Adam's Story: The Highest Dose of Chemo - Ever
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Adam Frey.
Since my last post, I have had a five-day stay in the ICU getting the first round of high-dose chemotherapy. The hospital is a nice place, but it is nowhere you want to be for sure. I started chemo on Friday, and figured it was going to be horrible, just like everyone had told me. I sat there waiting anxiously for almost two days for it to start. They all told me it was inevitable, and even worse, when I left on Tuesday I was destined to come back to get transfusions and get sick.
I was hooked up 24 hours a day for five days to an IV drip while being monitored at least every two hours - even at night - smelling like chemicals that were sweating out of my body, and wondering when the fury of hell was going to make its way upon my body.
Well, my veins turned black from the chemicals, I lost about ten pounds in two days - while hyperhydrated - and I was in my room anxiousfor three days.
It never really happened, though. I never became violently ill, except for about five minutes, and that was my dumb fault. The one day after going through a chemotherapy dose estimated at around 60x what is normally given, I went on a four mile walk, was eating regularly, and mostly effect-free.
Well, not really. The worst part about chemotherapy is that it stinks, literally. The smell of it is downright terrible and almost inescapable. I literally was in there smelling flowers and changing my sheets three times a day to keep the stink out of my nose. I had my mother come armed with Febreeze to keep it off of me. However, once I was able to control the gagging(it is the worst smelling thing I have ever smelt, by far), I was OK.
Also, I guess you could say with all the weightloss from wrestling, I felt that type of chemo pain before. I felt a severe drain on my body, but it was not from fatigue, it was from a lack of electrolytes. That ended up being an easy enough fix as I started drinking the things I used to drink after making weight - such as Pedialyte - to get those electrolytes in me.
I guess for someone who has never felt that type of pain before it could be easily seen as hellacious. For me, though, it was something I have grown quite used to. I was able to leave after “only” five days in the hospital and shocked my doctor on Thursday when I was basically symptom-free. My immune system did not die, nor did my platelets, nor did my red blood cells. In fact, my numbers were up, meaning the new technique of stem cell infusion worked very well for me. It was unprecedented news in this study. Nobody else had ever gone through that treatment and not been in a bad way before. My doctor was more or less baffled.
I prayed hard over the whole idea of not losing those cells, and I mentally made the decision to not let this treatment affect my life. In fact, my goal has been to not let this chemo or this cancer keep me from being myself. In the end, it is not the drugs, or the cancer, or the chemo, or the doctors, or anyone else - it is me who decides whether I am going to feel good or bad or if I am going to let the treatment hammer me off course.
Now, it’s a hard path to take and stay on; it’s easy to become discouraged, yet it is an easier path to live, because you never give in to those negative thoughts that cause you to feel miserable. In the end, your mind powers your body and it is your mental choice to do what you need to do. It is your choice to not smoke, even though you may crave it and even though it may be hard, in the end, it is your choice. I never smoked in my life, but I am going through the strongest dose of chemotherapy they can perscribe - so high in fact that I had to sign a death release to get it, and despite that, I have lived every day since getting my treatment to the fullest. I am not supposed to be able to walk a flight of stairs right now, but I went on a four mile walk, coached my high school wrestling team this weekend, and did everything I wanted to do since getting chemo.
I am not special - I am only human - just like all of you reading this. I just know that it can be done and I decided to do it. That is the only difference between someone who is trying to quit, or who wants to quit, and someone who does quit.
Keep fighting - Adam Frey