Thursday, October 13, 2011

Side Effects of Chemo & Updates

I am almost to the half way mark!  Next Wednesday will be my 6th chemotherapy treatment.  I had another PET scan to see my progress with ABVD & received good news!  The scan showed that all activity has resolved, with residual soft tissue in my chest where the 10cm tumor was.  I still have to finish all 12 ABVD treatments (whine) and radiation is still a possibility.  Still just trying to take things one day at a time.

My last treatment took more of a toll on me than the others.  I guess because the cancer is almost gone, so there are only "good" cells left to work on for the most part.  I found that my fatigue started taking over my Saturday as well.  Before I just had to worry about getting through Wednesday, Thursday & Friday of chemo week.  

We did the Light the Night Walk with a great "Team Sarah" turnout.  Thanks SAMC coworkers for coordinating the team & shirts!  <3  We raised a few thousand dollars, I don't remember the exact number (chemo brain--see below).

My sister, mom & I

Team Sarah

I also did Zumba to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  2 HOURS of it!  Sorry, no action shots :)

My friend Audrey & I.  We've been friends for 20 years!  She shaved her head to raise money for LLS.

Now on to the dreaded chemo side effects.  Some of them have gradually gotten worse and I fear they will continue to do so as treatments go on.  Come on January!

1. Chemo Brain--It's real.  Tonight I left a burner (on low) and didn't notice until I was putting the leftovers away.  I also forgot to make garlic bread to go with our pasta, which I had planned for two days.  If you know me, you know that I am a task master, planner, micro manager, mother hen, the person that holds it all together.  Now I feel like a feeble old lady who can't remember what she's said 5 minutes ago half the time.  I've been noticing that my hubby has been remembering more than me at times.  I sincerely don't remember when our new trash day is, apparently it's Thursday because he already put it to the curb.  And if you know my sweet husband, you know this is a big deal.  Lately, I have to re-read a string of text messages to remember what our conversation was about if more than a few minutes have passed.  For those reading, please don't be offended or get your feelings hurt if you've sent an unanswered e-mail or phone call.  I simply forget.

2. Fatigue--This one is a time stealer.  On chemo Wednesdays, I normally come home and sleep right into Thursday afternoon.  Which is followed by a nap that might last until Friday.  I love to sleep, don't get me wrong.  It's not a normal tired.  It's an emergent need to lay down and pass out, not something you can push through with a 5-Hour Energy drink.

3. And then there is the Insomnia--which is why I'm up writing this blog :)  Once the poison starts to work it's way out of my system, the steroids take over and sleep is an effort to obtain.  PITA.

4. Nausea--LUCKILY, I have not thrown up.  Nausea hasn't been too terrible, thanks to my meds.  But the general queasiness, especially on chemo day, is enough for me.  I usually eat breakfast, try to stomach a small bland snack during infusion, and that's it for the day.  I can't even look at the lunches they bring around without my stomach churning.  It's just a sandwich!  I have weird associations,  I guess.  

5. Heartburn/Indigestion--Chemotherapy is known to break down the lining of the stomach.  This can cause a burning sensation up to my throat, or stomach pains.  Prilosec had been doing the trick, but this round has been a little rougher.  

6. Mouth Pain--I  have not had mouth sores, thankfully.  But related to #5, chemo can also strip the mouth of the mucous membranes.  I relate the sensation to a constant state of that burning you get after eating too many Mike & Ike Hot Tamales.  Not horrendous, but annoying.  It was really bad after chemo #1, and it hurt to swallow water.  I've found that ice helps.

7. Hair Loss--It sucks.  I miss my hair.  I have a little more than peach fuzz on my head.  My eyebrows & eyelashes have hung on, though I can tell they are thinning.  However, I still have the pleasure of shaving my legs.  As Gma Jean would say, "Ain't that a bitch."

8. Food Restrictions--Things I miss: sushi, a medium rare steak, and salad.  The risk of bacteria is too dangerous for my pathetic immune system.  I basically have 2 days each cycle that I can sneak one of these treats when my WBC count is up.

9. Bone Pain--I get a Neulasta shot to help boost my white blood cells to prevent infection.  This causes the bone marrow to expand, thus causing bone pain.  It hasn't been too bad lately, thanks to a tip from another HL victim.  I've been taking Claritin, and for whatever reason I have very little pain now.  Before, I wouldn't be able to sleep through the night because of the pain.

10. Skin Changes--My skin is drier.  It calluses more easily.  And now I'm striped.  The Bleomycin can cause discoloration, so anywhere I've scratched (mostly during chemo #1 when I was still experiencing the itching symptom) is darker than the rest of me.  

That's about it.  So when you ask how I'm doing and I tell you that "I'm fine", this is what I really mean.  <3

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