The Nitty Gritty of Chemotherapy

by Debbie Twomey on June 27, 2017



Boy I wish I could get off this roller coaster it is making me so sick. But, if I want to beat this cancer I have to try and stay with the protocol. First the “red devil” cocktail and then the chemotherapy my oncologist chose specifically for my type and stage of cancer.

Let me tell you, that red devil is named appropriately. I thought the week I had such vomiting and nausea was rough but little did I know. As my sister Karen is fond of telling me, I really had no idea and could not be fully prepared for the side effects I have experienced. On June 1st I had my 3rd of 4 rounds of this toxic concoction. Then the shot of Neulasta the next day. From that point on things went downhill rather quickly.

I experienced difficulty breathing which is pretty awful since I already have Pulmonary Fibrosis. I had to take breathing treatments and my inhaler for the next 3 days. I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on but it turns out Neulasta was the culprit.

Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) is a man-made form of a protein that stimulates the growth of white blood cells in your body. White blood cells help your body fight against infection.

Neulasta is used to prevent neutropenia, a lack of certain white blood cells caused by receiving chemotherapy. Common Neulasta side effects may include:

  • bone pain, muscle aches;
  • pain in your arms or legs; or
  • pain and redness where the injection was given

Though rare, some of Neulasta’s serious side effects include acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), severe allergic reactions and fatal splenic rupture.

My breathing calmed down by Sunday morning (I get my shot on Friday) but for 2 days my heart felt like it was racing and breathing was even more labored than usual. It was not an auspicious start to my week.                                           

The fatigue and nausea was now pretty much 24/7. It was mild nausea that could be calmed with my meds and my Young Living roll on of Digize and Peppermint. But the smell was not easy for me so I had to plug my nose to put it on. I thought this was enough, I mean I am in bed quite a bit while McKenna is at school and even when she comes home I am on the couch. I try to catch sleep any time I am able but even with the chemo fatigue I am only averaging a couple of hours a night if that.

This should have been enough for me to deal with but as is my luck, things only worsened. I now had constipation pretty severe. I already take Miralax and drink lots of water because of the fissure I dealt with last summer. Only now it had returned along with the hemorrhoid which are both quite painful. The oncologist added Colace and Lactuluse to my daily regimen.

Prior to getting those meds I tried the natural approach. My neighbor and friend Rebekah suggested foods and supplements to aide in digestion and adding the necessary water for my organs to work properly especially my intestines and colon. I researched all the best foods and ate those I could tolerate which were mostly vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. I ate these and added as much fiber to my diet as I could. But the constipation persisted.

I know this is not a topic people like to talk about but it is what I am dealing with and so I am addressing it. For over 3 weeks I have been I agony. I am exhausted, I am nauseous and when I get to go to the bathroom it is so painful I cry. I cannot sit so I have to lie on my side and it is only by late afternoon that I can even function without serious pain.

I feel so weak and tired I just want it all to end. But wait folks that just wasn’t enough to deal with, not for this girl. I had pain on my lower lips that I had attributed to the pain of losing my hair. I know this is a gross subject but it is another aspect of this disease and chemotherapy that I knew nothing about. Since the hair on my head hurt to lose I thought it must be the same for all hair. So when I had acute pain and swelling down below, I thought I just have to deal with it. I used hot packs and cold packs and special creams to relive the pain and burn. It was like a band aid, it covered the initial pain but it did not heal the problem.

I actually thought I may be exaggerating the symptoms or that the pain could not be as bad as I thought. I mean I have gone through so much maybe I am just so weak any pain seems severe. I did not even tell my doctors soon enough because I thought it just cannot be as bad as I feel.

Well, I was wrong. It turns out I have a very serious bacterial infection and it just so happens to be affecting my genitals. How nice is that? I am enflamed as a result of my skin breaking down and chemotherapy is doing that to me. My Rheumatoid Arthritis infusions lead to weakening my immune system and my getting yeast infections as well as MRSA. Now the chemo is wreaking havoc once again on this poor immune system and I got this infection.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because the chemo is doing such damage to my body I did not have to get the last treatment. Can we say Halleluiah? If I could have danced out of the oncologist’s office I would have. No more of the red devil, I was ecstatic.

I am now on a very strong antibiotic and special cream to help heal the infection and it is working. So that pain is now being relieved and I can concentrate on getting more fibrous foods in me to help digestion and elimination so maybe soon that issue will be gone. I can deal with quite a bit but not so much at once. I am only human!

I just returned from my doctors and the infection is really going away so in 10 days I will begin the chemo treatment I was originally supposed to and I do not even know how many, but I think at least 9. Then not sure about the plan of attack, my brain has lost those tidbits.

I did not have to receive that last terrible chemo medication so I was taken off of fever watch which means I got to have a salad finally after 7 weeks of having to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables. And I ran right to Wendy’s and got their new mango/strawberry chicken salad. It was delicious, a perfect reward for some of the pain I have had to face.

You never know one day to the next where your cancer will take you or how chemotherapy will affect you. So you have to be prepared for the unexpected, good or bad. Just so happens these last few weeks it was mostly bad with a little good. I’d like to say it made it all worth the pain but that would be ridiculous. Still, I had a bright moment in all the darkness and I am grateful. Just saying.

Live Laugh Love


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