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My Journey Through Cancer (Part 4)

Nancy McBride

My Journey Through Cancer (Part 4)

By Nancy McBride

Life is full of twists and turns, and this is my story of how cancer has ultimately blessed my life. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the young age of 38. During this time, I kept a journal of my doctor visits, thoughts, symptoms, and struggles so that I could tell others how to pray for me and my husband Shane. After a successful hysterectomy, we learned that the cancer was present in my lymph nodes, and I would need to start chemotherapy and radiation. With the direction of the Holy Spirit, the hard part of figuring out my treatment plan was accomplished over several short weeks, and now what lay before me was doing it. I wish I could say that receiving chemo was easy, and I had no side effects. The truth was I had never felt so sick before in my life. Despite the challenges of treatment, God was right there, working in the midst of all my trials. I invite you to read snippets of my journal entries to see how God brought me through.

May 13, 2019

Praise God, day one of chemo and radiation is finished! And I feel pretty good considering all the drugs they pumped into me. Chemotherapy lasted about 5 hours today, and I have to hand it to them - they make the experience as pleasant as can be. My station today was right by the window so I had a view. I got to sit in a cushioned reclining chair with all the pillows and hot blankets I want, including a heating pad for added warmth. The area is stocked with various hot teas and coffee, and they had some dry snacks available. Shane got to sit in a chair next to me the whole time. From a comfort perspective, I was quite content.

Once I was settled in, they put in an IV port on my arm so they could draw blood and see where my blood count was at. It only takes a few minutes for them to get the results, so that way they can determine immediately if my levels are safe to receive chemo. My levels were good to go, so we proceeded with a 2.5 hour IV fluid drip which had varying levels of electrolytes. There was extra magnesium in this fluid because the chemo drug I will be receiving for the next few weeks (cisplatin) tends to cause excess magnesium to leave the body through urine. Low levels of magnesium can cause muscle cramping. They counter act that by pumping the body with extra electrolytes. After that, I got two anti nausea drugs over a 30 minute IV drip, one of which has a low dose of steroids. The anti nausea IV drugs should help over the next 48 hours, but if I start to feel nauseous after they wear off, I have prescription anti nausea meds I can take. The nurse couldn't tell me the average length of time nausea stays around - it's different for everyone. So it's really just a learning experience. If I wanted to, I could take them before I start to feel nauseous, but I'll also end up dealing with the side effect of constipation. Knowing that, I'm going to just see how things go. The nurse said that some people don't even need to take the extra meds.

Right about this time, I started to feel a bit foggy in the head - like I took too much Dramamine. This feeling continued to build a little more once they started the 1.5 hour cisplatin IV drip. But that's about as bad as it got.

After chemo, we grabbed a late lunch from Chick-Fil-A, and headed to my first radiation treatment. This appointment was so fast - probably no longer than 15 minutes. They had to draw three more dots with a sharpie pen in my pelvic area (thankfully they weren't tattooed), and they put a clear tape over it which stays on even in the shower. I guess they needed more measuring points. The procedure was simple: they had me lay on a table, and got the machine aligned with the tattooed dots and pen marks. Then they took a single CT scan to figure out where all my organs were and superimposed that image on the CT simulation images. They had to shift the table once to align everything and make sure the radiation was going in the correct area. Then the treatment began, and the plate on the machine that emitted the radiation rotated around my pelvic area about 360 degrees twice, and that was it. I didn't really feel anything, and it was painless and quick.

It's been a long day, but I'm very thankful for all the prayers and for God's mercy and grace in how I'm feeling. I'm hoping to get a good night's rest tonight. Will see how I feel tomorrow.

May 16, 2019

It's been a rough couple of days after chemo. Two days ago was probably the worst - the nausea was intense and on top of that I felt like I had a bad case of the flu. I could barely keep my eyes open. The anti nausea meds didn't seem to do much, so we're working with my chemo doctor on how to manage those symptoms better for the next round. I've realized that I have to keep the noise level quiet around me so that I don't over stimulate my senses. Even most foods can become difficult to eat because I'm sensitive to how sweet or salty they are. Water has taken on a metallic taste.

Thank you so much for your prayers! Please continue to pray for strength and an appetite to eat. Shane and I are figuring out how to keep my caloric intake at a good level so I don't lose too much weight. My symptoms have improved some, but my brain is still in a fog and I still have quite a bit of fatigue and dizziness. We are hoping for a break from all this when the weekend comes. I have full faith that these side effects will be easier to manage moving forward, especially now that we know what to expect and how my body reacts. Thank you again so much for your prayers.

May 19, 2019

Today was the most normal I've felt since I started chemo last week. I only had a bit of fatigue most of the day. No nausea, no dizziness, no head fog. I loved the feeling of being hungry again, loved being able to drive myself to the grocery store, loved going out for a jog with Shane, and loved cooking again! So funny how we often take these simple pleasures for granted.

Tomorrow begins round two of chemo and radiation. I will get to meet with my chemo doctor and come up with a better game plan for the nausea. I've already prepped myself with loads of ginger, and have come up with various protein smoothie options to chug down tomorrow so I can load up on good energy and calories while I'm not feeling too ill. Week one was definitely a learning curve, especially on what I can eat and what I'm unable to eat. I had a bad case of "cotton mouth" - meaning my mouth was super dry and I could not produce any saliva. All the dry crackers and bread they tell you to eat when you're nauseous didn't work for me because I couldn't swallow them down. Fruits were awesome - anything that had its own water content was easy to chew and swallow. Coconut juice was my go-to instead of water. And anything that came in a soup was great.

Please pray for a solution to the nausea, and that this time it will be substantially better. Shane and I are very hopeful that God will provide everything we need to get through this week. (To be continued…)

The journal entries above are a representation of how my entire chemo and radiation treatment went. The hardest part was finding the mental strength to keep going. The cyclical nature of chemo - getting pumped full of toxic drugs, feeling nauseous, dizzy and fatigued, having to eat and drink fluids despite feeling ill to help your body flush things out so you can feel better, and finally reaching the day before your next chemo when you're supposed to feel your "best," but your "best" is far from normal because the chemo is building toxicity... and on the next day of chemo, being willing to subject yourself to the same cycle again - it was a grueling mental and spiritual battle. And it was hard work to tell my heart, "You can do this!" when physically I just felt gross all the time. What helped me tremendously was knowing I had so many family and friends praying for us and reaching out through texts, phone calls, cards, gifts and food. It was sometimes difficult, but I had to look for all the big and small blessings God gave us during that time.

•He answered our prayers in providing a solution for the nausea. It wasn't 100% gone, but it was enough for me to be able to eat small meals and maintain my weight.
•He orchestrated a meeting with my chemo doctor (which wasn't even supposed to happen), and changed my course of treatment so that I would not have permanent tinnitus.
•He kept my side effects from radiation at a minimum: although I did get moments of diarrhea, they were short lived, and at the end of it all my radiation doctor said my case was relatively easy and uncomplicated. Some of the side effects from chemo have endured, but praise God most of them have gone away.
•He arranged for me to get a port placed in my chest so that I would no longer have anxiety over starting an IV for chemo.
•He maintained my blood counts at a level where I never had to quarantine myself from others or postpone treatment.

There are so many other things I could name, and when I look back, those were the things that fueled my heart and reminded me that God was still good and He was still faithful. Next month I will conclude my journey with a reflection on cancer in light of my faith.


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