“This is where the fun begins.” Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith (But I type this sarcastically…)
The Chemo cast: Taxotere, Carboplatin, Perjeta, and Herceptin
Supporting characters: anti-nausea, anti-vomiting, anti-anxiety, fluids, Neulasta, and steroids
Chemotherapy basically causes a war within your body. While the main goal is to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells (GOOD!), it also does the same thing to your healthy, fast growing cells (BAD!). That, of course, causes the side effects I felt during my 6 major chemo treatments.
I had Chemotherapy every 3 weeks and it was an all day event: a 2 to 3 hour drive to the hospital, finding parking, getting my blood taken, seeing the doctor or nurse, 4 to 5 hours of treatment, and then a 2 to 3 hour drive home. An exhausting day! But the crazy part is that I didn’t feel the side effects right away. Because I was taking steroids around my treatment days, it sort of stalled my body’s initial reaction. Plus, I was WIRED because of the steroids! I always thought of that moment in Talladega Nights where TR says, “I’m all jacked up on Mountain Dew!” That is what it felt like! Needless to say, I often did not sleep well those days.
Side effects in order of appearance:
-Fatigue, Lowered Immunity, Taste (none or altered), Acne, Aches, Hair Loss, Loss of Appetite, Nausea, Vomiting, Leaky eyes/nose, neuropathy, dryness, finger/toe nails discolored, altered smell, and “chemo brain.”
I encountered every single one of these and eventually all at the same time. My body was literally sick 24/7. If I even had a hint of a fever, I had to go to the emergency room. On the positive side, I never dealt with any fevers and was able to stay as healthy as I possibly could. However, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days after treatment were usually the worst. I had my treatments on Thursdays so when the weekend came, I knew I would spend most of it at home resting.
It’s so important to be aware of everything going on with your body and to know what your limits are. (I’m going to do a separate post about the tougher side effects I encountered and the side effects I still deal with today.) How many hours in the day can you work before being completely exhausted? I pushed myself to work my full-time hours but there were some days I just had to go home early or come to work late. What other activities can you do to keep moving without it adversely affecting you? Walking and yoga are two things that can really help. I had a really hard time being active because working all day usually exhausted me, but it’s important to try. What can you and should you eat? Really, the only things I was told to absolutely not eat was Sushi and at a buffet/salad bar. I was encouraged to eat a lot of protein to keep up my energy and to basically eat as healthy as possible. It was very hard because I often did not have much of an appetite or certain foods made me nauseous.
The best advice I can give to someone who is going to go through chemo or is currently going through chemo is that you can make it through! You will be challenged every step of the way, but you will get through it because you have to get through it! If you let yourself sit there and let pain, exhaustion, and depression take over, it will make it so much harder on you. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! Just today, as I was getting my 2nd to last Herceptin treatment, I saw an older gentleman who I had seen many times before. He has a different and more advanced stage of cancer, but he was in such good spirits and was doing so much better. He talked about how this past weekend he was able to get out and fish and work in his yard for the 1st time in months! It was so inspiring to see. For me, I’ve been getting back into singing and performing. It was very hard at first because I was not where I used to be, but now I can feel myself and my voice getting stronger every time I sing!
First day of chemo 09/22/2016:
*I wore a Star Wars top every time I had a treatment!
Up next: Episode 3.2: Revenge of the Side Effects ~Clouded by the dark side of chemo~