Exciting news! Moving forward, I’ll be blogging about my cancer treatment on Gawker, specifically at http://robertkessler.kinja.com/. Please follow along there!
I’m now officially checked into the hospital for what will be a 5-6 stay while I receive my first full chemotherapy treatment. This EPOCH treatment is administered in 5 bags which each take a full 24 hours to enter my body. The drug cocktail is so strong that there are some pretty serious side effects, which is why I’m doing the full treatment in the hospital, where doctors and nurses can watch me.
Fortunately Sloan-Kettering has lovely accommodations and they aren’t too strict with visiting hours rules so I’ve had plenty of people to keep me company during my stay.
Before I was officially admitted, a PICC line was shoved into my body. It’s essentially a more permanent IV, and will remain connected to me (even when I’m not receiving chemo) until I go into remission. Though I’m glad I won’t be seeing as many needles in the future, it serves as just another constant reminder of my sickness, another physical marker that I am not well. It’s these sorts of things — the low energy, the low appetite, literal tubes hanging out of my upper arm — that tend to get me depressed about my sickness more than anything else.
In good news, the chemo has made me feel lightyears better than I’d previously felt. The anti-nausea medication is doing wonders and I’ve taught countless medical professionals the difference between “nauseous” and “nauseated,” which feels like a good deed.
Anyway, enjoy my hospital photo album of sorts, I’ll post a pic of all the One Direction posters once I’ve gotten them all hung on my bulletin board.
Some thoughts on this, my first day of chemotherapy
Today I went back to Sloan-Kettering for my first chemo treatment. It was, surprisingly, the most drama-free day I’ve had this far. In fact, I’d even go so far to say that it was lovely.
Today I was receiving a dose of rituximab, which is one of several drugs I’ll be receiving as part of my chemotherapy. The others will be administered to me over a five-day period, during which I’ll be an inpatient at the hospital. This is because the drugs are so powerful, they could cause kidney or liver failure.
It’s actually remarkable how wonderful I feel tonight. The entire day was pretty easy, but there was one hitch about an hour into the treatment. As my nurse (an angel in a lab coat) had warned me about, I suffered a mild allergic reaction to the medication. Within seconds, I began to itch, broke out into hives and felt a debilitating pain in my stomach. My angel Vicky ran into the room and gave me a dose of hydrocortisone and a shot of morphine. Within minutes I was asleep and when I woke up, I was back on the rituximab and felt great.
The anti-nausea drugs I was given during treatment have been wonderful and I truly feel better tonight than I have in at least a month. In addition, I’m just so happy to have finally gotten to the treatment stage of cancer, where I feel like I’m being proactive about the disease in my body.
Though I hate to check into the hospital, I’m actually excited about tomorrow and getting more treatment done.
Q:Hi there! I just read your great article in Gawker - thank you - it is fabulous. I also wanted to just say "hang in there" to you. I had Non Hodgkins lymphoma (and its accompanying program of chemo/radiotherapy) two years ago. I won't lie it was a pretty hellish time in my life but I've got to let you know that life is wonderful now. You will get through it. Just take it one day at a time. Best of luck. Fiona
This is very comforting to hear. Thanks for sharing your story!
Q:My boyfriend wants to go to med school. I sent him your article from Gawker and I told him what a great piece of writing it was, how it involved science, media, mortality, and an ongoing debate about how we should share our public and private lives in media. He and his friends are reading it as study material/inspiration for their MCAT. I know it seems trivial, but you're an inspiration to me as a writer, and to so many others on so many different levels. Thank you!
Thank you so much. This is an incredibly sweet compliment and I am not worthy at all. But good luck to your boyfriend. Through this process I’ve met some lovely doctors/nurses and some shitty ones. We need more of the former.
After nearly two months, my treatment finally starts today. It’s a strange feeling, but honestly I’m quite happy. It’s been a grueling process thus far and ever since I got my diagnosis all I’ve wanted was to start treating it.
Today I’ll receive a dose of one of the medications in my chemo cocktail. The rest will be given to me tomorrow as an inpatient at Sloan-Kettering.
Let’s do this!
A beautiful day and some ugly news
I first want to start by saying that the response to my piece, ” Dear Bill Keller: I Have Cancer. Is That OK?,” has been remarkable. Thank you all so much for reading and for reaching out to me.
But today wasn’t all roses unfortunately. At a scheduled appointment with my oncologist, I learned that the tumor in my intestines is growing much more quickly than initially anticipated. This presents some pretty serious health risks and I’m going to have to do a much more intense course of chemotherapy than I’d originally planned. (For those in the medical field, I’ll be undergoing EPOCH chemotherapy.)
What this means is that my first session of chemo this week will no longer be outpatient. On Thursday, I’ll check into the hospital for a five day stay so that the hospital can watch me (there is some fear that the chemo could wreak havoc on my kidneys and liver).
I also learned today that there is only a very small chance that I will go into remission after just one course of chemo treatments. This is due to me possessing 4 of 5 risk factors I don’t completely understand. Essentially, this road is going to be a lot harder and a lot longer than I’d anticipated.
My meeting with the oncologist today was devastating. But what wonderful timing that the entire time I was feeling bad about myself, there were hundreds of people — friends and strangers alike — supporting me, comforting me, saying kind things about me. The internet can really be a wonderful place sometimes.
Here’s a thing I wrote about writing about cancer.