Now that I am halfway through Chemo I thought I would offer a bit of advice for anyone who might unfortunately have to go down this road. If you get cancer and find out you will need chemotherapy #1 be sure to do the research to read reviews and grades about your oncologist and make sure they have support other than just administering your drugs. This is one thing I wish I would have been more vigilant on. I was so freaked out about my diagnosis that I really did not do the research that I would have normally done. While my oncologist is aggressive when it comes to treating my cancer, but him and the nurses kind of suck when it comes to support regarding side effects. I have been fortunate enough to be in touch with people who have gone down this road and who have all been able to give me good advice in handling some of the issues that have come up because of my chemo. All the doctors and nurses want to do is tell me to take an antibiotic.
#2 Try and find someone who can research for you. I am unfortunately the researcher in my family and while others are strong at other things I need my strength is researching. This has not boded well for me because when you are in the mental state of dealing with having cancer and treatment you really do not feel like researching, at least I didn’t, so if you can find someone else to look for supplements, juicing, foods, whatever will help you with chemo and it’s side effects you will have a much easier time.
#3 Chemo causes constipation. I learned this the hard way when I ended up with an impacted colon and 4 liters of fluid trapped in my body that landed me in ER and 4 nights in the hospital with a blood infection and having really strong antibiotics pumped into my body which gave me the rare side effects of psychosis. To be fair I had called the nurses and the doctor that was on call at my oncologist’s office on what to do about my constipation. I was told to take stool softeners (didn’t work), an enema (painful, didn’t work and made it worse), suppository laxative and more stool softeners, (still didn’t work and was part of why I had 4 liters of fluid trapped in my bladder.) It was truly amazing that my organs didn’t explode internally and I might add that this was the most painful experience I have ever had in my life.
The Gastroenterologist at the hospital helped me immensely with this issue said that it will NEVER happen again. To keep from experience constipation in the first place Miralax 2 X a day while you are doing chemo. I take Mira-lax 2 X a day the week of chemo and then 1x a day after that, unless of course you end up with diarrhea which is possible, not because of the miralax but because of chemo.
If you do in fact have a bad case of constipation – Magnesium Citrate. You can buy this at any store and it is like liquid Drano for your colon. It tastes awful and is pretty extreme but it will unclog you. Enemas, laxatives, stool softeners – all bad news, your best bet is Mira-lax and then in an extreme emergency Magnesium Citrate. The G.I. doctor also told me that Mira-lax is gentle enough you can take it several times a day if you are constipated to get things moving.
Okay enough poop talk #4: Chemo fog is a very real thing. You feel like you have been mentally stunned or hit really hard in the head to where you cannot think clearly, you have a hard time forming thoughts and words, you can’t read or focus and everyday tasks become very difficult. This lasted for me about a week and a half after chemo treatment the first couple of rounds, but before round #3 I began taking Chlorella, vitamin D3, and Quercetin. I am not sure which one is the one that helped with mental focus but after Chemo#3 I hardly experienced any chemo fog which was very nice. I did however experience really bad mouth sores after chemo #3, so bad that there on the gums in my jaw and I could barely open my mouth. Rinsing with liquid Maalox helped with this. I was told that if I suck on ice chips during Adriamycin that it would help keep me from getting mouth sores. I am going to try it for #4 so we will see. I also have an issue with my second week after of running fever due to my white blood cell count getting really low. This is very scary because if it goes past 100 I have to go back to the hospital and take mind altering antibiotics. I was lucky enough this past round that it did not spike probably because I kept taking Acetaminophen (Tylenol) to keep it in check. I was told by someone who just went through what I am going through that Astragalus helps with the cell count so I will be taking that for my next round and hopefully it will keep my fevers away. I have finally lost all of my hair on my head. I seriously can’t believe it held on this long. I didn’t have much but I did have stubble on top which has finally all fallen out. I am kind of glad about that because I had enough hair for it to be annoying and stick to my pillows and hays like Velcro. Now that is all gone hopefully when it comes back it will grow back even. I am hoping I don’t lose my eyelashes or what’s left of my eyebrows.
It also appears that when I had the infection from Chemo #2 side effects that it left me with a lot of swelling in my left arm pit from where my lymph nodes were removed so I will be going back into the hospital tomorrow the day before my Birthday to have another drain put in. The good thing is it is out patient so I will only be there for a few hours and it will get rid of all the fluid build-up so that I will be able to lift my arm over my head again. It just kind of sucks that I will have a drain for another 2 weeks and that my good week before Chemo #4 will end with having another procedure done. On the positive side better that than full on lymphedema to where my whole arm swells up like a sausage and options for healing it become limited. So that’s it for now. See ya after round 4 to keep you updated.