I know, I know, I haven’t written in quite awhile. Things have been busy, and, if you can tell by the title of this blog, a bit complicated. I was always impressed by the fact that my friend Mark Bradford could write no matter what was going on in his life. Me, on the other hand, have a tendency to get discouraged by some of the events of my life, and the last thing I feel like doing is writing about it.
But I also know that writing about all this stuff is therapeutic for me, and helps me get through the tough times. So, without further ado, and with my chemo addled brain, here how things are currently going. (And for those of you that doubt that my brain is being challenged by the chemo, it took me ten minutes to come up with the word “therapeutic” in the previous sentence. Good times!)
If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know that I had to personally deal with this ugly virus that has also been sweeping over the globe with disastrous results. My Covid journey started shortly after my latest chemo infusion, which was on October 30. I’ve had 11 infusions total in my lifetime, (6 back in 2018 and 5 this year,) so I pretty much know what happens after receiving a chemo bag of poison in my system. Usually the first week is pretty challenging, with diarrhea, vomiting and a general feeling of awfulness. The second and third weeks after the infusion generally get easier.
That’s usually how it goes. But, if you’ve had the awful experience of going through chemotherapy, you know that one treatment isn’t necessarily equal to the next. I’ve had treatments where I’ve barely had any side effects at all, and some where it felt like I was at deaths door. After my latest infusion, I could tell this one was going to be a bad one. I just chalked up the nausea, diarrhea, and lack of appetite to a particularly bad infusion, and for that first week of November I just hunkered down and prepared to wait for things to get better.
Except they didn’t. By Thursday of that week, I felt worse than ever, and started getting the chills, which meant I was probably running a fever. Holly was getting more and more concerned, and a temperature check on Friday confirmed that I did indeed have a low grade fever. My oncologist had warned me that a fever during chemo could indicate an infection, so my lovely wife drove me to the ER. She dropped me off at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, and she couldn’t come in with me because of Covid restrictions. ( There is no way to tell you how much this effected my psyche. Sitting by myself in a room waiting for test results was very lonely.) After a blood test and a Covid test, it was determined that I was suffering from the virus, and I was admitted to the hospital.
I was a bit surprised when the results came back positive. Up until this time, most of my symptoms were consistent to chemo side effects. My sense of taste during chemo is pretty messed up, so I’m used to things not tasting normal. Also, even though I had a slight cough, I never felt out of breath. As a matter of fact, while in the hospital, my oxygen levels stayed normal the whole time. But I was severely dehydrated, and hadn’t eaten in a week. As soon as I was transferred to a room, I was given an I.V. to try to take care of that problem.
I’m not going to go into all the details of my hospital stay, which started on Friday night and concluded on Monday morning. It was extremely challenging and ugly, and 4 days I never want to repeat in my lifetime. My despair for the first 24 hours was as bad as I have ever had, and I’ve been experiencing cancer side effects for 10 years. It was just awful.
The nurses at the St. Mary’s ICU were amazing, and the work they did literally saved my life. I know it’s fashionable to say that first responders and doctors and nurses are heroes during these times, but I’m here to tell you that the nurses assigned to my sorry ass for those 4 days were simply incredible. Not only did they take care of the physical part of me, they were also very kind and kept my mind off how bad I felt. My night nurse would ask me about my family, talk to me about football and sports, and even gave me fantasy football advice. He also suggested that I take a shower to feel better, which did wonders for me. It made me feel like a normal person again.
After being released from the hospital, it took another week before I started to feel like myself again. I went about 17 days without eating, and never once felt hungry. Holly also contracted the virus, but her symptoms were relatively mild, and was not hospitalized. She felt pretty crappy for a few days, but came through it much better than I did. One of the reasons it was so much worse for me is that the chemo lowered my white blood cell count, so it was much harder to fight off. One of the things they gave me in the hospital was a drug to raise my white cell count so my own system could fight back. It worked, but it took awhile.
I’m very thankful for the docs and nurses who worked on me, and I’m also very thankful that I came through this with my life relatively intact. I know family and friends who have lost people to this virus, and I know considering my stage 4 diagnosis and being on chemotherapy, I’m extremely blessed that I’m still alive. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
My original intent of this blog was to let you know, after my COVID-19 diagnosis, how my cancer fight is going. But this blog is getting a little long, so I’m gonna make this one a two parter. If I had to describe the latest developments in my cancer saga in one blog, along with my description of my Covid experience, it would be an extreme violation of the One Poop Rule. So, I’ll just end this one here and tell you to stay tuned for part two, where I will write about how chemotherapy failed me, and my subsequent signing up for a clinical trial.
Thanks for reading.