Thursday was my penultimate chemo treatment!
I LOVE this kind of random event. It’s like finding a Lindor Truffle
at the back of the fridge when you’ve got a raging chocolate craving. We got caught up with Sue, then had to beat feet to get to the Chemo Cafe.
Lately, I’ve been pondering the things I won’t miss once chemo is over. While my deadly chemo cocktail was pumped in through my port, Shelley helped me refine a list of the
Top Ten Things I Won’t Miss When I’m Done With Chemo
10. Chemo Mouth Rinse.
I have to mix it up every two days. It leaves an unpleasant, salty aftertaste. It’s just yucky.
9. Sun Screen.
I hate the way it just sits on my skin. If I’m going out, I have to remember to save time to put it on before I leave. I think it dries out my cuticles. There are little white foggy marks all over the interior of my car from where my sun screened arm has brushed. It leaves yellow stains on my white shirts.
8. Chemo Clothes.
Because I hate wearing sunscreen, I’ve been wearing long-sleeved shirts to limit the exposed skin needing to be greased up. And I’ve been wearing wide-brimmed sun hats. And let’s not forget the compression stockings. I look like the crazy old lady neighbor from a bad situation comedy. It doesn’t help that sometimes I shuffle a little when I walk because I’m tired. I’m NOT a crazy old lady character — at least not yet. And when I become a crazy old lady, I’m not going to do it with more style.
7. The Viking Hat.
Okay, the Viking Hat has served me well. And I will continue to wear it when I have my ongoing checkups with my oncologist. But I’ve worn it all summer — sometimes I get tired of how it mushers down my thinning hair.
6. Chemo Drugs.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that Zofran, my anti-nausea med, causes constipation. And if you’ve read some of my posts here, you’ll know the issues I’ve had with constipation. I’ve got Lasix to make me pee when my edema kicks up. It also robs my body of potassium, which my heart needs to stay strong. Then there’s the steroids, which help control the side effects but also keep me awake at night and make me want to eat everything in sight. And let’s not forget the star of the chemo drugs, my battle buddy Gemma, AKA Gemcitabine. This is total poison indiscriminately killing the good cells along with the bad cells. I will not miss my weekly dose of this nasty stuff.
5. The Steroid Buzz.
This is a buzz for all the wrong reasons. Every week, for the day-and-a-half after my treatment I’ve had a buzz that drives me to do task after task and get no sleep. It’s been great to have the energy to clean out closets and pull weeds, but it feels so unnatural. And I don’t sleep. Did I mention that it feels so incredibly unnatural?
4. Chemo Side Effects
Ah! The scrounge of the red rash! These last two cycles, in addition to my legs, the red rash has also been making an appearance on my face. I’m also looking forward to being able to walk at a brisk pace again, instead of shuffling along and huffing/puffing because my red blood cells are so low I have no oxygen. There’s always a bad taste in my mouth after I eat that I seem to only be able to chase away with massive quantities is Altoids. My appetite for food is so unpredictable — I’ll spend major bucks at the fancy deli on stuff that I’m craving, then an hour later I can’t tolerate. My ham feet have not made a return appearance, but my chemo brain (cognitive issues) is still hanging out. I’m looking forward to a time when I’ll sleep all the way through the night instead of going from my bed to the recliner to the sofa and back to my bed again all in a six hour period. And then there’s the hot flashes — no, wait, I might still be stuck with those (menopause).
3. Lack of Pedicure.
I used to get a pedicure every month. It’s been nearly NINE MONTHS since my last pedicure! This is the first summer in a decade that my toenails have gone polish-free! Yeah, I know this is superficial, but a girl has got to draw the line somewhere!
2. My Mustache.
Again, a superficial complaint. Early in my treatments I had the hope that if the chemo was going to take my hair, it would take my menopausal mustache too. But no. The hair on my head got thinner, and I swear the hair above my lip got thicker! I am SOOOOOOO looking forward to the time I can start waxing that mess again!
1. Phillips MOM and Dulcolax.
(Constipation. I know this is gross, probably way too much information. However, it’s a huge issue for me and I can’t help but believe that someone else going through chemo might come across my little bloggie and be helped by my honesty — so you’ll have to deal with the TMI for the greater good of that random chemo patient.)
I have always had very regular bowel movements. But with my chemo treatments and meds, I have had some really miserable moments when my bowels were so backed up, and the poop so compacted, that I thought I’d end up in the hospital with a blown-out butt hole. After trying different laxatives, I’ve found that what works for me is taking the maximum dosages of Dulcolax and Phillips Milk of Magnesia, before bedtime on my chemo day and the four days after. The downside is that I have to be careful in how I take them to avoid indigestion, which is very uncomfortable and keeps me from sleeping. Plus, it’s a challenge to “control” stool firmness. Intellectually, I know I could probably back off a little on my dosages and not have diarrhea so often. Emotionally, I’m frightened that if I back off on my dosages I’ll end up with a colon of poop that has the consistency of cement. It’s an irrational fear, and I haven’t been able to get past it. The end result is often an upset stomach at night and diarrhea in the morning — which I believe will end once my body starts to recover from the chemo treatments. Though they’ve helped me through the misery of constipation, I will be SO HAPPY to see the last of them!
Next week marks my completion of 18 chemo treatments (if all goes according to plan), but it’s hard for me to forget that there could be additional chemo in my future. Think of all the stories you’ve heard about someone heroically beating cancer only to have it pop up in a different form a few months or years later. This one persistent anxiety lives in the back of my mind. My friend, Shelley, who is a 6-year breast cancer survivor, says she feels this anxiety too — though it has soften somewhat as time has passed. Those stinking rogue cells live inside us like a group of undercover terrorists, just waiting for the opportunity to bring down the World Trade Center that is our health. It’s up to us to care for our bodies, work with our doctors, and be on guard against the bad guys.
I’m planning to stay on guard. I’m going to continue to educate myself about the cancer that might be lurking in my body. I’ll keep all my doctor appointments and seek a second opinion, if needed. I will make my health a priority, and do everything I can so that I don’t end up in the Chemo Chair again.
And I will do my best not to live in fear of a recurrence.