History 21 – February 2002. Time I couldn’t remember, and when I did I realized why.

March 31, 2007 at 5:59 am | Posted in chemo side effects, chemotherapy, Remission to full remission | Leave a comment

My recollection of the recuperation from leukemia, from first symptom to the finish of chemotherapy, is very vivid for most events.  However, I’ve found I have had a block for a certain period of time where I didn’t remember anything that occurred.  I remember the January near death experiences, and some events in March that I haven’t gotten to yet.  But February has been a blank, particularly after the swollen leg problems ended.

I did some research and talked to a few people, and have recalled some of what happened. 

Mostly, I think I was at home, and adjusting to the life of a cancer patient going through cycles of chemotherapy.  A bit of update – by this time, according to emails from that time, I had been told that I was in remission, probably about the time of my discharge.  You’d think that this would have been a celebratory event, but apparently it didn’t register that way.  I did say in the emails that there was about a 5% chance of recurrence at that time.  I think the reason why it didn’t register more happily was the way I was feeling, and the course of treatment I was to go through.  I had finished initial treatment with ATRA for APLM, called induction, and now was going into the phase called consolidation.  In this phase you have outpatient chemotherapy every two weeks for about three to four months.  This chemo wasn’t to be as strong as induction, but still would entail all the side effects of the other chemo.  I do recall that this chemo was a beautiful cobalt blue in color as it infused, as opposed to the vivid red that I had that first dose in the hospital before Christmas. 

So, all the pain and discomfort from the side effects that come from chemo I still had to endure for a few months.  The cycle, I came to find out, went like this – for a few days prior to my chemo infusion I would feel fine, as my body was allowed to relax.  Then I would get infused, and for a couple more days, I would feel ok.  But slowly my blood counts would bottom out to zero, and the side effects of that would increase (mouth sores, great fatigue, stomach and GI problems, etc.)  And, I’d have to watch for fevers and signs of increasing infections that would require hospitalization again.  That would last for a week, and then as it wore off I would start feeling better, until I felt almost fine.  Then the next infusion would be scheduled.  This was to be my life for the next few months. 

And obviously I would not be able to work during this time.  In fact, when at the worst of the fatigue, I wouldn’t feel like doing anything.  So I was home, and not feeling good.  Plus, going outside, even when I felt ok, involved wearing that HEPA filter.  A disincentive.

I now am certain that I was tired most of the time, and pretty depressed.  My life included fatigue, being away from my usual life, and watching TV.  One would like to think one would work on their Great American Novel, or macramé, or something “meaningful” during this time.  I was too tired to do much anything.  I remember taking pain medications, anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, and sleeping pills.  I also remember watching a lot of pre-felony Martha Stewart and Law & Order reruns.  My good college friend Kimberly came to visit during that time, but she recalls her visit like this, and felt she wished she could have done something.  There wasn’t anything to do about it. 

There was one event that occurred during that time which contributed to a bleak February.  More about the challenges in February 2002 continued in the next history post.

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