In episode 8 of It's Cancer, Baby, you'll meet some of the members of my care team, who I assembled to help me combat the side effects of chemotherapy and help me regain my strength.
In this episode, you'll see me at some of my worst times, immediately following two straight days of chemo plus the shot from hell (Neulasta, a white count booster). I underwent this 3-day regimen every three weeks and it was quite difficult. After a full day of chemotherapy, the last thing I wanted to do the following morning was to get up and do it all over again. And after two full days of chemo, the last thing I wanted to do the following morning was haul myself to the hospital for booster shot that would make me feel like I had a bad case of the flu.
But I did it. Every time.
I told Katie, the series producer for CafeMom Studios, that I couldn't believe I was allowing myself to be filmed in such a state. My whole body was swollen, particularly my face, hands and feet. I felt like my eyeballs were literally floating. Looking back at how I looked in this episode, then looking in the mirror today, tells me just how far I have come in the weeks following my last treatment.
As I state in the video, there is something very empowering about going to a Pilates class a day or two after chemotherapy. So much of the recovery process -- for me -- had to do with my emotional state of mind just as much as my physical body.
And having a baby girl who needed me was probably the best motivator that could have existed in my world. I tried to keep my side effects in check and my energy level up so that I could be present for her.
Assembling a care team is something that happened organically for me. I first asked for help from this person, then that person, then signed up for this class or that. Before I knew it I had a weekly self-care regimen that made me feel as though I was being proactive. Because I was.
Even though the side effects of chemo can be brutal, there are things that can be done to manage them. Diet and exercise are key. Staying active. Keeping fluids moving in your body. Surrounding yourself with positive people. Helping others who are going through similar experiences.
When I first started chemo, the thought of enduring six straight months of treatment was overwhelming to me. But I got through it, largely because of the routine I established. One week - one day - at a time, I got through it. And I have more empathy, strength and appreciation because of it.