This next Thursday (September 22) will be my last chemo treatment. I am feeling pretty well and ready to get it over with! This last time, it seemed like the "aggravations" I have for side effects were harder to get through. In the interest of honesty, transparency, and education, I will share what these aggravations are.
I take steroid medicine by mouth the day before and the day after chemo, and by IV on chemo days. This causes a flushed appearance like I am horribly embarrassed (steroid glow). After Saturday, this wanes, and I have the hot flashes every half hour or so that make me hot and flushed. (The chemo sent me into menopause.) If I am at home, I might take off my head covering during these. If I am in public, I fan myself or will myself not to react in any obvious way. I even have hot flashes in the night, so I am taking covers off and on all night long.
By Saturday, I have blurry vision. This lasts about a day. I don't trust myself to drive the Saturday after treatment.
On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday I have bone pain from the Neulasta shot I get on Friday after chemo. It is mostly in my legs and hips, but sometimes shoulders and arms. I take Ibuprofen on a schedule for this and it really helps the pain be less.
By Monday through Thursday, I have gastritis, which includes feeling kind of "flu-y" abdominal cramps, lots of burps and indigestion, running to the restroom, tummy hurting after eating.
By Friday, I am feeling better, more normal and more energy, but there are other things that go on until the next chemo day that are just not fun, but part of the package.
During the second week after chemo, each time I have gotten a sore on the side of my tongue. It takes about three days before it is gone. I am very thankful to only get one at a time, because I know that many people have multiple mouth sores when they are on chemo. While I have it, even talking is painful.
Everything tastes strange, like the taste of metal cans. Some days it is hard to make myself eat. Someone asked me what I was most anxious to eat after I get my taste back. I am planning to enjoy everything, even a glass of milk, tasting normal again. Sometimes I crave a certain food, and it is so disappointing that it also tastes weird. I know it will take longer than three weeks after this last chemo to get my normal taste back, because I have never gotten it back in between the treatments. Almost every day, I think of my brother, who lost his taste and smell from a head injury several years ago, and I know he has it worse than me. I can enjoy the smells of food, and I have hope that soon I will enjoy the tastes of food again.
My eyes have twitched every day since probably the second treatment. At times, the twitching gets really frustrating, so I am glad for the hours that go by without it happening.
My fingernails and toenails hurt a lot. My fingernails have a very strange shape and there are bumps and ridges on them because of the chemo. When I type, or pick things up, or wring out a washcloth, or do any number of things, my fingernails hurt. My toenails hurt also, but not as much as the fingernails. My fingernails have rings in them. I figure kind of like the rings in trees show the years, my fingernails show the rounds of chemo they have endured. They haven't fallen out yet; the doctor says they can.
I don't have the strength or endurance I used to have. Vacuuming one large room in our house makes me tired. When I try to lift heavy things, or hold a baby, I know I am not as strong as I used to be. I know it will take awhile to get over the effects the chemo has had on my overall strength. When we go on walks and do long stairs as part of the walk (like up and down from the track around the football field) my legs are shaky. I hold Rowen's hand because I love him, but also because I need to hold his hand.
One very frustrating thing is short term memory problems. I have a very hard time remembering what I did yesterday, or today, or, what was I doing right before I started doing this? I do remember that they call this "chemo brain." I am hoping that my memory will improve over time.
If you ask me how I am doing, I will say, "Great!" and mean it with all my heart. I have so little to complain about, compared to so many people. I have some inconvenient things going on, but everybody does, or will have inconveniences sometime. I am so blessed to have able bodied, kind, and loving family around me who do everything that I cannot do right now, without complaining, even! Some have intimated that I am trying to make it look too easy, so I thought I would just share the little things I have to complain about. Please know that I will be thrilled to have the last chemo day behind me, but I will not feel well for at least a week after it. Then I will still be working through the other "aggravations" for an unknown length of time. We will wait and see how long it takes.
I am so grateful for God's help to get me through this journey through cancer. Without Him, what would I do? I have the joy of the Lord each day for my strength. He gives me a sense of humor so that I can laugh at myself instead of hating looking like a bald old lady. He has given me a dear husband and precious children who would do anything in the world to help me and regularly do 'way more than their share. Many family and friends are faithfully praying for me. All of our family has been so healthy this summer, so I have not had to worry about germs. Besides all the wonderful birthday cards I got, I have been blessed with many, many 'get well' and 'praying for you' cards. I have a wonderful doctor, and kind, competent nurses. I have gotten excellent care. I feel like I am spoiled rotten!
I hope no one else has to go through the cancer journey. But if it helps to know what mine has been like, I want to share enough details to take the fear out, and help someone to know that they can get through it. With God's help! Never try it without God's help.