I recently finished my second round of ICE, my salvage chemo, in preparation for my stem cell transplant in October and I have to say ICE has been nothing but a nuisance thus far. One that I would like to tell to “ICE OFF” (fill in the appropriate expletive). As a chemo regimen, ICE is annoying because it requires one to be admitted to the hospital for at least one overnight stay. Now I am so fortunate that I spend my time as an inpatient with my amazing friends who drop in to fill the time. They bring smiles, laughs, food, f***k cancer cards, and eternal friendship. I believe that they are part of the reason, why I have tolerated much of this so well. Their positivity and good energy and the continuous strength and support of my family has carried me through in more ways than they know. So the actual days of ICE may be annoying but they are generally uneventful. Premeds and anti-nausea drugs mitigate the side effects and at this point I know what to expect from the “mack truck” Neulasta shot. So while I don’t feel well, I can hardly complain. I know that for many others, ICE can be more than a nuisance, it can take them down for the count.
My issue with ICE has more to do with its residual effects. The ones that sneak attack you nearly a week later and interrupt your day. During my first cycle of ICE, I woke up on day six with a pesky canker sore that left me with a slight lisp and made it annoying to eat. As if that wasn’t enough to “ruffle my feathers”, my blood work revealed a seriously low white blood cell count (900 when 4,000 is considered normal low), a plummeting platelet count, and a severely anemic red count. Now I normally could care less about this numbers game, because I went in feeling just fine, but it appears that regardless of how I feel my counts have the ultimate power. They dictate what you can and cannot do and apparently my blood cells, with Z’s consent, dictated I be on ‘house’ arrest for the weekend with mandatory Neupogen shots. The Neupogen shots required me to check in at the hospital both of the weekend days, so there was no escaping my early ‘house’ arrest sentencing. Now if I stayed home, like sick people do; all of this would be so much easier. But instead my blood cells were causing me to miss a family trip to a Jazz festival and Plymouth and I was not thrilled about it. I had to argue with my parents to convince them to go without me, which they eventually conceded on and had a wonderful time. I spent my weekend indulging on Ben and Jerry’s and watching ridiculous movies. It wasn’t a bad weekend, it just wasn’t what I had planned.
ICE Round 2 struck in the same fashion. I woke up this morning, day 7, with a pesky canker sore only to be followed my nonexistent blood cells. They debated a transfusion, which may cause complications ; so that is still to be determined. I get to have four days of Neupogen shots to jump start my white blood cells count. The only bonus to that will be if Sarah is working to administer them like last time. So, much like last time, my blood cells put me on house arrest and forced me to cancel my plans with my second family and there is nothing more disappointing to me than having to cancel on my sweet goddaughter.
I used the word disappointing but I feel as though that particular adjective does not adequately describe the way I felt today when once again my cancer interfered with my plans. I am rarely emotional about all of this, primarily because I believe that crying about it or worrying about it is just a waste of energy and will in no way change the current situation or the outcome. Thus, I am resigned to trudging through it and I much prefer to do that with a smile on my face. Cue Will.I.AM and The Script singing “you can go the distance, you can run the mile, you can walk straight through hell with a smile”. But even with ‘Hall of Fame’ playing somewhere in the back of mind, I was mad. I am mad. For the first time, I actually felt angry toward my cancer. I’m not angry that I have cancer or that I have to fight it, I’m angry that it has taken away my sense of normalcy. I feel like I’m missing out on my life. And I know that in this instance it has only been for a couple of days, but that in my mind is a few days too many. I don’t want my blood counts to dictate my social calendar. I don’t want my oncologist to have to need to see me on an every other day basis. I don’t want Tammy, one of my amazing oncology nurses, to feel like she has to be the bearer of bad blood count news. I didn’t want to miss the first days of school for the first time in pretty much my whole life, but more importantly in the last ten years of my teaching career. I don’t want to miss out on the little things. I know that in the grand scheme of things I have to miss them, to achieve the ultimate goal of a cure; so I don’t miss the big things. But for now, as far as I’m concerned my cancer and my chemotherapy can ICE OFF!