Embroidery featuring rainbow flowers and the hashtag #FuckNNM2021. Made by a friend.

About the #FuckNNM Hashtag: I’ve had a few questions about the hashtag #FuckNNM2021 that I’m using so the backstory is this: Lots of people were joking around New Year’s that, if 2020 was one long March that we were never allowed to put behind us, then was 2021 simply New March? And then when March 2021 rolled around, and we started getting all of the year-since-the-US-lockdowns-began I joked that March 2021 was, maybe, better known as “New New March.” That was shortly before I was hospitalized so at the time I created the hashtag “Fuck you, New New March!” seemed like an appropriate sentiment. Although this situation has far outlasted New New March (unless we want to argue New New March lasts until 2022…) I’m keeping the hashtag for the purposes of content collation.

Medical Update – Started Chemotherapy This Week

So I’ve started chemotherapy this week. While, obviously, the entire situation sucks it does feel good to be taking further steps to address the cancer cells hanging out in my body that we’d like very much to evict. Chemo is largely pain-free and, so far, has been relatively side-effect free as well. KNOCK ON WOOD. The following is probably tl;dr (“too long, don’t read”) for a lot of people but I figured some of you might want to know what my treatment cycle looks like right now so here it is.

On Day 1 of the cycle, I go into the clinic and have blood drawn and vitals taken. They run a bunch of tests to ensure that my immune system and other bodily functions are where they would like them during chemo (I will be immunocompromised but they want me not too immunocompromised). While I wait for the test results, I meet with either my oncologist or a member of her team to go over my symptoms and overall experience — how has my appetite been? fatigue? nausea? etc. Once both the blood test results and meeting with the oncologist have cleared me for chemotherapy I can begin onsite infusions. If they determine intervention on some point they are tracking is needed I may not be cleared that day and they will bump the next infusion forward until the issue is taken care of.

My chair with window view.

Assuming I am cleared for infusions, I am set up in my own cubby — a fairly spacious nook with windows, a lounge chair, and a curtain for privacy — and they begin the infusions. I have 30 minutes of “premeds” — medications such as anti-nausea medication designed to ease the chemotherapy treatments — followed by three chemotherapy infusions: 1.5 hours of Irinotecan followed by 2 hours of Oxaliplatin and Leucovorin infused concurrently. At the end of that set of infusions, I am hooked up to the portable pack of the final chemotherapy drug (Fluorouracil, or “5-FU”) which is given on a slow release over 46 hours. I can then return home while that drug does its work. I return to the center after 46 hours (on Day 3) to have my port “de-accessed” (meaning they remove the IV line) and am given a timed injection to boost my white blood cell counts the following day. Then I am good to go for the next 11 days before repeating the cycle all over again.

Side effects so far have been mild. One of the infusion drugs gave me clammy sweats while being administered (something that stopped as soon as that infusion ended). I have a hypersensitivity to cold air or items (grabbing items from the fridge or frozen items and sudden changes in temperature, like stepping outside into a cold wind) which triggers tingles on the skin like when your hand or foot falls asleep. It is supposed to fade the further out from infusion you get and doesn’t cause any permanent damage. They anticipate that I will likely have hair thinning or loss of hair based on one of the drugs I am getting; too soon to see that yet although I pre-emptively trimmed my hair on Wednesday so there was less to deal with in the first place. Thank you to everyone who has either sent scarves, or yarn to make hats, or other creative suggestions! Right now, I’m making a crocheted pouch for my slow infusion packet, which I have to wear/carry for 2 days of every cycle. After that, maybe I’ll turn my hand toward some head coverings.

Pouch cover in progress w/button closure.

Thankfully, the sense is that whatever side-effects I experience this round are likely to be how my body consistently reacts to the drugs. So I shouldn’t be getting fun!suprise!effects in cycle eight or whatever. And the team is very down with proactively managing whatever symptoms I experience — particularly those like nausea that impact quality of life. So that is comforting. They have already added an iron infusion to my next “premed” regimen because I am slightly anemic and they don’t want the problem to compound.

Liver Biopsy

I also had a liver biopsy on Friday 4/16 to determine the nature of some lesions on my liver that showed up on CT scans while I was in hospital. While my liver is healthy overall, and function continues normally, the oncology team thinks that some of the colon cancer cells may have migrated to my liver. Chemotherapy treatment will move forward as planned, but the biopsy results may guide decision-making for drugs used and other targeted treatment in future. Not the best news but we are taking things one treatment step at a time and thankful for my access to expert care.

Latest flowers from our landlady.

Lotsa Helping Hands Care Page

A friend of ours has kindly offered to help coordinate any care needs we have over the coming months, such as meal delivery and transportation. She has set up a care page using the Lotsa Helping Hands interface. If you would like to have access to this community page, please let us know (email: annajcook [at] gmail [dot] com) and we can send you an invite. We have ways for people physically close by and also geographically distant to help out.

A Note about Hanna’s Surgery & Recovery

As many of you know, Hanna had surgery last week and is simultaneously through her own recovery. This was a scheduled hysterectomy, on our spring calendar long before I was hospitalized, to address chronic pain related to fibroids and endometriosis. We decided not to postpone the procedure for her overall health and well-being despite everything else going on. Recovery has been slow, because of the extent of the endometriosis that had to be removed, and on Wednesday night we took her back to the hospital for treatment of an incipient infection. She’s been on IV antibiotics and I am hopeful about bringing her home later today for a much-needed quiet weekend. We’re moving very, very slowly in the Clutterbuck-Cook household these days but grateful to have this surgery behind Hanna that will hopefully address persistent discomfort that has been building over the past several years.

Nurse Teazle looking after Mommy Hanna

In gratitude for your continued presence in our community of care,