The dreaded "C" word next to Cancer.
The type of chemo one gets depends on the type of cancer. In my case, with hormone positive invasive ductile carcinoma- a kind of breast cancer- I got to have a lovely cocktail of potent poisons. After having a port installed, it was an I.V. delivered series of anti nausea drugs, anti inflammatory steroids, Perjeta, Herceptin, Taxotere, and Carboplatin.
For the first chemo session, the medicine dosage was geared toward a standard size person and not a short, skinny lady. They gave me too much. On the day of the treatment, mom drove me home to my boat, Angel. Throughout an entire year of cancer treatment, I stayed at a dock. I felt drugged; mentally spacey with a “full” sensation in my midsection. There was no nausea, but instead it felt as if my digestive system had ground to a halt. I drank a lot of water as instructed and that afternoon did some light walking on the treadmill in the nearby hotel gym.
That night, the heavy dose caused severe pain around the tumor site in the wee hours of the morning. It was a good sign despite the unpleasantness of it all. The pain meant the tumor was being dissolved around the edges and the nearby nerves had to readjust. Unable to sleep or get comfortable, I relented and took one of the pain pills the doctor had prescribed. It helped and I was able to fall into a shallow, restless sleep, but I despised how the pill made me feel. The pill’s side effects were unpleasant; sluggish mental faculties and an awful floaty feeling.
The pain subsided the next day and was a dull ache for several days. There was no nausea or vomiting. My digestive system, shut down by the anti-nausea drugs given with the I.V., suffered from lower intestinal issues instead. Constipation alternated with diarrhea. I still had an appetite, but found it difficult to swallow and the lining of my mouth hurt. The sensation of taste disappeared and food was bland, cardboard like. At least the tumor was noticeably shrinking.
The chemo meds kill fast growing cells; hair follicles, parts of the taste buds, the immune system. My scalp was sore, likely the dying hair follicles. About a week later, my hair fell out. It mostly came out all at once; I could grab clumps of it and painlessly tug it out. I leaned over a large plastic bag and rubbed away all loose hair. What remained was an irregular Mohawk. I left it as is, just to be defiant.
After each infusion every three weeks, the first two weeks are the most unpleasant until the besieged body recovers somewhat. Despite a desire to sleep long hours and sore muscles, I forced myself to commit to light exercise and walking. It helped dramatically. Movement helps the body heal. Being sedentary aggravated the joint and muscle soreness.
Three weeks later, the next chemo dosage was adjusted to my body size and weight. Unnecessary anti-nausea drugs were eliminated. Chemo affects everyone differently. I still suffered lower G.I. issues, but anti nausea meds were not needed. Extra fiber and “Smooth Move” tea became my new best friends. Boy was I feeling sick!
Funny hair, but not ha-ha funny... Feeling sore and tired and dopey and "chemically" after chemo treatment #3. Ate a lot of food despite irregular bowels in hopes it would rebuild my damaged immune system. Gained a chunk of weight, but didn't gain an immune system. (that recovers later)
Chemo has also been giving me very puffy eyelids, watery eyes, fine wrinkles due to chemo-induced dryness, and a noticeable thinning of eyelashes. The lashes on lower lids completely fell out. They will grow back in time.
Interesting note, my nose hairs fell out too!
Oh, and my pubes bailed out as well.
One benefit: no leg hair or armpit hair to shave.
It has been exactly four months since the "heavy duty" chemo treatments. My hair was slower than average to respond, but it's finally growing back. It is returning in the same grey-white color, but seems to have a lot of bends in it...like natural bed head. Hmmmmm... There is also some strange fuzz coming in along the jaw line (!???). A friend says I look like an elf :-/ Very funny (am now furrowing brow and making a face). Only time will tell...
Before Breast Cancer
During Breast Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy before Surgury