By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
My goodness, it has been a long time since I have written anything. I guess between chemo, sickness, and trying to get my summer on, I just haven’t made the time. But it’s a rainy day today, and I’m feeling pretty good (but lazy), so here we are. I figured it might be time to share about the wonderful world of chemotherapy, now that I am halfway through.
So for me, the course of treatment was to be eight rounds of chemo – the first four consisting of two drugs, and the last four to be a third drug. The first drugs are known as AC, and are very commonly used to treat breast cancer. AC is made up of two drugs: doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide. These are drugs that are meant to prevent cancer cells from dividing and growing, and are supposed to eventually cause the cancer cells to shrink and disappear. One of these, for me, is given as an IV drip through my port; the other, aka “the Red Devil,” is given to me in a giant syringe, pushed directly into my IV line.
The red devil causes the first few trips to the bathroom after treatment to be freaky – my pee is red! It can also cause tears or sweat to turn red for up to a day or two after treatment, but I haven’t tested that theory as of yet. This drug is so strong that they wouldn’t give it to me directly in an IV in my arm when my port was messed up – because if it leaks out onto the skin, it will eat it away. Kind of like leprosy, I imagine….yikes!
I have treatment every three weeks. There are tons of side effects, and at times it seems like the treatment is doing me so much worse than the cancer itself! Thankfully, I haven’t had near as many of the side effects as some; but it still sucks. I started losing my hair after the first treatment, so I buzzed it down super short. Within a couple of weeks, it was coming out in big chunks, and while we were out of town in Little Rock, it got to the point that I woke up looking like a dog with mange – so I had to go and have it all shaved off. That was rougher than I ever imagined it would be!
Also, I have to call the doc if I get a fever of 100.5 or higher, which is really low for most people, but chemo causes the immune system to be compromised and blood counts to go way down. I have only had to call once, and even then, my fever only got up to 100.2 degrees. But let me tell you – 100.2 during chemo can make you feel like death warmed over! There is also the well-known side effect of nausea and vomiting, and once again, I am thankful that so far I have not puked even once. The nausea is pretty constant, and to me, that can be worse than just puking and getting it taken care of. I have four anti-nausea prescriptions that range in strength, and I have used them all. There are many natural anti-nausea remedies, and all I will say about those is that they work. Much better and faster than ANY of those prescriptions. Allegedly.
Like I said, I am now halfway through my chemo treatments. The AC portion of the program is over, and I am extremely thankful. The next, and final, four treatments will be of a drug called Taxol. I don’t know near as much about this one, but I know that the doctor has assured me that it won’t make me as sick. He did, however, tell me that it will make me more fatigued. What the what??? How is that even possible? I am tired ALL the time, it seems! Well, at least for the first two weeks. It seems like a pretty regular pattern emerged over the past four rounds: week one SUCKS and I am tired/sick pretty much from the day after treatment; week two sucks a little less, but I am still fairly sick for most of the week; and week three seems fairly normal, where I can go and do more. Most of the trips that I have taken this summer have been during week threes. And hey, that has worked most of the time. Of course, the trip I was most looking forward to was to the beach and was scheduled during a week three – and I was sick the entire time with cough and cold BS! But what can you do, right?
Onward with the chemo – I believe that the next one (first round of Taxol), will be August 5th, the day before my birthday. Nice. They tell me that treatment will be about three hours, not including the bloodwork that I do when I get there, waiting for the results, and the half hour of pre-medication (they give me anti-nausea and anti-anxiety meds). I’m just ready to be over and done with it. I think I get a PET scan when I’m done – which of course had better show NOTHING left! Then I have to do 30+ radiation treatments, which will be daily Monday-Friday in Flower Mound…I am SO NOT excited. According to the calendar, I should finish up everything around the week of Christmas. Wow. What a long year. But a Merry, Merry Christmas it shall be! And the best Happy New Year will be a bill of clean health and remission!