Category Archives: Chemotherapy

No Mo’ Chemo!

I had my sixth and last round of chemo on April 5. Four months have flown by, my healthy baby is here, I am in remission, and all that stands ahead of me is completing my radiation treatment.

Chemo #6

I was in a extra good mood the day of my last chemo treatment. I was so pumped to be done soon! Because I’ve had so many IVs in the last four months, there’s not many places left on my arms for nurses to easily find a new IV spot. I absolutely hate being poked with the huge IV needle, but because I was in such a good mood that day I didn’t even care it took 3 tries for them to find a good vein. The chemo infusion was otherwise uneventful which is the best I can hope for.

Ringing the Bell

A tradition in the cancer world is to ring a bell when you’re done with treatment. I’ve been looking forward to this day since the beginning. Once I was done with chemo, the nurses walked me down to the bell and cheered me on as I rang it. I absolutely hate crying in front of people and had to try really hard to fight back tears.

Ringing the bell! Done with chemo!

The End… and the Start of a New Beginning

A few days prior to my last chemo, I had a sudden rush of anxiety. I had been so excited about my last chemo session before and looking forward to this day. Why the sudden anxiety? Maybe it was postpartum hormones. I should be happy and excited about finishing chemo.

I talked to one of my nurses and also a social worker at MD Anderson. They told me it was entirely normal for cancer patients to feel anxious or worried towards the end of treatment. They both stressed that I’m entitled to feel the way I feel. I shouldn’t feel bad if I have negative feelings; just acknowledge it rather than feel ashamed or embarrassed. All our lives we are taught we must be happy and we shouldn’t be sad. It’s actually totally okay to feel negative emotions.

As silly as it may sound, I approached my cancer treatment like I do with my fitness stuff (I am a fitness instructor). I am laser focused towards achieving some sort of goal. Just like I did for triathlons, half-marathon, fitness instructor trainings, fitness certifications, or learning new choreography for teaching a class, I methodically laid out things I must do to complete my goal. For cancer treatment, it was drinking plenty of water, walking daily, doing strength training, drinking teas/juices, sleeping enough, detoxing, etc. I focused on this everyday to achieve my end goal of completing chemotherapy. This tunnel vision kept me laser focused and probably numbed my emotions temporarily so I could keep going everyday.

People often tell me how strong I’ve been. The truth is, it has flown by and I didn’t have much time to think about what was happening while it was happening. Now that it’s starting to come to an end, it’s starting to sink in. I’m sitting here thinking, “wow, I did that” and I have this healthy baby in front of me.

REMISSION!, Chemo #5 & Radiation

I mentioned in my previous post that because I’m no longer pregnant, my doctors would be able to fully treat me without holding back. I finally had my first PET scan on Monday and I went in expecting the worst so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I thought I would have progress on my mass shrinking, but I expected my oncologist to change my regimen to something more intense. To my complete shock, it came up negative for cancer cells. This means after four chemo treatments, I am in REMISSION!

This is not the end of my cancer journey though. I still have to finish my remaining chemo treatments (had treatment #5 on Wednesday and the the sixth and last one is the first week of April) and as well as have radiation. This will help reduce the chances of the cancer returning. But knowing I’m in remission is amazing, motivating news that a huge milestone has been met. Roberto and I wept when we received the news and are still in complete shock.

Chemo #5 (Singing this to the tune of Mambo #5)

My oncologist informed me we will not be changing my chemo regimen. There wasn’t enough information to know if changing the regimen would prove to be beneficial, so we would continue with R-CHOP. I’m finally able to have chemo done outpatient now, so I can get the whole infusion in a day and sleep in my own bed at night! Leading up to this, I feared changing my regimen as it would have been 5 day regimen done inpatient that would keep me away from my newborn and family.

I had my treatment on Wednesday. Overall, getting R-CHOP done post pregnancy and outpatient was fortunately uneventful. I had no reactions to the drugs and I was done in 6.5 hours. It’s hard to believe I only have one more chemo treatment to go after this. Last treatment is April 5!

My mass has shrunk from 16cm down to 4cm after 4 chemo treatments. The remaining 4cm is assumed to be dead cells since the PET scan came up negative for cancer cells. One of the doctors showed me my CT scan from when I was initially diagnosed. The mass was huge, taking up space between my heart and lungs, wrapping itself around airways and blood vessels. It grew aggressively and quickly. I’m fortunate I did not pass out or have something worse happen due to lack of oxygen or blood to my body.


After I’m done with all 6 chemo treatments, I will start radiation. This is probably set to start around the end of April and finish sometime in May. have a consultation with radiation oncology once I’m done with chemo to learn more. I hope to be done before my maternity leave is over at the end of May.

Family Life

Joel has been a very easy baby. He sleeps a lot and eats well. This has made the transition to 2 kids easier because he doesn’t demand too much attention (yet). Maybe I’m more relaxed because he’s not the first baby. Camila is still warming up to him. She likes to touch his feet and bring him toys. She’s okay with me holding Joel but got jealous when Roberto held him.

Top row is Camila and bottom row is Joel.

Prayers Answered

There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of people praying, thinking, rooting and sending their positive vibes to me and Joel. People I don’t even know and have never met were hoping for Joel’s healthy birth and that I overcome cancer. I’m so grateful for all this support. There was a moment last week when Roberto and I felt defeated. We wanted all this to be over. Although we are not done, some of our prayers have been answered and it gives us hope to continue. I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart. My cancer journey isn’t over yet but I have a healthy baby and the wonderful news that I’m in remission!

Happy Birthday, Joel!

One of our biggest anticipations has been the hope and prayers that baby boy would be healthy despite all the treatment I’m going through. After four rounds of chemo with me, Joel Lucas Moreno came into the world on March 6, 2018 at 8:04am! He weighed 6 lbs 13 oz and was 19” long. Most importantly, he’s healthy!

Skin to skin with mommy after delivery

Labor & Delivery

Disclaimer: For those that like to know the details of labor and delivery, read on. For those that don’t care for it, you can skip this section!

I was scheduled to be induced at 36 weeks. It was important to my OB that I was at least 3 weeks out from my last chemo treatment so my white blood cell counts had enough time to recover, but also she wanted me at least 36 weeks to allow the baby to develop more. I also couldn’t be too full term as there is already a risk of me delivering early. So we scheduled my delivery at 36 weeks and 2 days. The plan is to have a vaginal birth, as this has a decreased risk of infection and quicker recovery time.

The induction plan meant being admitted to the hospital the night before and starting the induction process to deliver the next day. Three days before induction, I was already 1cm dilated. I went for some walks that weekend hoping it would help naturally prepare my body more for labor. When I got admitted to the hospital, I was 2-3cm dilated and 60% effaced so it helped some.

They started me on pitocin at 12:30am. It was going to be nearly impossible for me to get any sleep if contractions were going to eventually start, so I asked for Ambien. It didn’t really help because as soon as I’d doze off, a contraction would wake me up. I asked for some IV pain meds which helped for a bit, but by 3:30am I was ready for the epidural since the pain became too much for me. I got the epidural at 4am and immediately after it, I laid back down and my water broke! The nurse said it was good timing. At this point, I was 5cm dilated so the nurse said things could now progress pretty fast. I was able to get some sleep thanks to the magical powers of the epidural.

Around 6:30am I woke up and started to feel pressure when a contraction came. I told the nurse and she checked me—I was now 10cm dilated! The baby was ready to go! They called my doctor who had to come in during Houston morning rush hour. The contractions had pressure but I didn’t feel a strong urge to push yet, so I was able to wait for my doctor to arrive. After 3 quick pushes, Joel came into the world at 8:04am!

He’s Finally Here

Anyone who has become a parent has probably experienced the unbelievably surreal feeling of your baby coming into the world. Roberto and I have been waiting for Joel since the moment we knew we were expecting—and that anticipation exponentially increased when we initially thought he had Down syndrome and again when I was diagnosed with cancer. Hearing his first cry and seeing him for the first time was an overwhelming moment of relief and happiness I will never forget.

After being reviewed by the neonatologist and multiple pediatricians and taking several tests, Joel is healthy. He passed his glucose tests, bilirubin test, and hearing test. His CBC blood counts are in a normal range. He’s eating well, pooping, peeing, and sleeping a ton—all the things you want a baby to do! We really feel that everyone’s thoughts and prayers for us and Joel have been answered. There is a chance his B cell counts are low due to my diagnosis, but it will catch up by the time he is 6 months old. Until then, we have to be extra careful he does not get sick.

A New Life

After two night at the hospital, we were discharged. We came home and are adjusting to our new life as a family of four (five if you count Luna). Not only am I trying to figure out balancing being a mom of two, but in a few days I’ll resume and eventually complete my cancer treatment.

Now that I’m not pregnant, my doctors will really be able to treat me. This means I can finally have a PET scan to determine what cancer cells remain and what treatment changes should be made, if any. Roberto said that the rest of this journey is all about me now. We now know that Joel is healthy. Now the focus is on me completing my treatment so I can be in remission. We dream of the day where the four of us can finally go somewhere together as a family. It’s not too far away.

Through this, my mom is helping us a ton with Joel and Camila. It’s helped me get extra rest time and also allows us to give Camila attention. Thank goodness for grandmas!

About Joel

Joel isn’t even a week old yet, but so far he’s a pretty easy baby. He’s eating well, sleeping a ton, and laid back. He cries only when he is cold and during diaper changes. He’s trying to establish himself as the man of the house because he’s peed on Roberto probably once a day, but hasn’t yet peed on me (knocking on wood).

What’s in a name? Joel is also Roberto’s middle name. His middle name, Lucas, means light or illumination. We picked it because he is the light to this otherwise dark journey we’re going through.

Someone More in Need

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I learned I was not going to be able to breastfeed as the chemotherapy drugs could pass on to Joel through my breastmilk (when he was in my womb, we had the placenta to help filter it). Although I’m not against formula feeding, this was probably the most disappointing part of being diagnosed. I breastfed Camila until she turned one and felt she has reaped the benefits of breastfeeding. I wanted Joel to have the same benefits. I accepted early on that Joel would be formula fed.

I did hope that we could possibly get donor breastmilk for Joel so at least he could get some breastmilk. Because of Joel’s possible low B cell count, we couldn’t accept just any donated milk. Donor milk from a milk bank was pasteurized and screened. I learned I could ask for donor milk while still in the hospital after delivery. However, I also learned I was not going to be able to get insurance to cover donor milk once we got home. After talking to pediatricians and a milk bank, I learned that I wouldn’t qualify for donor milk because Joel was able to have formula. If I wanted donor milk, I could pay for it out of pocket which could cost thousands of dollars a month.

My initial reaction was how unfair this was. I thought I had a good case of needing donor milk. I thought to myself, “I can’t give this to my child, why can’t they help me?” The milk bank informed me because the need for donor milk was because of the mother and not because of the baby. If the mother is unable to breastfeed, but the baby can have formula, insurance wasn’t going to approve it. Insurance would only approve it if the baby had a sole need for breastmilk.

It opened my eyes to a realization. There was someone out there that needs the donor milk more than Joel and I do. I have a healthy baby that is able to have formula. There are babies out there with health issues that are unable to have formula and their moms are unable to produce breastmilk. They need the donor milk more. No matter how bad of a situation you think you’re in, there’s someone else out there going through something harder that’s more in need than you.

Happy Birthday, Joel. Please know that your dad and I are amazed by your strength and will do anything for you.

Four Down and Baby Comes Next!

I had my fourth chemo treatment on February 8th. This is my last chemo treatment before delivering! After I deliver, I will then complete 2 more chemo treatments. There are a lot of changes coming up for my family and I.

Treatment #4

Things went pretty smoothly for my fourth treatment. I had no immediate side effects from the chemo and I felt like back to ‘normal’ after I left the hospital. In a way, each treatment is kind of unknown how I’ll be. Maybe I’ll be tired, maybe not. So far I’ve made it this far with only a handful of days feeling fatigued, so I’m grateful for this success. You really wouldn’t know I had cancer if it wasn’t for my bald head!

I think what I hate the most about chemo treatment is getting poked with the huge IV needles. Even though I’ve done it a bunch of times, I still cringe at the thought of it each time the needle goes in. This really isn’t much to be upset about in the grand scheme of things.

Here Comes Baby

As of now, the plan is to deliver the baby at 36 weeks, on or around the week of March 4th. It’s hard to believe we only have a couple more weeks as a family of three. Once the new baby is here, our family dynamics and routines will definitely change. I’m certain I’ve totally forgotten how to take care of a newborn and I’ll have to figure it out all over again. I’m currently in full on nesting mode and making Roberto move furniture and get things out of storage.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to maintain my same energy level I’ve had throughout my cancer treatment and I won’t be hit with fatigue or other side effects with the upcoming chemo treatments. My doctor is considering changing my chemotherapy regimen after I deliver (from R-CHOP to R-EPOCH). This is the preferred regimen for my diagnosis and is more intense. It wasn’t an option for me to do while I was pregnant. I’ll find out once I do a PET scan after I deliver.

The CDC recommends for expecting mothers to get the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect the against whooping cough. The mother is able to pass on the antibodies to the baby. I wasn’t sure if the Tdap was okay for me to get because I’m immunocompromised. I learned that the Tdap can be given to cancer patients, but wasn’t sure about pregnant cancer patients, if it made a difference. After consulting with my doctors, I learned that there isn’t enough research out there to show that the Tdap will act the same way for me and pass antibodies on to the baby like it would for a healthy pregnant mother. However, they said getting the Tdap wouldn’t hurt me. So I decided to move forward and get the Tdap in hopes it will benefit the baby.

Unexpected News

My doctor gave me some unexpected news that I will likely need radiation after the 6 chemo cycles are done. I don’t view this as a bad thing, but yes, it does make my cancer “to do” list longer. I’m hoping the radiation can all be done while I’m on maternity leave. Although I heard radiation can be painful and leave you fatigued, I am looking forward to not dealing with chemo side effects anymore. Hopefully, my hair can start to grow back and I won’t have to worry so much about a weakened immune system.

Cold & Flu Season

Everyone knows how bad the flu is this year. This is the worst time of year when it comes to getting sick. I’m continuing to have to be extra cautious not to get sick from being around people or touching things in public. I wash or use hand sanitizer on my hands probably well over 20 times a day. I wear a face mask when around people. I don’t know if I’m being super paranoid, but I can’t risk getting sick with a weakened immune system. I can’t wait for the cold and flu season to be over already! And as a PSA: please wash you hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you feel sick symptoms!

Ongoing Support

My coworkers extended my meal train so we have food through the month of March. I’m so grateful for this because it makes things way less stressful each day when we’re done with work and don’t have to worry about cooking or meal planning.

I’ve also gotten so many supportive cards from people, ranging from friends, family, acquaintances, to even total strangers. It’s very kind of people to think of me during this time and I’m still so humbled by all the support. Here’s a giant card my family made me:

My next update will be as a mama of two! Stay tuned for the much anticipated announcement of baby boy’s birth! He’s estimated to be about 6 lbs when I deliver at 36 weeks so he will he will be a decent size!

Halfway There!

On January 18, I had my third chemo treatment which means I’m now halfway done with my six total treatments. This was probably the best treatment yet since I had zero reactions to the drugs and we were able to do the entire treatment in about 10 hours, the fastest yet.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Originally, the plan was for me to only do my first two chemo treatments as inpatient to monitor me and then do the remaining as outpatient once we knew how I reacted. While meeting with my doctor in clinic to prepare for the third treatment, she said she wanted my treatment to continue to be inpatient so I can be monitored just in case. I was really looking forward to not sleeping at the hospital and slightly disappointed by the last minute change in plans, but it’s better for me to be careful and be monitored while inpatient.

I got admitted into the hospital (thanks Joanna for your help!) and chemotherapy infusion got started around 3:30pm. We were done by about 1:30am, but they wouldn’t let me go home until the next morning when a doctor could see me during rounds. Everything went very smoothly. I had no reactions to any of the drugs and was even able walk laps around the hospital floor.

Halfway Done – But Still Halfway To Go

It feels great to say I am halfway done with my chemo treatments and have been extremely fortunate not to have any major complications. I am celebrating that as a huge success! But I still have half the journey to go and anything can happen, so I can’t let my guard down yet.

Two weeks ago, I developed a low grade fever (100.0 F) and felt more tired than usual. For cancer patients, any type of fever or the slightest sick symptom means we need to go to the ER as a precaution because we don’t have the immune system to fight it. Roberto and I headed to the MD Anderson Emergency Center. Side story for your amusement: I picked up Popeye’s on the way there and ate it in the waiting room.

Let me brag to you now that my best friend Maggie is a clinical pharmacist in the Emergency Center at MD Anderson. This is like the ultimate hookup if you’re going through cancer. Maggie has came with me to several of my chemo treatments and reviews my lab work. Even though she’s on maternity leave with a toddler and newborn at home, she came with us to the Emergency Center to make sure I was taken care of. Thanks to her, I was admitted, seen, and discharged in just three hours! My labs and cultures all came back negative and we suspect my fever could have been a side effect from my Neupogen injection. My fever ended up going away on its own 24 hours later with lots of sleep and rest. It was a bit of a scare, but I’m relieved it was relatively minor.

I had an MRI done prior to my third chemo treatment and my mass has shrunk by about 50%. It’s possible the mass could be full of dead cells and most of the cancer cells are already killed, but we won’t know until I do a PET scan after I deliver. I’m happy with this progress. Even more indicative of progress is that my symptoms continue to improve. Cough is gone, itching is reduced, blood pressure continues to normalize, and my heart rate is decreasing.

About half of my hair is gone, which is actually pretty impressive to me that I still have some hair. Roberto’s cousin Walter shaved my head for me a few weeks ago because it was falling out so much. I now know what it feels like to be a guy and not have to worry about hair everyday… weird bucket list item to check off.

Donate Blood!

A few days after my third chemo treatment, I also ended up needing to get a blood transfusion due to low hemoglobin counts (my hemoglobin has to be higher because I am pregnant to ensure enough oxygen can get to the baby). I physically feel fine; this is simply a precaution my doctors want to take. If you have ever donated blood, know that your generous donation helps people like me!

Baby Boy

We get ultrasounds every 3 weeks to check on Baby Boy’s growth and other development. Baby Boy is growing like a weed (80 percentile!) and not anemic from the possible chemo side affects, which is wonderful news to us to ensure his health. In the past 2 weeks or so, I feel like my belly has grown substantially and I now feel like a big whale. Less than 6 weeks until he’s here! I am currently 30 weeks pregnant and the plan is to deliver around 35-36 weeks.

We also met with a cardiologist to make sure my heart is strong enough for labor and delivery. There are some chemo drugs that can be damaging to the heart. Additionally, a vaginal delivery requires more cardiac output and we want to avoid a c-section due to risk of infection. The cardiologist did an EKG and my heart looks healthy and strong!

What’s Next

I only have one more chemo treatment until Baby Boy gets here! I will have my fourth treatment on February 8th, we’ll wait 2-3 weeks, I’ll deliver, and then I’ll continue with last two chemo treatments after that.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

A couple of weeks ago, I felt sad one day because I felt like I was missing out on so many simple everyday things. Birthday parties, social gatherings, even just walking around Target. I know this is all temporary. Roberto tells me to focus on all the good things we’ve had during this process. I’ve remained physically strong with high energy level, I’ve been able to spend more time with Camila, and we’re already halfway there. A lot of the cancer battle is mental. I have to continue to focus on the good things and not get caught up in FOMO.

Endless Thank Yous

Everyday, I’m overwhelmed by the support I receive. The Fort Bend YMCA, the gym I taught fitness classes at, organized a meal train for me and we’ve had an overabundance of yummy food delivered to us this month. This is in addition to other food our friends and family have given us. It has made our lives less stressful not having to worry about cooking.

It’s not all about giving something or a physical action though. I know a lot of people out there are praying for me and my family. It’s working. I believe all the support behind me is what keeps me going everyday. I can’t thank everyone enough!

Ending 2017 with Chemo Round #2 and Looking Forward to 2018

2017 is over and I can happily say that we are now 1/3 done with my chemo treatments. Celebrating small milestones is really what is getting me through this long journey.

For my second treatment, my doctor wanted to have it done inpatient one more time to monitor me. I was admitted on December 27th in the early evening and fortunately this time things went much faster and the entire chemo treatment was able to be done in less than 24 hours.

Sherrie came to the hospital to keep me company while I waited to be admitted. We chatted about babies, life, and other random stuff  it was nice to just socialize face-to-face because I’m not able to get out as much now.

Chemo Time

I got a room at 6:30pm and had to wait for all the chemo orders to be put in before we could start. This time, they started with the rituxan (the R in R-CHOP) first at 11:30pm. This is the drug that has the most side effects and also takes the longest to administer. Last time, the doctor wanted to be conservative and minimize side effects so it was administered very slowly where it took 13 hours. This time, the speed was increased slightly so it was done over 8 hours overnight. I had a different reaction this time. I felt like I was covered in ants crawling all over me and was very fidgety. I had to have Roberto put an ice pack on me or rub my back because I felt so weird. I asked the nurse for Claritin and this ended up helping me and I was able to get some sleep. The rituxan ran until 7am and they have to check my vital signs every hour! So I didn’t get great sleep that night. That’s okay though because I rather get things done faster and go home sooner.

The next morning, I received the rest of the chemo drugs (the CHOP portion in R-CHOP). Like last time, I had no reaction to these drugs. We were done with all of them by noon! We ate lunch and waited to be discharged. I didn’t need a blood transfusion this time because my hemoglobin counts were fine. Side note: MD Anderson is in need of blood donations.

I was discharged by 2:30pm and we headed home. Since the chemo treatment, I’ve felt pretty good. Over the next 3 weeks until the next chemo treatment, the doctors will continue to monitor my blood counts. Last chemo cycle, I did become neutropenic (low white blood cell count) and did have to get an injection (Neupogen) that stimulates white blood cell growth in my bone marrow. While I am neutropenic, my immune system is especially weakened and I have a higher  risk of infection occurring so I have to be extra cautious. It’s expected that this  will likely happen every chemo cycle. My next treatment is January 18 and will be done outpatient this time.

Here I am working on my team’s year-end performance reviews the last week of the year while getting my chemo infusion.

Notable Progress From This Round

  • Normalized blood pressure. Prior to this my blood pressure was low (like 100/60) and now it’s closer to the normal range of 120/80.
  • Lowered heart rate. My heart was working hard to pump blood with the mass in the way, so my heart rate was around the 90s at rest (previous to this I had a resting heart rate in the 50s!). It’s now down to the mid-70s to 80s.
  • Increased lung capacity. My spirometer readings continue to improve!
  • Not really progress, but something notable. More hair loss. Yes, it is upsetting, but the chemo is working. I’m glad I cut my hair.
  • Baby continues to grow and is healthy. Last ultrasound he was at 73 percentile in growth! I am currently 27 weeks–third trimester here we come!
  • Increased energy levels. I’m walking more with my longest walk up to 45 minutes. I’ve also added in light resistance training 3x a week to maintain muscle tone and strength.
  • Because of my increased energy levels and Camila has been healthy, I’m able to spend more time with her.

Ringing in 2018

I was still able to have a little fun ringing in 2018. I’ve been feeling conflicted whether to go out (and risk getting sick with this crazy flu season) or stay in. I went to my aunt and uncle’s house to have a little New Year’s celebration with my family (and when you have kids you celebrate it at 8pm anyway).

As I reflect back on 2017, it really was a great year for me despite my diagnosis. We traveled to Scottsdale, Sedona, Clearwater, and Austin. We had all of Roberto’s family come visit us and Camila got to meet her first cousins for the first time. We’re expecting a baby boy! I continue to enjoy my job. We survived Harvey with minimal issues. Camila is healthy, thriving, and happy. My love for Roberto has grown stronger. I’ve been filled with so many blessings in my life that even despite my diagnosis, I still feel incredibly fortunate.

I’m pumped for an even better 2018 filled with more love, memories, adventures, another baby, and kicking cancer’s ass. Happy new year to you and here’s to a great 2018 ahead!

Chemo Treatment #1 – DONE!

I have 6 chemo treatments total and I’m proud to say that the first treatment is completed and went very well! I already feel a significant improvement in my symptoms. Normally, the chemo treatment I’m prescribed (R-CHOP) is done outpatient and in a day, but due to my pregnancy, my doctor wanted my first two treatments to be inpatient and administered slowly so they could better monitor me and limit any adverse side effects.

Prior being admitted for my first treatment, both Roberto and I felt incredibly pumped to start. I was tired of feeling like crap all the time and ready to start feeling better! My doctors had said that even after the first treatment, I’d start to notice a difference. I didn’t care if chemo was going to possibly have bad side effects, I was weirdly excited about feeling better.

Before every treatment, I meet with my high risk obstetrician and she checks the baby through ultrasound to make sure everything is going well. She signs off that the baby and I are ready to go through chemo. The R-CHOP chemo regimen has been used on pregnant patients in the past and the outcomes have been positive.

Chemo – Day 1

I was pretty ignorant about cancer before my diagnosis. Admittedly, I didn’t even know chemotherapy was administered through IV. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone in the medical field and especially the staff at MD Anderson who openly educated me over the last few weeks. I’ve learned a lot!

I was admitted for treatment on December 4th, less than a week after my diagnosis because I needed to start immediately. Aside from when I had Camila, this was my first time staying in a hospital. And for anyone who has stayed in a hospital, you know that a lot of it is waiting. By no means am I saying the hospital is inefficient, but there’s lots of checks and due diligence required before they can start giving you drugs. Because I have so much downtime, I’ve been able to continue working during my treatment

Roberto and Maggie (my best friend, who is conveniently also a clinical pharmacist at MD Anderson) stayed with me throughout my chemo treatment. I really couldn’t have been in better hands! Having them there really made me feel more at ease.

My chemo treatment, called R-CHOP, was started in the evening around dinner time. They gave me the CHOP portion of it. The C, H, and O were administered over IV and took about 3 hours total. The P was prednisone, a steroid pill that I take daily for 5 days. They gave it to me at night, so I was super hyper that evening. Roberto said he had never seen me so chatty at night in a long time, because lately I’ve been so exhausted.

We were done with the CHOP portion by bedtime and immediately that evening I already noticed my symptoms subsiding. I was coughing much less and way less itchy. Maggie said that this is probably from the immediate effects of the prednisone, but this was really exciting to see I was already feeling better! I didn’t fall asleep until 2am because of the prednisone side effects.

Chemo – Day 2

The next day, I was going to be administered the R portion (rituximab), which is the largest dose of chemo and most likely to have side effects. The doctor wanted to administer it very slowly to minimize my side effects… so slow that it was going to take over 13 hours to do it. We started around 11am and it completely finished at almost 2am! The only adverse side effect I had was a brief period of feeling lightheaded and low blood pressure at the very beginning. It’s very possible it was caused by the Benadryl they gave me though, to help with the possible itchy skin side effect. Overall, it wasn’t too bad as I expected it to be. I was still able to get up and walk around with my IV while it was being administered.

I was fortunate to have several people come visit me at the hospital that day to keep me entertained during the long infusion. My cousins Brian and Julie, aunt Thu, and friends Alice and Jeff came by to keep me company.

My symptoms continued to improve that evening. It was really motivating to see such immediate results. Also, I started to finally have more of an appetite and eat like a pregnant woman. The hospital food at MD Anderson is actually pretty decent and the portions are huge! I was laughing with the nurses because the fried shrimp platter contains 8 pieces of shrimp, each the size of a baby’s fist. What other restaurant serves that much shrimp and that big?!

Day 3 – Ready to Go Home

By the third day, I was ready to be discharged because we were done with treatment and I had no adverse reactions that required additional monitoring. However, I needed a blood transfusion to increase my hemoglobin count before going home. This is a pretty simple procedure with minimal risk. (Side note: thanks to anyone who has ever donated blood in the past!) Being pregnant, doctors wanted me to have sufficient hemoglobin so enough oxygen could be carried in my blood to the baby. I had to get two blood transfusions that day which took over 7 hours to do. I was finally discharged at 9:30pm that night and it felt so good to be home!

A New Routine

As soon as I got home, I realized my home life was not going to be the same. I had to focus on my health. That meant making sure I didn’t get sick because my weakened immune system may not be strong enough to fight it. Inconveniently, Camila had a cold this week so I had to stay away from her.

There are a lot of things I have to avoid doing now to prevent getting sick or infections. This includes not going to crowded, public places, working from home, washing my hands constantly (they are so dry now), wearing a face mask, not doing certain household chores, avoiding raw fruits/veggies, and the hardest of them all, relying on others to care for my child. Since Camila goes to daycare, it’s potentially exposing me to a whole lot of germs. And it’s cold and flu season. For now, Roberto and my parents are the one helping take care of her (as well as many other things around the house) while I sit wearing a face mask. I know she’s in good hands with them, but it’s hard to sit back and not be mom. (More on this topic in a future post.)

All these things are temporary though. Eventually, my life will be back to normal and I realize this is a temporary sacrifice for my overall health.

Until the Next Chemo Treatment

I have three weeks between chemo treatments. I’m still working during this time (willingly and happily, as I enjoy my job and my employer has been very understanding). I’m able to work from home. It helps me feel safer since I’m less likely to get sick, and I also feel productive and engaged everyday.

My priorities each day are to get lots of rest and sleep, drink lots of water, and exercise/walk. So far, I’ve been feeling great. My energy levels have been pretty good. The doctor is happy with my progress. To reduce daily stress, we’ve outsourced some of our household chores. Several gracious friends and family members have provided food for us and that has taken the relief off from cooking.  I’ve even succumbed to using the <gasp> dishwasher daily!

My symptoms have dramatically improved just after one treatment. I went in with a terrible cough caused by the mass in my chest. The mass was so large that I couldn’t even lay in a reclined position without coughing uncontrollably and feeling like I was suffocating. The cough is nearly gone now! I can finally lay in reclined positions comfortably (my back is so happy). I no longer get winded from walking up a flight of stairs! My fractured rib is nearly completely healed. I still have itchy skin and unfortunately this keeps me up at night at times, but I’m optimistic it’ll improve with the next treatment.

All the Support

I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support. Whether this is praying for me, texting to see how I’m doing, sending food, helping with Camila, or just sending positive vibes, please know all of this is helping me!

I know a lot of people feel sad when they hear my situation, but please don’t feel this way. Instead, find comfort and hope knowing that my treatment is going well and I feel so much better.

Notable Progress From This Round

  • Coughing is almost completely gone!
  • No longer winded from walking up a flight up stairs. I even went on a 30 minute walk and started doing light resistance training at home.
  • Huge appetite increase – finally eating like a pregnant woman and having cravings!
  • Increased lung capacity – spirometer (breathing tool) readings have gone up 500 mL since I left the hospital.
  • Improved energy level – I have more energy now than before. There are some days I am fatigued, but it is completely manageable.
  • As of the publish date of this post, I still have my hair and have not yet noticed any hair loss. I’m crossing my fingers those prenatal vitamins pull through, but I know it’s a long shot.
  • I had an MRI after the first chemo treatment to check if the cancer ever spread to my pelvic and abdominal and it did not! So this means I do not have stage 3 or 4 lymphoma, likely stage 1 or 2.
  • Most importantly, baby is healthy and growing at the right pace. As of the date of this post, I’m 25 weeks pregnant.

Next chemo treatment is December 27th. I’m ready! I’ll be 1/3 done by the end of 2017!