Today is day 15.
15 days of a 24/7 chemo drip. Just one day to go!
I thought today would be a good day to reflect on the effects of the chemo and everything that it does to and for us. First and foremost for me is the nausea. Thankfully medicine has advanced to the point that we have a number of good pills that help with this. You can only take each of them over a specified time frame, so the key is to find the proper mix so that you don’t OD, but do keep the nausea as minimized as possible. I have mimicked what they dosed me with in the hospital and achieved pretty good results, with only a few minor breaks in the armor.
I take one Zofran in the morning, and another at night. During the day I supplement the Zofran with Reglan as needed, and around midnight I take two Ativan. So as you can see, they keep you pretty well covered, but then again, with chemo entering my system for over two weeks straight, I’ve found that regime to be necessary. Luckily these drugs aren’t mentally altering at all. The Ativan is the only one that is sleep inducing, which is why I take them before bed. They help cover me through the night and drift off to sleep.
Another thing that is obviously a side effect of the chemo is losing the hair. I have had several people ask me about the hair loss since it occurred, and it is usually phrased in very sympathizing tones with questions of “Wasn’t that disconcerting?” or “And that must have been quite a shock, right?” To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why everyone thinks this is so traumatic.
I suppose it is because people associate the bald head with cancer, so maybe losing the hair is what finally makes it real for them. I consider it my first tangible sign of recovery. Chemo works by attacking the fastest growing cells in the body. The most visible of these are the hairs on your head. So therefore, once my hair finally started falling out, I had tangible proof that the chemo was doing its job. I wasn’t just laying myself up for 10 days, I was actively killing the cancer. Watching the hair come out in my hand was an experience that I actually enjoyed, because it was so strangely unique and hopeful at the same time. We’d taken the first active step towards recovery.
Something else that the chemo does is drop your white blood counts, which are what help you fight off infection. I’ve talked about this a lot, but it really does affect more areas than you would think. The most notable for me being food! One obvious food choice they crossed off my daily menu was sushi, on the chance that the raw fish would have bacteria. That one seems pretty obvious. But the one that kills me is the red meat! Being an all-American, red-blooded male, brought up in Texas, I like my steaks rare. And by rare, I mean I’d be content if it were still wriggling on the plate. But this crazy lady (nutritionist) comes in the room telling me that I can only have red meat if it is well done. I can’t choke down a well done steak and can just barely ingest an overcooked burger. It was truly a sad day when my mom heard that lady talking, because she’s taken it as her personal mission to make sure that I do not get anything that was not approved on her list. I’m going to go on a strictly steak diet when this is all over. Or just return to my previous dining habits I suppose. Haha.
One strange side effect that you might not know about are the night sweats. Apparently it is a common thing while on chemo, but almost nightly I wake up at least once drenched in sweat. When this first started we were in the Hope Lodge and I made my poor mom sleep with no heat in order to try to combat the problem! Luckily we both survived without getting frostbite and were later told that they were normal and just something to do with the chemo, so now I just live with it, but it is a weird thing and something I’d never heard about until I started having them.
A final side effect that I have noticed is fatigue. I’m not sure if this is caused by the chemo, the radiation, or both, but man do I have some fatigue! It’s not that I feel tired all the time, it’s more like we’ll do something and then I’ll think, “I could probably go for a nap about now,” and the next thing you know, I’m out! I have no idea how much I’ve been sleeping, but it is definitely a lot.
All things considered, everything has been going very smoothly and I would like to thank everyone again for all of their prayers and notes of support. When I say that it means a lot, it really does. It’s one of those funny things that really does make a difference more than you, as the sender, realize. I might not remember to respond every time because of all the aforementioned sleeping I’ve been doing, but it doesn’t mean I don’t read everything and appreciate everyone who has taken the time to drop me a note, so thank you!!!