Let's Talk About Chemo...

I had a very horrid image in my head of chemo.   I've been tainted by the movie industry who very graphically portrays every person receiving chemotherapy as knocking at death's door, horribly weak, throwing up 24/7, unable to get out of bed, huge bags under their eyes and most importantly bald.  Frankly, I wasn't nearly as afraid of being told that I had cancer, as I was of being told that I needed chemotherapy.   The image of chemo that I had in my head, coupled with my fear of the darn thing was so bad that when my surgeon added chemotherapy to my little cancer road map, I toyed with the idea of asking her if I could just try some herbs instead.

As hard as I tried to wake up from my "You've got cancer" nightmare, it didn't work, and I hesitantly reported for my first chemo session.  (My little chemotherapy education class did little to squash my fears.  The nurse who gave my mother and I our little rundown had a bad habit of bouncing her head from side to side as she was talking, and I'm pretty sure she was snapping her chewing gum in between ridiculous little bits of chemo information.  I hate to be critical, but that's not the kind of person that you want to get chemotherapy information from, I kept waiting for her to ask if I wanted fries.)  But, after 3 sessions, I am here to tell you, that chemo really hasn't been that bad.  Re-read that please.  I didn't say chemo is fun- it's not, but compared to the alternatives, I'll take it. On the grand scale of things, considering how frightening the condition, the treatment isn't really that horrible. I am being bluntly honest, so I'll tell you about my chemo.

My 1st chemo treatment was an 8 hour long event.  Thankfully, it was the longest of my 6 pre-surgery chemo treatments.  The worst part of it, honestly, was not knowing what to expect, that'll get you every time!  I had a lot of concerns, I spent the entire night before my treatment dreaming up possible scenarios.  I worried about getting sick half way through, and them having to stop, but my chemo nurse had other plans for me.  Before they even started pumping the poison through my veins, they gave me a whole bag of anti-nausea medication (rumored to work for 3... yes, I said 3 days!) and a whole bag of Benedryl. I've never had so much Benedryl in one sitting (I think it was enough to take out a whole pack of elephants.  Do elephants travel in packs or in herds?  Oh, this chemo brain is making me crazy... but that's another subject for another day!) and you would have thought it would have knocked me out, but no, it wound me up.    I had a very hard time sitting still for 8 hours- and going for a stroll with an IV pole, isn't exactly a walk in the park.  They don't steer easily, and when the nurses start asking "Do you need help finding your chair, dear?" you know it's time to turn that puppy around.

The days following my 1st and 2nd treatment were long, but only because I get so easily frustrated.  My biggest complaint from the 1st two treatments was being so tired and lethargic all the time, and my bones hurt like I was 80.  I had a very hard time letting go of the fact that I couldn't do everything that I had done prior to the chemo. My mom and I would go places, and I would get tired after an hour and be ready to head home.  (Secretly I was just missing the boxers!)  That really frustrated me.  Other than being tired, I felt fine.  I would try to battle through it, "You're not tired!", "Keep going, you can do it".  It would work for 10 or 15 minutes and then my brain would just quit functioning.  Add to all of that my 5 lb. weight restriction (for 4 weeks I was not allowed to push, pull or lift anything over 5 lbs.), I was a good candidate for a serious meltdown.

Then came the insomnia.  For about a week, good, sound, sleep was not a part of my existence.   My oncologist gave me Ambien and told me to just take a 1/2 of  a pill.  Well, that didn't work, and neither did the whole one.  I would lay in bed watching movie, after movie, praying for sleep.  I would eventually fall asleep, have insanely vivid nightmares that made no sense, and  wake up at 4 AM.   And I was wide awake, my brain was going 100 mph and it was going everywhere that it could possibly go.   My mom and I had been walking around the neighborhood daily, but when all of this monkey business with not being able to get a good nights sleep started, I figured maybe I needed more exercise.  So, we would go 3 or 4 times a day.  It didn't help.  Thankfully with this round, it hasn't been so bad.

My 3rd round of chemo was a week and a 1/2 ago.  It was a celebratory round for me because I am half way to surgery.  I was afraid of this round, probably because my husband has said all along if I was going to get really sick, it would be with this round.  And while I was more nauseous than I have ever been in my life, I did not get really sick.  I am not bouncing back from this round like I did with the 2nd round.  I'm not sure why, maybe it was the fact that I had a 100.8 fever the day I got the chemo.  That scared me to death, but my chemo nurse sent me home and told me to call if it got worse, or if wasn't gone in a couple of days. I didn't know this, but Flu like symptoms are a side effect of the chemo and the steroids that I take before treatment- I don't know how I had escaped this thus far.

There are a lot of wonky side effects that I'm experiencing with chemo.  Most of them, I was warned about (another post, another day), but some were devilishly left from the lists that I was given.  For example, it might have been nice to know that at any given moment in the weeks following chemo treatments, my nose could just start running wildly like a river(when moments before I was so stuffed up I could hardly stand it.).  Or one minute I would be scratching my eyes out because they were so dry, and the next I would be crying like I had just watched 16 ASPCA commercials in a row.  Had I  known these things, I might have stocked up on Kleenex at SAM's Club.  My cravings for food run all over the map.  I can go from ravenous to "Get that food out of here" in a drop of a hat.  One day, I'm capable of ripping through 16 king size candy bars without ever stopping, and the next I run screaming in the opposite direction at the mere mention of a candy bar.    I just never know what I'm going to wake up to, it's almost like I'm living in someone else's body...frankly, I'm not all that fond of it, and they can have it back any time!


1 comment

  1. You are doing wonderfully. You are handling this like a champ and you have a great outlook, attitude and will and this will help you beat the cancer to a pulp. Keep it up. Dee

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