Medical Minute…

pink ink…

“You are supposed to be sick, and here you are profiling”, said one of my “LINKed in Friendship” sisters, as we walked out of the Fashion Show yesterday. “I’m not ‘sick”, I replied. “But you are”, she insisted as she grabbed my hand.
20 minutes later, different woman comes and pulls me aside b/f our chapter meeting. “I am so glad to see you! Your treatment must not be that bad.” I smiled and responded, “When it hits me, it knocks me down. But today I am good.” To this she also grabbed my hand and said, “I don’t believe you get knocked down. You just look great”. All I could say was “thanks” and went straight to the bathroom and washed my hands! Germs!

How to reconcile this? I am so happy that folks think I look good! I don’t consider myself sick. But since I evidently don’t look sick, some people mistake/confuse that with “not having it so bad”.

So today I thought I would give a “Medical Minute” on the side effects I have already faced.

SPOILER ALERT: If you aren’t the least bit interested in the details, STOP HERE. If you get the least bit queasy, STOP HERE! If at the end of the day, you don’t care, STOP HERE! If you think some stuff just shouldn’t be shared, STOP HERE! PLEASE!

As my Cancer Mentor tells me on a regular basis, everyone is different. Every treatment plan is different, so the side effects can vary. That said, I have had 90 % of the same reactions that she had 3 years ago.
So let’s get the easy stuff out of the way.

Nausea. Yes, it is miserable. Kicks in hard the 2nd day after treatment. It is a constant presence and can last for up to 5 days, as mine does. This requires many doses of meds to try, and not alleviate, but make the nausea tolerable. The meds in turn make me sleepy, and then have insane dreams. It is like pregnancy nausea…on steroids.

Hair loss. Falls out by the 3rd week. Mine did not fall out on my pillow, like so many others. But that’s because I already had short hair, and kept cutting it lower and lower. By the time it got really patchy, I just shaved it off. BUT let’s remember that your hair falls out EVERYWHERE! So the process of having it fall out “down there” is not like a Brazilian, even though people like to equate it to that. It also affects the way you tinkle! Having no hair under my arms is GREAT. Watching your eyelashes and eyebrows fall out is not.

Now to the good stuff…

Sores. While going through chemo, your skin tissue gets really sensitive and thin. So over the course of treatments a person may develop various sores. The most prevalent is mouth sores. And guess what! I got one immediately. Lovely. An open sore on the inside of the mouth is great, especially when I couldn’t use Ambesol. So just gargling with baking soda and water for a week. Thankfully, I haven’t gotten them anywhere else…so far. BUT, the thin tissue does extend into the vaginal/anal area. So every time a bowel movement occurs…there is blood. Again, this is NOT for the faint of heart. If one actually has the desire for sex, a condom must be involved (seriously????!!!) b/c the chemicals can hurt HIM! Not to mention the potential for tearing down there. Again, REALLY??

Everything starts to turn black. Again, chemicals are no joke! Over the course of treatment, various parts of my body have changed. Most significantly, I have a black tongue. Pretty! This is accompanied by an extremely dry mouth. Each time I brush my teeth I gag. I have been through 4 different kinds of toothpaste, to no avail. So I hold my breath until I am done brushing.
Nails are no exception. Fortunately, my nails haven’t fallen off. However, my toenails are primarily black. So, I can still get them done. However, no cuticle cutting, loofah-ing etc. Tough in a dry climate! My hand nails have LARGE black crescents at the bottom. Now, they are growing feverishly, but are very thin. But at least I have nails now!

Fatigue. Do I even need to go into that? For a chick that rarely sits still, this is 2nd only to the nausea as the worst side effect for me. I never thought I would actually miss going to the gym. But the thought of even walking a ½ mile puts me in the bed. During treatment weeks, my body aches 24 hours a day, and no Tylenol or ibuprofen will alleviate the soreness. Did I mention the toe cramps?

Taste. Another bonus. Everything tastes metallic. I rarely have an appetite. When I do eat something, it can’t be too spicy or creamy. Things actually have very little taste. But the overwhelming taste is METAL. Like chewing on aluminum foil.

So I think that is a good start. It is all part of this journey. I didn’t talk about…

-blood transfusions
-hot flashes!!!
-constant runny nose
-chemo brain = memory loss
-mental fatigue that prevents me from reading more than 5 pages of a book at a time.
-menstrual cycle that almost sent me to the hospital because it was so heavy. The upside is that now I don’t have a cycle.
-odor. The 1st days of each chemo treatment emit a “smell” when you are sleeping or sweating. Let’s just say we wash the sheets every couple days!

Did I mention that I have a port for the I.V. treatments in my upper left collarbone section? Sits right under the skin. Looks bad…to me. And it itches. Now while this is annoying, it does help me. You see, chemo breaks down the veins and makes it hard to get an I.V. in. I already have small veins, so this was my only option.

Again, each person is different. But when I hear that I must have it “easier”, I chuckle to myself. Before all this, I had no true understanding of all that chemo entailed. But thanks to my Cancer Mentors, I am better prepared for each new adventure!

Thank you for joining me in the Cancer Lane!

New Chemo drugs, Surgery and Radiation (maybe?) are next.

So, until our next Medical Minute…

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. TME
    Jul 08, 2015 @ 22:58:15

    Reblogged this on Pinkwellchick Foundation and commented:
    What everyone recently diagnosed with breast cancer (and their family & friends) should know about the side effects of chemotherapy.

    [Repost from written by Barbra Watson-Riley in her “cancer real talk” style]


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