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Chemo (Part I)

Christina at inpatient chemo in hospital

Overview of Chemo Treatment
for Ewing’s Sarcoma

The worst part of my cancer treatment was chemo. Looking back on it, I can’t wrap my head around how I got through it. And I didn’t even complete the planned course.

I was told over the phone how my chemo regimen would go about 5 days before receiving it. I had no idea how severe and aggressive the treatment would be. The nurse and I quickly discussed that this treatment would have permanent effects on my fertility. Nelson was not home at the time and after I got off the phone I just sobbed.

Chemo Protocol
Chemo for Ewing’s sarcoma has had the same drug treatment plan for 40+ years and consists of the following:

Cycle 1
Four to five days of inpatient (in the hospital) chemo delivered via IV.

  • Ifosfamide for one hour daily
  • Etoposide for one hour daily
  • Mesna (reduces inflammation of the bladder) around the clock

One week off.

Cycle 2
One day (6-8 hours) of outpatient (at an infusion facility) chemo delivered via IV.

  • Doxorubicin a.k.a. the red devil for 15 minutes
  • Vincristine for one hour
  • Cyclophosphamide for one hour

One week off. Rinse and repeat another 6 times for a total of 14 cycles.

This was my life from January to May 2021.

Here is a photo progression of some of my treatments from that time period.

January 2021. First in-patient chemo. Ordering dinner. Chemo administration usually did not start until late in the evening. Same routine for the next five days.

February 2021. First round of out-patient chemo. Took approximately 8 hours. I discovered that I had a strange reaction to the vincristine – my sinuses would hurt so badly towards the end of the dose. Sometimes we would have to pause the dose for a few minutes, or sometimes I just powered through to get it over with.

This is also when I received the doxorubicin drug which is possibly the harshest cancer drug (a patient is only allowed 8 administrations in their lifetime).

February 2021. The first couple of days of in-patient treatment were the better days. I initially thought I’d have plenty of time to work on paint-by-numbers, reading, etc. I had hoped it would be like a long hotel stay, a weird vacation.

But with each day and with each treatment my mind and body got worse and worse. My brain was mush, speech slurred, and I had little interest in doing anything but sleeping.

And I’d get super nauseous and would throw up at the sight and smells of certain foods and from the anxiety of receiving that day’s chemo drugs.

It was around this time I began getting very depressed and generally just wanted to die.

March 2021. God bless our oncology nurses. Amani (in her blue “ball gown”), was so kind and compassionate. She’s one of the very few people who literally saw me at my very worst. She saw the tears and the pain I was going through and she juggled me and so many other patients. She would do her best to ensure my chemo was being prepared on time.

The nurse administering the chemo has to put on gowns and triple layer gloves because the drugs are incredibly toxic. Yes, the drugs that are injected directly into my body.

April 2021. This was me 90% of the time while in the hospital. I wanted to sleep and pretend none of it was real. By this time I am on several anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. But they didn’t do great at suppressing the thoughts of wanting it to end. Of wanting to pass away, in my sleep. I thought I wasn’t being strong enough.

In reality, it was the chemo drugs distorting my brain. The chemicals were eating away at the cancer and every other piece of my body.

I don’t have a lot of pictures from out-patient chemo because Nelson was not allowed to be with me during that time. Another devastating effect that COVID had on patients. It was a lonely time to receive a cancer diagnosis.

How I got through this is beyond me. It’s obviously the work of God and many prayers prayed by others because I certainly wasn’t sending much up to heaven at this point.

I don’t believe I would ever have to do this chemo again if there is a recurrence. But the truth is I wouldn’t do it anyway. I’d decline and get on a plane to see the world.

I think I’ll end this here for now. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions to sort of relive this time and go through the pictures that I didn’t know were taken.

More posts to follow on the side effects, additional medications I had to take after each treatment, and the ER visits that ensued. Ug, the worst!

And my port! I haven’t even talked about my port.

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