Make no mistake, chemotherapy is serious being frequently described as a poison. There’s no point mincing your words with it or being in denial. You have to face it (and all the side effects) head on; you have no choice. Talking of which the amount of possible side effects you could get from chemo is mind blowing. It’s no wonder people are scared by it. Not just that each person reacts differently because no one person is the same. There’s different types of cancer and therefore different types of chemotherapy. Who knew?
I am Triple Negative and will be having 6 sessions in total, 3 weeks apart. I’ll be having 2 different types of chemo drugs: 3 sessions of EC (Epirubicin Cyclophosphamide) and 3 sessions of Docetaxel. I know, even the names of the drugs are intimidating! The side effects for the second lot of chemo are apparently “a lot worse” than the first. Yay! 😬. Saying this it’s all completely untested. I might be ok but equally I might be a wreck for the whole period, but let’s wait and see.
Cancer cells tend to grow fast and chemo drugs kill fast-growing cells. But because these drugs travel throughout the body they can affect normal, healthy cells that are fast-growing too. Damage to healthy cells causes side effects.
The normal cells most likely to be damaged by chemo are :
- Blood-forming cells in the bone marrow
- Hair follicles
- Cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system
Because of this the “common” side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Anaemia (low red blood cell counts)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite changes
- Mouth, tongue, and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
- Nerve and muscle problems such as numbness, tingling, and pain
- Skin and nail changes such as dry skin and color change
- Urine and bladder changes and kidney problems
- Weight changes
- Chemo brain, which can affect concentration and focus
- Mood changes
- Changes in libido and sexual function
- Fertility problems
Joy! Sounds like something to look forward to no? I’m clearly being flippant but as I see it – what will be, will be. I have again little/ no control over what will manifest over the next few months during my treatment so there’s no point worrying. You take it one day at a time and it’ll all be over on the 28th November anyway so not long at all!
What is in my control?
So it would seem the aim of the (chemo) game is not to get an infection. Chemo seriously weakens your immune system as the poison attacks your white blood cells which keep infections at bay. Your platelets also reduce which is why I’ll bruise more easily. I will have my bloods assessed the day before each chemo session to check they’re ok before starting the chemo. If I have an infection having chemo is a big no no – so I want to avoid that not least because it will just prolong things!
If you are normally prone to catching something this will be your weakness and the area most likely to cause infection. For me this is my asthma and subsequent chest infections I always pick up when I have a cold. Luckily I’m rarely ill but again we’ll see what manifests during treatment.
- Headwear – check (see Taking back control blog). I’m also attending a hair work shop curtesy of Macmillan next week so I’m know how to look after my scalp and to learn how my hair will grow back etc.
- Stock up on drugs – check ( inhalers for asthma, epederme and oil for extreme dry skin, mouthwash for ulcers)
- Thermometer – not yet. We need more batteries! I have to call the hospital if my temp reaches 37 as it’s the classic sign of infection!
- Double protection contraception should the occasion arise – erm nope not yet. Chemo drugs are apparently not very kind to penises if unprotected during sex 😬. Also pregnancy is a big no no. So it’s advised we use a condom plus an anti sperm lubrication. Sounds romantic I know 😉)
- Support network in place – always 😍
- Makeup classes – check. I went to an amazing makeup tutorial last week ran by a charity called Look good feel better. They teach you incredible practical tips on how to create the illusion that you have eye lashes and eye brows for example when you don’t. We also get a huge bag of free goodies which are donated by companies such as Clinique , Lancôme, Dolce & Gabbana and many more. I’m pretty rubbish at makeup. I wear mascara but more frequently don’t wear anything. The teachers were amazing and I already feel more confident at the thought of walking out of the house with no hair so HUGE thanks ❤️❤️❤️
I think that’s everything. I just need to shave my hair off and then I’ll be ready for you chemo.
BRING IT ON!! 👊
Liz Spice, 4th August 2017