about switching the drug again.”
Me: “ok”
Nurse: “You gave it another chance last week and unfortunately you’re getting resistant to the drug and we prepared for this possible outcome last week. Luckily, the order for the new drug is still in the system and the infusion center is able to administer it tomorrow, Friday.”
Me: “ok”
Nurse: “You’re scheduled for 9:30am. If that still works, I’ll put it through.”
Me: “ok”
Nurse: “Ok, you’re all set. Call me if you have any questions tomorrow.”
Me: “ok”
Nurse: “take care and I’ll talk to you soon.”
Me: “ok.”

I literally had no words. I felt one part in denial and one part in acceptance and completely in defeat. I was angry at my body for beginning to like the chemo. It was suppose to clean up the chemo mess, not accept it and become resistant to it. I felt my prayers went into a black hole and the tumor cells laughing at me and my attempt to show it some love and worse, I heard the doc say, “I told you so.”

I cried, the whole day long into the night. I whined like a baby, “I don’t wanna go tomorrow. I don’t wanna switch chemo. I don’t wanna be strong anymore. I don’t wanna do this anymore.” I woke up with no gratitude for waking up. In fact, I hated the fact that I woke up the next morning. The present moment was not welcome and I whined, “I don’t wanna go!” My poor hubby tried the best he could to console me and talk some sense into me. I really felt like going out and eating all treats with sugar, stuff my face with mac and cheese and toast my wine glass cause doing everything opposite of that did not prove helpful. I figured I was gonna be sick. I was gonna lose my hair.  The chemo was gonna burn me from the inside out. I was gonna lose everything that I’ve worked so hard for. In a single IV drip, I was gonna have the rug pulled from underneath me. My fear was real, my insecurities were real and I was a real downer. Negative Nikki. You wouldn’t have wanted to be with me.

For better or for worse.

I don’t give my hubby enough credit and sometimes enough acknowledgement. He has been my rock. We’ve gone through some tough times during our relationship but this has been the toughest and he is the model of “for better or for worse.” It’s not often that I show my insecurities in front of him, let alone in front of all of you, and especially in front of the kids. It’s also rare that say I need help and even more rare to admit defeat. Defeat is hardly in my vocabulary because I typically see around defeat. I see another way, another option, another path. Not this time. Maybe it’s this up and down idea. It’s time for me to feel defeat. To feel rock bottom. To feel completely helpless and to feel completely negative. Nothing anyone said could stop my tears. At some point I felt he had nothing left to say except sit there and watch me cry. The more he sat there and let me cry, the more I cried. I was partly frustrated that he didn’t have anything helpful to say and partly glad he didn’t try to cheer me up.

The last thing I remember he told me, in hopes of helping me shift my perspective, when I decided to finally open up and pour my heart out to him, was “how do you know all the things you did didn’t work?” It stopped my whining and negative thinking of how everything I did was for nothing. I went on and on about how I subjected myself to wheatgrass, hot sauna, starving, and such a strict regimen for nothing. He said, “for all you know, all this stuff you did helped your numbers dropped instead of rise. It only dropped a thousand points and I know that’s not enough but it also didn’t rise. Can you imagine how you would feel at this point if it rose, especially since we now know that the chemo didn’t work at all. Maybe all the alternative stuff you did came to the rescue when the chemo stopped working. I believe it is and I believe in you.”

I of all people should know about shifting perspectives, about trusting and believing in oneself, about being your own cheerleader because no one else will do it better than you. It’s in my nature, so ingrained in me. It’s what I teach, what I preach and what I live. Well, newsflash. Even a super yogi, mom of the year, best BUFF there ever was still needs reminding. When you’re in your own shit, it’s difficult to see. For times like this, I am grateful for people who care enough to shine the light and call bullshit on me. So grateful.

And the final thing he said to me that helped me fall asleep was, “then take off your cape,” when I said, “I’m tired of being strong. I don’t want to be strong anymore.” No one has ever given me permission to “take off my cape.” NEVER. I love him for that. SO MUCH!

IV day…beginning of 6th cycle

Woke up still whining “I don’t want to go get chemo” more than being scared now. Just plain old didn’t want to do it! Got up and did it anyway.

The air is drab and depressing but he finds a way to make me laugh. Some of you have seen this post on FB. He says in his best mocking voice, “there really is an oil for everything.” If you’re into essential oils, you know how funny this is. It’s so true. I have an oil for everything. That morning I used grapefruit, balance and lavender. I really needed the refreshing and uplifting aroma of grapefruit and it pairs well with doterra balance blend, what I call the “stop crying” oil, and lavender, the relaxing lure. With the face mask, I created a personal diffuser with my three favs: lemon, lavender, peppermint; a drop of the trio blend in the mask creates an uplifting yet calming personal space. I even use this mask and trio when I take my dog for a walk to create a barrier between the seasonal junk flying around in the air that usually aggravates my sinuses.

If it weren’t for the oils, I might have punched someone nearby cause it took two nurses and three tries poking and prodding to find my vein. They really need to make sure the IV is secure and flowing freely because any spill or spurt of the chemo anywhere but inside the vein would create a whole new can of worms. Deep breaths and lots of patience was needed.

They dripped 15 minutes of anti nausea meds in me before pushing the chemo. I mentally prepared myself for the worse kind of side effects. After the meds finished dripping, the nurse flushed the line with saline. Within a few secs, the whole room spun, my neck stiffened and my head felt like it was gonna explode. I expressed my discomfort and the nurse immediately stopped the saline. So strange. I was now scared of the chemo. If I’m reacting like this to the saline and the anti-nausea meds, I’m not sure I can handle the chemo. I wanted to rip the IV off and run but luckily for my safety, I couldn’t even lift my head. Hubby held peppermint under my nose and I took some deep breaths. Eventually the strange room moving, head exploding feeling subsided. I closed my eyes and the nurse pushed the chemo in. After making sure I didn’t have any other adverse reactions, I was released to go home.

Getting through the first day of treatment is like waiting up for Santa Claus. You don’t know if you’re getting a nice surprise or a lump of coal. I park myself on the couch, watch TV, and wait to see what happens…

It’s gonna be a long wait since this new chemo is given in two week cycles. I hate waiting… but if the law of physics is working properly, I’d be due for a bounce…

One thought on “Week 4-5 of Chemo: The Good The Bad The Ugly

  1. Tim says:

    Dear Nikki, its Tim, Shana, Max, we love you and pray for you beautiful dear. I wanna visit and cheer you up, I am sure you will get through. Is there anything I can do? please let me know.

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