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Triple Whammy or How to Cope with Multiple Cancers – Part VII Witches Brew – by HD

Post Published: 12 September 2010
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Category: Choosing Chemotherapy and Side Effects, Guest Bloggers
This post currently has 6 responses. Leave a comment

Last week I described some of the issues (and horrors) involving my radiation treatments, this week I’ll discuss the chemo part.  I think the often severe side effects of chemo therapy are some of the most dreaded and feared things for any cancer sufferer; and I must admit, I was not at all keen on the prospects myself. –  So, put your hazardous-chemical-protection-suits on, follow me, and lets have a closer look.

Of course every cancer is different, and the chemicals used for chemo are different depending on the type of cancer that is being treated. – But all chemotherapy really works in very similarly ways.

Let’s review how chemotherapy does its job?  The chemical cocktail they give you damage or kill all newly growing cells (that of course includes the usually rapidly dividing cancer cells). But since all cells are affected, newly growing cells, like hair follicles (or finger and toe nails) will also be severely damaged, and your hair may even fall out completely.  Unfortunately there are no good cancer fighting chemicals (yet) that can reliably differentiate between cancer cells and healthy ones.

The chemo drug I received is called Cisplatin, it is related to the precious metal platinum (and at a jewelery store you have to pay real good money for it). Its long list of side effects include: severe nausea, hair loss, hearing loss, nerve damage, or kidney failure, and a few others.  (I warned you that the treatment chapters are indeed like horror stories).

So once a week (for six weeks, concurrently with my radiation) I was sitting in this rather comfortable reclining leather chair with a tube going into my body through the mediport.  For almost four hours they dripped the chemo chemicals into my veins. At first a goodly amount of saline solution to hydrate me (to minimize kidney problems), but then towards the end came the real and toxic stuff. (Yeah, let’s face it, chemotherapy is a controlled poisoning of your entire body).

Actually I received an entire cocktail of various drugs besides the saline fluid and the Cisplatin cancer treatment.  Most of the other drugs given were to help with the nausea side effects. One in particular, called Emend, is known to really help, but it is rather expensive (like nearly $2000 for my six chemo sessions.  Luckily (after some initial barking) our health insurance reluctantly paid for this medication). – And it worked beautifully. I did feel woozy a few times, but I actually never vomited during the entire course of my chemo treatments.

The very last drip was a strong diuretic sending me to the bathroom in a hurry. Oh what a weird feeling it was when that tingling and constricting and icy cold sensation goes from your chest right through your torso into your bladder and penis. Yikes, definitely not a good feeling at all! – Witches brew indeed; and not the penile sensation I enjoy at other times.

With the Cisplatin as active ingredient and at my dosage, I had a 50% chance of losing all my hair.  I was prepared for that, and accepted this possibility.  Again I was fortunate and did not lose any hair (I did have to shave off my full beard though, but that was from the radiation not the chemo.  Somehow the radiation made my whiskers so spotty on the treatment side of my face, that it looked ridiculous. And I had no desire to start a new fashion fad of “half a full beard”). – Anyway, if my hair had fallen out due to the chemo, I would have asked someone to paint a mustache and a cowlick on me to look respectable again. – To me the hair issue was not a big deal, but I do empathize with those to whom it is an extremely traumatizing side effect of chemotherapy.

While I was sitting in that chair with the IV-bottle and its drip, drip, drip, – I usually listened to audio books or talked to other patients in the same treatment room. – Audio books are great and help pass the time, but they have one disadvantage, – a normal book, when you snooze off, falls into your lab and you’re ready to go again after waking up; but audio books merrily keep on spinning their yarn, and it is a pain finding the spot again where you left off; especially when you are real groggy from the chemo juices anyway.  But I highly recommend audio books for things like lengthy chemo sessions or other waiting periods at the doctors.

After a chemo session, It is important to have someone to drive you home.  I was rather wobbly on my pins after each treatment, and probably a real danger to the public were I behind a wheel.  (For those of you who unfortunately have to do it all alone, our cancer center provided volunteer helpers that picked up and later drove cancer patients back home. Check with your facility if you need this type of assistance, they may have it too).

Though I was groggy right after each chemo sessions, its effects really hit me full blast about two days later. Then I was completely exhausted and extremely weak, and I mostly slept it off day and night (well, they say, he how sleeps doesn’t commit any sins. Haha!).

One other side effect of chemotherapy is the so-called “chemo brain”.  Patients reported memory lapses, or trouble concentrating, – sort of like a brain fog.  I was told about it by a doctor friend who underwent breast cancer chemo treatment. Her doctors did at first not admit that is could be real, but after pressing the issue with her oncologist, they later admitted that it is reported by many patients. – I think I had some first hand experiences with it too. – Is it real?  The American Cancer Society thinks so, – but the Mayo clinic isn’t so sure.

If you had chemotherapy yourself, what advice can you give other sufferers? We are interested in hearing from you in the comment section.  Please chime in, would you?

In the next installment I will write a bit more about treatments, this time about my thyroid cancer treatment (a topic that many folks here on DearThyroid are of course very familiar with).  See you next week.

Here is to your health!

HD in Oregon

To read HD’s other installations: Multiple Cancers Part I (an intro) – Learn to Ride the Dragon Part II – Dearly Beloved Part III – I Think I Can Part IVBeam Me Up, Scottie Part VI

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6 Responses to “Triple Whammy or How to Cope with Multiple Cancers – Part VII Witches Brew – by HD”

  1. Linny says:

    Fairlie I, Sumner D. 2006. The Other Report on Chernobyl (TORCH). Berlin, Brussels, Kiev:Greens/EFA in the European Parliament. Available: http://www.chernobylreport.org/torch.pdf [accessed 6 April 2007].

    You might find some answers here……….

    • HDinOregon says:

      Linny,

      Interesting report. I am partially familiar with the European impacts from Chernobyl. – Actually my doctors asked me where I was in 1986 (since radioactive fallout is one of the known causes of thyroid [and other] cancers). But in 1986 I was already lived in the US for ten years and did not get any of the European fallout.

      HD

  2. HDinOregon says:

    I forgot to mention that the reason for liking audio books during chemotherapy was that the drugs gave me temporary blurry vision, which made it impossible to read a “normal” book. This usually only lasted for a few hours, then my vision returned to normal.

    HD

  3. Linny says:

    Ahhhh, then I am correct there is a connection. Did you ever eat any produce from this region, you must have had family still there.

    I think it is important for us to find a link to this outcome. I am looking for answers to share with my family who will live long after I’m gone. I don’t want anyone else to suffer like we have.

    I know that we (here at DL) reach MANY countries. Maybe this report will bring some light to them, if not you HD.

    People could rest more easily if a source was discovered. One would be able to reason why they would or would not go thru these horrible sessions like you describe.

    We can’t go back and undo whats been done to us. But perhaps we can spare others from “knowing” what we know.

    I focus on the future and today most importantly.
    Are you better too?

  4. Lolly says:

    HD,

    Than you so much for sharing your self and your journey through treatment for cancer I want to say that I enjoy reading it to which I do but also think about you have to go through it all. Fingers crossed and everything else crossed that you wont have to endure it again.

    If I ever did have to have chemo and hair loss was one of the side effects I got i would just shave it off. I think it would be rather sexy don’t know about shaving my tosh and beard off though.

    Just wanted to share this with you this is why I blame Men for most everything

    Ho many of women’s problems can be traced to the male gender?
    1) MENstruation 2) MENopause 3) MENtal breakdown 4) GUYnecology 5) HIMmoroids

    Hugs
    Lolly

  5. HDinOregon says:

    Haha Lolly,

    Love the “MEN”-stuff. Of course there are more … “governMENt” and “deMENcia” come to mind (there might even be a connection between the two. Haha.)

    Thanks for your kind comments.

    HD

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