David and I are starting to feel better. It started off as a headache that wouldn’t quit, then the sore throat, the undying cough, nasal congestion, and for me an ear ache that hurt so bad I actually took a pain leftover from my previous surgery. Goodness.
I have been hibernating in the dank, cold, basement for a week now. Going upstairs only for very short periods of time. Even then I was wearing gloves. I still feel congested and sore but I can tell that I am on the mends.
Sure, it was just a common cold but when you live with someone undergoing chemotherapy you do not mess around. The serious risk factors of getting my mom sick and her having to stop treatment, and once better have to start over again, was not an option. So common cold or not I was serious as a dead man in a grave to not transmit my germs.
My dad is home from the hospital too, trying to take it easy (and believe me for a man like him its near impossible to get him to rest.)
Ironically my mom was probably in the best health this past week, aside from baby Cherri, and it was a chemo week.
The good news is that my mom has undergone her first “clump” (so to say) of chemotherapy. Meaning that she has undertaken two types of medicine, Cytoxan and doxorubicin. Don’t worry about the names I can’t pronounce them either. How scary is that? Getting shoot up with drugs you can hardy pronounce?
Both drugs are given as infusion into a vein, which is why my mom had a port placed in her chest. That way her arm veins wouldn’t be dragged trough the mud. A port is a small disc made of plastic or metal about the size of a quarter that sits just under the skin. A soft thin tube called a catheter connects the port to a large vein.
The most common side effects of doxorubicin are severe nausea and vomiting. Which my mom did feel very nauseous at times but did not vomit. That was a good thing, When I heard mom was going through chemo, my immediate thought was, “oh crap, there is going to be a whole lot of belly juice…Poor mom.” My cousin died of Leukemia at a very young age (18) and I remember thinking about how sick he was when he went through chemo, i couldn’t help but feel terrified for my mom. I know realize that while all cancer is scary, Leukemia is much more aggressive. Not only that but chemo affects everybody differently.
In addition to vomiting and nausea, caused by doxorubicin, there are some more side effects that can occur.
- Cough or hoarseness accompanied by fever or chills
- darkening or redness of the skin (if you recently had radiation treatment)
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- fever or chills
- joint pain
- lower back or side pain accompanied by fever or chills
- pain at the injection site
- painful or difficult urination accompanied by fever or chills
- red streaks along the injected vein
- shortness of breath
- stomach pain
- swelling of the feet and lower legs
- Darkening of the soles, palms, or nails
- Black, tarry stools
- blood in the urine
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- Hair loss, thinning of hair
- nausea and vomiting
- sores in the mouth and on the lips
Side Effects: Post Treatment
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the feet and lower legs
Wow. Talk about a headache and that is only one of the drugs my mom just went through. Learning that you have cancer is a big enough pill let alone learning about all the side effects that come alongside chemotherapy is a whole lot of suck. I mean, think about it, here just having received some very crappy news and now you have to look at a big long list of all the crap you may or may not endure?
The other drug, Cytoxan, can cause a whole other set of unwanted side effects. Some similar and some different from Doxorubicin.
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of appetite
- stomach pain or upset
- temporary hair loss
- a wound that will not heal
- missed menstrual periods
- changes in skin color (darkening), or
- changes in nails.
- allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- pink/bloody urine,
- unusual decrease in the amount of urine,
- mouth sores,
- unusual tiredness or weakness,
- joint pain, or
- easy bruising or bleeding.
Mom, was lucky (and I say “lucky” lightly) that she didn’t experience a lot of these side effects. She did (obviously) experience hair loss. My mom also, had a sore throat a times, making it difficult to swallow and on the occasion had/has mouth sores.
Having a sore throat this past week made everything hard to swallow and food tasteless. This really put it in perspective for me. I have had the common cold many times before but now I realize that people undergoing chemo have to deal with throat troubles all the time and no amount of vitamin C and Theraflu is going to help.
Smells are starting to get to her too and food is beginning to taste backwards. What may smell good, isn’t. Spice is a no go. And certain foods simply taste like dog pee. (not that we know what dog pee tastes like but you get the general idea)
This upcoming week, my mom has a mammogram and an ultrasound to check the size of the tumor. After that she will have 12 weekly treatments with a new medication, Taxol. We are all scared of what this drug will do to my mom. With her being in the drivers seat of worry. After all it is happening to her body not ours. We are just the watchers of the chemo parade. But were are not throwing out candy at the passing float but prayers of concern to the Lord above. Begging for peace, trust, and healing.
Taxol. The good news is that the chemo treatment days will be shorter. The bad news is that a whole lot of bad could happen. Taxol is given as an injection just like the other drugs. Taxol is an irritant that can cause inflammation. If the medication escapes from the vein it can cause tissue damage. Yikes. Thankfully my mom has a port… but still…
However, the more I read about Taxol, the more I realize and need to remember is that most people do not experience all of the Taxol side effects. But some do. 50/50 in a way.
More Common (occurring in greater than 30%):
- Low blood counts. White and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease. This can put you at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding.
- Hair loss
- Pain in the joints and muscles.
- Peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of the hands and feet)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Hypersensitivity reaction – fever, facial flushing, chills, shortness of breath, or hives
Less Common: side effects (occurring in 10-29%):
- Swelling of the feet or ankles.
- Increases in blood tests measuring liver function.
- Low blood pressure (occurring during the first 3 hours of infusion).
- Darkening of the skin where previous radiation treatment has been given
- Nail changes (discoloration of nail beds – rare)
Taxol can also cause lightheadedness and makes you sensitive to sunlight. From what I read my my mom must wear sunglasses when outside, avoid sun exposure, wear protective clothing, and also wear SPF 15 (or higher) sun block. But, she grew up being a ginger and us ginges know the dangers of sunlight. Fifteen minutes is all it takes to turn into a lobster.
My mom is the most scared of peripheral neuropathy because that means constant nerve pain. Nerve pain that will unlikely go away if she gets it. Blah! See what I mean about a headache? So much to think and worry about. But my mom is what I am now calling H.A.P (Happy, Active, Positive) and doing what she can to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She is even becoming more confident in her bald self. If (and I hope I never do) loose my hair I know I will feel better knowing that I can probably pull it off as well as my mom can, considering I look just like her.
She is even starting to loose the hat and wear bandanas. I have a photo of one she was wearing Sunday. I told her she looks very Daisy Buchanan meets West Side Story.
You all know that famed country song, “I’m going through the big D and I don’t mean Dallas?” Well, mom was making a joke the other day (about going through chemo) singing, “I’m going through the big C and I don’t mean…and I don’t mean…” Clearly she couldn’t think of how to finish her thought so I tried to help, so I sang, “Going through the big C and I don’t mean Chlamydia.” She smiled, laughing, and put her palm to her forehead, “Chelsea, what I am going to do with you!”
I got most of this information from my mom’s doctors notes but www.chemocare.com is a great resource…
Also, when I made my post Blessings, Bravery & Chics N Chaps I didn’t have all my facts straight. I misunderstood and my mom will not be speaking at there event come August but she will be a guest. She said that would like to speak out someday though. So my blog was a complete lie (however accidental it may have been) my bad.