Sheesh. Where do I start? Chemo is brutal. We’re one week down and still feeling like we have so much ahead of us. The first few days were manageable with some nausea and tiredness, but nothing prepared us for how things would turn so quickly after that. But let’s start at the beginning of the week.
Allen and I took our two oldest kids to school on Monday morning and then dropped off Evan and Raegan at a friend’s house. (We’ve been blessed with amazing friends here in Louisiana! I don’t know what we’d do without them.) On the way down to the cancer center, Allen was pretty nervous. We were both feeling anxious because we didn’t know what his treatment would be like. We arrived and checked in with the receptionist, then waited until the nurse called us back.
We followed her into a large treatment area with rows of cubicles where patients were sitting in recliners and receiving their treatments. The nurse told Allen he could sit down and that she would be back in a minute to give him an IV. I could tell he didn’t want to sit down. Allen doesn’t do well with needles, but even more than that I don’t think either one of us wanted to admit something was really wrong and commit to the hard road ahead. I told him he didn’t have to sit down yet. Once he was ready, he took a seat and we just looked at each other and started to cry. I’ll never ever forget that moment. It was defining for us. I can’t put into words all that we felt or why that moment was so important for us, but it still gives me strength to think back on it. We’re in this journey together.
The day was spent with Allen hooked up to an IV and receiving bags of fluid for his chemotherapy treatment. Volunteers came by asking if we’d like a snack or drink. I hope I’ll get to volunteer at a cancer center one day. We were there for about 5 hours that day.
Tuesday was similar except Allen was able to leave in his IV for the week and just go get hooked up to his chemo fluids. No needles? That was a relief! Everything was taking a bit longer, however, since they needed to administer a new chemo drug to Allen and then monitor him for breathing issues before giving him the rest of that particular medicine. He responded normally, but we were set back quite a bit between waiting to see how he’d respond and waiting for the pharmacist to bring down the remaining chemo drug. It was looking like we wouldn’t finish until 4:00 or 4:30pm that day.
We had another friend watching Evan and Raegan at home, but the kids were fighting colds and I was worried about Raegan’s secretions thickening again. She had been in the hospital with respiratory issues over Easter weekend after aspirating on her thick mucus. After that, they diagnosed her with human metapnuemovirus, or hMPV (which is similar to RSV), and she earned herself a 4 or 5 day hospital stay. We did not want that happening again. I decided to leave Allen at his treatment to finish up while I returned home to feed Raegan and pick up Benson and Katelyn from school before going down and picking up Allen. It was a LONG day, but we returned home to dinner left by our friends. That was a huge blessing for our family! At this point in the treatment, Allen was feeling nauseous and a little tired at times, but he was still making himself eat and everything was going pretty well.
Wednesday was different because Allen drove down to his treatment all by himself so I could stay with Evan and Raegan. The doctor had said that might be a possibility, and on this particular day he was able to do that. I was hesitant to have him go alone, but he woke up feeling pretty strongly that I should stay with Rae so she could eat more frequently. His treatment was shorter that day and I was glad to see him home by 2:00pm. He was pretty tired and went back to rest in bed.
All of us were looking forward to Thursday because that’s when Allen’s parents would be flying in. The kids were feeling quite a bit better and I wasn’t so sure that Allen should go to treatment by himself, but he went ahead and drove himself to treatment that morning. I called another friend and she came to stay with our youngest two kids for a few hours so I could go sit with him and just be there. It was another short treatment day, so we came home and Allen rested most of the evening.
By Thursday night, Allen was feeling awful. You could say that was perfect timing or horrible timing since his parents were flying in that night. For me, it was a huge blessing! They swooped in and lifted everyone’s spirits. The kids were so excited to see Grandma and Grandpa, and Allen was able to sit and talk with them for a couple of hours. I was glad to see him smiling and showing a little bit of energy.
But it was Thursday night that Allen started to have some gastrointestinal issues. He felt a lot of tightness in his abdomen, heartburn, bloating/gas, and diarrhea. There just wasn’t anything we could do to help him feel comfortable. Allen’s parents went with him to his chemo treatment on Friday and the nurses told him some OTC medications we could use to try and get his side effects under control. I called the nurse before closing time on Friday and talked with her about hydration and what we could do to help him. By Friday night, Allen started throwing up. He had only done this once so far, and the doctors told him that he shouldn’t be vomiting, even though he may feel like he wants to most of the time. We initially linked it to one anti-nausea medication and called the doctor to see what we should do. He told us to switch to another anti-nausea medication and also gave us advice on some of the other GI issues Allen was dealing with. The entire weekend, Allen was struggling with keeping foods in him. He couldn’t stay hydrated or keep food or fluids in him for more than a couple of hours. It was completely miserable for him, and watching him struggle was really hard.In one week, he lost about 15 pounds. We were definitely worried and tried everything to get him to eat and keep liquids in him. It was a struggle.
It was a huge blessing to have Allen’s parents there to play with the kids and take them on adventures. They took them to a parade on Friday, a slushie date Friday night, some Saturday bike rides and pool time, and of course lots of craft and wrestling time. They were a huge emotional support for all of us as well, and they helped keep the house running and let me have two free hands to do anything I needed to to take care of Allen. That meant lots of trips to the pharmacy, phone calls to the doctor, and running around the house. I really do feel like they were there at one of the most crucial times and would recommend that anyone else facing chemotherapy treatments should try to have family or friends lined up to help during the beginning of treatments when they’re trying to figure out how to counter the side effects of their treatment. It was so helpful to have our family’s help that first weekend.
We also had the support of our friends and the members of our church. They helped give Allen a blessing on Friday night when things were really tough on Allen, and they brought the sacrament to our home on Sunday and checked in on us daily. We’re so grateful to be here in Louisiana with so many people helping us, showing their concern, and cheering us on!
We’re on to week two now and meeting with the doctor to see how we can resolve Allen’s GI issues and get his energy back. I’m sure we’ll get it all figured out, and I’m planning to write about it as soon as I can. We’ve had a lot of prayers and miracles along the way. Feeling encouraged and ready to face the next few weeks!