Advanced Cancer Spotlight: Cancer Hijacked My Life -- Part III
In part three of his story, community member Coachestep talks about reaching out for support and coping with the emotional and physical toll of treatment.
Support and challenges
My friend, Jimmy Walls, a fellow cancer suffer, came over to visit me and give me some numbing cream to put on the spot where the huge chemo needle would pierce my body. Jimmy said it was very painful and all I had to do was rub the cream around the top of the medi-port and put on a big glob before I taped it all up. Jimmy also brought me some gospel tapes with music and preaching recorded on them.
Radiation was moving along nice and quick as it was five consecutive days. I kept checking my hair every day to see if it had started to come out. Not one hair, yet!
Dr. Jamil called me in and explained the chemo I would be using to treat my cancer - Docetaxel or called more commonly taxotere. We would utilize 6 infusions running from June through late October.
I hate to say this, but I think us folks with cancer get a little taste of hell right here on Earth. This by far was the hardest and toughest part of my treatment. At times I was not sure I was going to make it to the end of the infusions.
Taxotere and painful changes
The Taxotere infusions began the next day after my completion of radiation. The first infusion did not seem to bother me all that much, but I think now it was due to the body fighting hard against such a light dosing to begin.
My next infusion came and it all began. My sister, Karen had rushed in from Oregon to see me with her daughter, Chelsea. Her son, Trent had made the trip up from Illinois. The family meant well and had prepared me a party in the back yard. My Dad was at the party despite his feeling horrible from his own battle with the same cancer. Even though it was extremely hot outside, I had to wear a coat as I was freezing. A few splotches of hair were missing in the back of my head, but no one uttered a single word about it. I did notice it later in all the pictures we took that day.
And my hair started coming out
Later that night, I was taking a cold shower due to the fact that by now I could not stand the hot water. As I was washing my hair, I went to run my hands through my beard and when I looked down my beard was in my hand. Then I immediately pushed my hand through my hair on the left side of my head and sure enough clumps of hair came out in my hand.
"Cristy, CRISTY, hey Cristy!" I yelled for my wife.
She replied, "What honey?"
"My hair is coming out!" I started to weep as I showed her my hair. Both in my hands and at the bottom of the tub.
I immediately called my brother, James and said, "You should gather up our clippers and come back over. I need you to buzz my hair! Let's get ahead of this and just buzz it all off!" I truly believe I saved myself a lot of torture by just going ahead and buzzing it all off.
All kinds of side effects
The Taxotere was having its way with me and I was suffering from all kinds of side effects. If the literature said, "Only a small percentage of people suffer this side effect" you could bet money I would suffer through the stated effect.
As the infusions continued my suffering became worse. The good news, my PSA numbers were on their way down. In the middle of the treatments I could not stand to put anything metal in my mouth. The smell of someone cooking made me want to puke. The hair was now almost completely missing across my entire body. The only thing I could stand to eat was ice water and popsicles. I had lost 41 pounds down to 181. I had not weighed 181 since my high school days. I looked like a walking skeleton.
Reaching my limit
The fatigue took its toll on me, as being a physical educator and having played football in college, I was accustomed to doing just about anything I felt like doing. Now, if I had to walk to the mailbox, I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath. I could not do anything that would benefit anyone, including myself.
I remember one day about mid-September, I approached my wife standing on the back porch. My legs gave out and I stumbled to the ground in front of her, "I don't think I can do this anymore!"
"What did you say, honey?" she inquired.
By this time I was fully crying, "I DON'T THINK I CAN DO THIS ANYMORE!!! IT IS TOO HARD AND HURTS TOO MUCH!!! I CAN'T MAKE IT!!!"
I had quite a few of these days, but I was encouraged by prayers flowing in from many people across the tri-state area and many visits from good God-fearing people. I received cards daily. My students at GVMS would write me a lot, as would students and former athletes from the many schools I had taught at and coached at prior to this cancer.
Read the full series from coachdestep:
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