Posted by: annnorris | November 16, 2012

Chemo and Its Ugliness – Part 2

Ok, its been a long time to getting back to this and for those of you who have been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for “Part 2”, (as if) I apologize for the long wait.

I leave the oncologist office after chemo just fine. No problems. And, for a few short hours, I am fine, normal. Then the realities start to set in. I have to start taking the nausea meds. I start with my long time friend, Phenergan. When you grow up and live with migraines, Phenergan is like a member of your family, always near and ready to help. The only problem with Phenergan is it completely knocks me out. While normally this is an acceptable side effect, and I would dearly love to just sleep away the next 10 days, it just isn’t strong enough alone to handle chemo nausea. Therefore, in 2 hours, I have to take Prochlorperazine.(Side note that I just became aware of – Prochlorperazine is also used often to control schizophrenia!)  I am not sure if it helps or how much it helps. I only know that Dr. Wilder said to alternate Phenergan and Prochlorperazine every two hours, and I do this like clockwork. Anything to hold back the actual vomiting, I will do. So, for the next 36 hours, I set my iPhone alarm to ring every two hours. This takes some time to enter into the phone and set up, but it is SO worth it. I wake up even in the middle of the night every two hours to take the meds. And, as of yet, I haven’t thrown up at all.

I am directed to drink, drink, drink! This helps to flush the Adriamycin through my system. Its hard to drink this much when you are also drowsy from the nausea meds, but I try. You know you are drinking enough when your pee starts turning red. This is usually only a first day issue and very minor.

When I wake up the next morning, the taste sets in. Some describe it as a metallic taste, and that I could live with. But in reality, it isn’t metallic – its just plain thick, constant, all consuming coating in your mouth. I call it “THE TASTE”. This carries on for about 5 days and it never goes away. I found that drinking cranberry juice and orange juice help some. I cannot tolerate water at all, it is just like swallowing gulps of this venomy taste. Another thing that helps for me is to always suck on Werther’s Originals. May be a selling point in a new market for the candy?

Another issue worth mentioning is the thought of this whole chemotherapy process makes me just shudder. I get chills just thinking about it during this time. It truly disturbs me to know that I have these evil chemicals running through my body. I try to thwart these thoughts by thinking, “Just think of all the foods and drinks you have consumed in your life that are probably just as evil as the chemotherapy drugs”. That’s enough to get me into thought about treating my body better. Hopefully, I will take action as well.

One of the worst side effects for me is the constipation. I haven’t found a way to conquer this yet. I’ve tried the Miralax drinking every night, even before the chemo treatment to get a start on it. Didn’t help. After after about day three or four, you get desperate for relief. Tried Dulcolax suppositories. Doesn’t work enough. Tried walking, but just can’t walk enough yet due to fatigue. If you have any suggestions, I am all ears and would love to try your suggestion starting this week!

One little ray of sunshine, I can still eat and enjoy food for a few days. I have found that first few days, I really like spicy food to counteract “THE TASTE”. The first chemo treatment had me eating scrambled eggs and toast like mad, and I am not an egg eater. ‘They’ say that the steroids in the chemo pack stimulate your hunger, and its true. For second chemo treatment, Cheri Liddy brought by a mexican casserole. I could have, and probably did, eat that for every meal for a few days. It was spicy enough to heed off “THE TASTE” for a little bit. Thanks Cheri!

On Day Two, I have to go back to the oncologist to get a Neulasta injection. This boosts my bone marrow into overdrive to produce more white blood cells that help keep my immunity up while the chemo drugs kill all the other roaming WBC’s. Just learned this – Neulasta may cause spleen rupture, leading to death! Wow, guess I have to watch for pain in my left upper stomach or shoulder. Here’s the problem with the Neulasta for me – EXTREME fatigue. This doesn’t hit me until about day 5, but it hits hard! I can tell the exact time it begins, strange huh? I will be fine, then bam, I cannot hold any part of my body up for any amount of time. It also causes a pain deep inside each and every one of your bones. I have to have pillows to lay my arms on because I just cannot stand to have them touch anything as hard as an armrest of a sofa or recliner (haha!). This has been the worst part for me thus far. I cannot do anything at all, no walking, no standing, barely able to go to the restroom. The bad part is the boredom for me. I can only watch so much TV. I am unable to hold a book to read at this time, much less work, craft or cook and clean. And just knowing that I can’t do other things, makes me depressed. I wish I could sleep through this part. The first treatment only had me down for a day. However, the second treatment had me like this for three days! I have to give a HUGE thank you to the ladies from Cornerstone Bible Fellowship that while treating the pastoral staff to a yummy meal, included me on their list. This was a day I couldn’t move and having this meal brought over was truly a Godsend! Thank you!  However hard this part is, I am still thankful for the Neulasta in boosting my immunity. So far I have had good blood counts and that keeps me healthy.

The last problem I have is a constant heartburn. For the past two treatments, it has been hard to sleep because of this. I started taking Pepcid a few weeks ago, so I have hope that it will cut the heartburn for this next treatment.

On the good side, after the Neulasta fatigue wears off, I am back to normal (as normal as I can be right now). This gives me roughly about a week and a half of ability! I am so thankful for that! I can cook, straighten up the house, play with Mia (my sweet Jack Russell and closest confidante), go to lunch or Burns Park with Mark, visit with friends and family, and shop. Life is normal at this time….

Until the Sunday before the next chemo when it consumes my every thought.

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