On August 25, 2018 By Ree M. In Reality check!
Moving states is never easy specially, when you know that the next couple of months are definitely going to be completely different than what you had planned for yourself. Finding a good doctor makes a huge difference and makes this entire process way more easy. When I say a good doctor, I mean someone who you can easily communicate with, and someone who would not just be purely professional and rather deal with your issues and queries, taking you as their own. I was lucky enough to find someone who has been very patient and of great help to me since the beginning. Finally the day came when I had to understand the treatment part. Yes, chemotherapy. It has never been easy and I am not going to sugar coat this, it’ll never be. The side-effects of chemo are a lot and it sure as hell sounds scary but, it definitely is different for everyone and no one can predict how one’s body will react to the drugs. The treatment regimen for Hodgkin’s has been the same since the longest time. There are 4 drugs that form this regimen: A-Adriamycin, B-Bleomycin, V- Vinblastine, and D-Dacarbazine. Chemotherapy works in “cycles”. Each cycle, consists of 2 treatments which are given every 15 days, so one would receive 2 treatments in a month and depending on the stage of your cancer, the number of cycles are decided. For me, the initial plan was to give 4-6 cycles of chemo since I was a IIA unfavorable stage. Understanding the stage of your cancer and why you will be receiving the designed chemo protocol also makes this whole process easy. The more you deal with it practically and with a calm mind, the stronger you will be and mind you having a strong mind throughout this journey is a boon, why? well, for me, I knew I had to be the stronger one as that was the only way to keep my family strong as well, specially my dad. Giving up is never an option, and that I have learnt on this journey! The more I spoke to my parents the more I realized that if I give up, they would take no time to break down as well. Sure, it is never easy to let go of what you are feeling or pushing your true emotions away, wearing a fake mask of strength and dealing with something, but sometimes, that does wonders, trust me. Being the youngest in my family, I sure had my battles when someone would sympathize with me and I would be the one saying.. it is going to be okay and I will be my normal self soon! There were definitely some back and forth moments, where I was very frustrated with my situation and I did not know what to do or where to go or whom to tell and all I wanted was my normal self back and this phase came to me specially after my treatment during my “bad days” since when your blood levels go down, you tend to become extremely weak and not being able to perform your daily activities without the fear of collapsing for a 25 year old is definitely not fun. But, I soon found my fight again and my natural stubbornness! I decided that this was my experience and I forgot everything you believe cancer to be, I was no victim and started telling myself that, I wasn’t facing cancer, it was facing me! Some would say, well why didn’t you share what you were really going through, but I guess for me, the more I suppress it and tell myself to suck it up and deal with it, it works better. I find it easier to convince myself than convincing others that I am going to be okay soon and hence, I opted to rather strengthen my inner self and so far, it has done wonders for me.
The staging of Hodgkin’s is based on a couple of factors but, it majorly depends on what a PET scan shows, which is further classified under the “Lugano Classification”. In my case, I was stage II since my PET showed sites above my diaphragm, unfavorable, as a tiny lymph node decided to show up near my mediastinum making it more than 2 sites and “A” since I did not present with any fever, unusual weight loss or night sweats which are tagged as the “B” symptoms.
Remember, the chemo experience is your experience, you are unique and treatment is tailored to you so, don’t convince yourself you will feel ill. For me, the major “obvious” changes that chemo did was hair loss and severe muscle aches following chemo. Although, I was lucky enough to be able to maintain a healthy diet, which was heaps of protein and immunity boosters. I have had no sickness so far, and I was given strong anti nausea medications which I haven’t had the need to use yet. So, know your body, note down things that happen during your therapy and after your therapy and always know that whatever it is that you are feeling, can always be taken care of!