Chemotherapy Survival


Chemo time!

Your first chemo is coming up… You’re probably nervous as shit. I know I was! I thought I was going to feel instantly sick, that chemo was going to hurt, and that I was going to be bowing down to the porcelain throne (the toilet) for the next week.

Each person is different; in my case I haven’t really had any side effects. I’d like to think it’s because I eat healthy and I was overly prepared. When I say “overly prepared” that means I bought everything imaginable for all the pretend disaster scenarios I had played out in my head. When I feel unprepared or nervous, I frantically buy things I don’t need. “What if I’m uncomfortable and cold during chemo? I definitely need new Lululemon yoga pants and sweatshirts. And a new blanket. And 5 hats all in different colors. Probably going to also need new cozy socks, in 5 colors, and new slippers. I definitely need a bag to carry all this stuff in, I mean, I NEED to be organized.”
You can see where this goes. I get out of hand. Lucky for you, I bought all this shit that I don’t need so that I could sift through it and tell you what you actually need.

If you have a port, wear some sort of zip-up sweatshirt so it’s easy for them to access it. Yes you will probably be cold –I was correct about that assumption–but that’s because all hospitals are usually cold. You don’t need a blanket; and if you do they will give you a hospital blanket. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes; lounge clothes are your best bet. Bring something to do, like a laptop, ipad, book, or magazine. Drink LOTS of water and fluid while you’re getting chemo. Trust me on this. My second time getting chemo I only drank a little bit of water and afterwards was the only time I’ve ever felt sick. Drink a couple bottles of water if you can, like 3, and bring a Gatorade or other drink also. You should also eat some snacks. I usually bring fruit, veggie chips and granola bars. That’s about it! You don’t need a ton of stuff, just show up and get it over with!

If you’re getting Taxol, it can cause peripheral neuropathy or numbness in your fingers and toes. While I’m getting Taxol the nurses bring me two buckets of ice that I soak my feet and hands in, FOR AN HOUR. Yeah it’s awful, but it’s better than peripheral neuropathy and having my fingernails and toenails fall off.

Hopefully you’re going to feel fine the next few days, but just to be safe you should have meds on hand. Your doctor should give you anti-nausea meds and steroids to take following chemo. DON’T hesitate to use them at the first signs of trouble. Immediately after chemo you’re going to be tired; you’ve just had a ton of poisonous chemicals pumped through your body and they’re killing your cells. Eat some food, pop an anti-nausea pill and take a nice long cat nap.

Along with the usual side effects, there were a few unusual ones that I had:

Blurry vision – I have bad eyes but for some reason I get really shitty vision for about 2 days after chemo. I would wear my glasses and even then it’s still a little fuzzy.

Hunger – I guess all those steroids and anti-nausea meds make me hungry! After chemo I usually want comfort food and anything with cheese on it. Mac and cheese, cheese quesadilla, string cheese, GIVE ME ALL THE CHEESEEEEEE!

Feeling weird” – I don’t know how else to describe it. I usually just feel… weird, and kind of slightly drunk/hungover.

Strange tastes – Some stuff may taste weird after chemo. I had a glass of wine a week after my first chemo and it tasted like acid. Two weeks after chemo, it tasted fine. Oh well, bottoms up.

Bone pain – I get a shot of Nulasta within 48 hours after chemo. Nulasta stimulates the colonies of white stem cells within the bone marrow causing the level of neutrophils in the blood to rise. Chemo kills white blood cells, so I get Nulasta to counteract that and to be less prone to infections. Stimulating bone marrow growth causes your bones to HURT. It’s a strange feeling. It makes my body feel like I ran a marathon…. If I ran marathons.

If you have any weird side effects, CALL YOUR DOCTOR. I sound like your mother. But seriously, call them before you waste time Googling it for an hour.

Also, if you have a temperature above 101.4 you’re supposed to head to the ER. I had that happen to me a few days after my second chemo. Apparently I had a fever from the Nulasta shot. The over production of white blood cells was signaling to my body that I had some type of infection, even though I didn’t. So basically I had to go to the ER for them to run all sorts of tests on me to make sure I didn’t have an infection.

Fun little factoid: The silver lining about going to the ER with cancer is that they rush you into the back without waiting. You’re basically VIP.

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