Chemotherapy has been a delicate dance of managing symptom after symptom after symptom. With every cycle comes something new. As much as I thought I knew beforehand, seen my mother go through, heard from survivors, been warned by my doctors, I still had this crazy (stupid) notion that the symptoms would hit me all right from the start. Makes no sense I know. Instead they came one after the other, gradually, slowly, almost deliberately, never really overpowering me. Except maybe the hairloss. That one hit hard. After all I have a whole blog post dedicated to it.
If you’re still here reading, you’re clearly interested so let me break down how its gone cycle by cycle so far:
Day 1 I felt fine but to be on the safe side I stayed home, leaving home only to get a blood count booster shot in the evening. My first symptom was a sore throat which came on in the evening of Day 2. Day 3 of Cycle 1 is probably the worst I’ve felt throughout this whole process. My stomach was upset all day, I was nauseous, and spent a great deal of time sitting on the throne if you get me. Actually I must admit that I napped on the floor next to the toilet. Don’t judge me, it was easier than doing the back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom. Pains in my hands and feet started on Day 3, throbbing and soreness really. I’d been warned that I would feel tingling or pins and needles but that’s not what I felt, not yet anyway. The foot pains were so intense I couldn’t sleep. That day the 2 things that got me through was smoking ganja for the nausea and injesting THC oil (the only thing seemed to numb the pain and knock me out, allowing me to get the rest my body needed). Other symptoms included pains under my right arm and in the chest area (around the area of my mastectomy scar) and some coughing.
I can confess it now but by Day 4, I was back at work. Sounds bad I know but I had to do it. The restaurant had been closed for 2 months, I admit my timing may have been off but as it turned out that was the week we had to reopen. I wore a mask around other folks and when I felt low or tired, I went into my car to take a rest. When I look back on the turn of events that week, I have no regrets but I fully get that it may not have been the wisest thing to jump back into work so soon after chemo. The hairloss began two weeks after Cycle 1 was administered and one week after that right at the the start of Cycle 2 I was bald.
Just as with the first cycle, Day 1 and most of Day 2 were uneventful. The coughing and sore throat began in the late evening of Day 2. By Day 3 I started to feel what I can only describe as a dull pain everywhere, my head, my joints, even my teeth. I thought about popping a couple of the Panadene I had left over from my hospital stay but held off thinking “I’ve got over 8 drugs in my system right now, don’t need anymore”. Thank goodness for a surprise call from a cancer survivor on Day 4. She shared with me that she had the same experience and helped me to see there was nothing wrong with taking a little help for the pain. The soreness and throbbing in my feet returned, but not in my hands. It was a real challenge to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen. The nausea wasn’t too bad but diarrhea came back with a vengeance. This time around I made sure to stay home on Days 4 and 5 and by Day 6 I was feeling more like myself and able to return to a full day of work. The following week I noticed that the skin around my finger tips was stripping, within a few days of that my hands were full-on peeling. I quickly had to halt my newfound love of bread baking. I couldn’t have folks eating my skin now could I ….uggghh gross!
Again things started the same, pretty easy Day 1 and most of Day 2. Diarrhea by day 3, slight dull pains in my head, joints and teeth again but not as bad as during Cycle 2. The pains in my feet returned along with my hands. This time I got the tingling/pins and needles in both hands and feet. More than anything though I felt absolutely exhausted. The tiredness lasted well into the following week. I was constantly yawning and had to take daily naps. Perhaps that was the cumulative effect of all the chemo cycles. Heading into Cycle 3, I noticed that a few of my finger nails looked like they were starting to lift. Please God, don’t let me lose my nails. Two weeks after cycle 3 was administered my nails started to show signs of darkening/discoloration. My oncologist had prepped me for this but again I got lulled into thinking it wasn’t going to happen to me since it didn’t occur right away. So much for that huh.
Today I head into my 4th and hopefully final chemo session. Hallelujah 🙌🏾🙌🏾. And guess what?? Life did not come to a grinding halt. Through it all I’ve still had find a way to get work done between sessions, I’ve had to figure out a way to keep the wheels grinding at the restaurant (including on the chemo weekends), still had to keep it moving. There has however been one other symptom I wasn’t quite ready for…..HOT FLASHES. They started about 3 weeks ago and have ramped up fiercely this week. I swear yesterday was one 24-hr hot flash, and don’t tell me summer’s coming and it’s starting to get hot. As I type this, I’m sitting in front of the fan sweating bullets, they come fast and furious even when I’m in full-blown A/C, they come on in my sleep, anytime, anywhere. I had been told that my menstrual cycle may be affected by chemotherapy and that the medication slated to start after the chemo is over would throw me into menopause but Lord knows I wasn’t ready for this part just yet. It’s a good thing I’m not into wigs cause there is no way I could wear one right now, I’ve had to even park my brand new headwraps due to these confounded hot flashes. The struggle is real.
Oh yes…there has been one other symptom, one that’s pretty much persisted right from the start of Cycle 1 and all throughout this process: a metal taste in my mouth. It distorts the taste of every striking thing, the only thing I can really detect is hot pepper. It’s been terribly frustrating, especially since I’m operating a food business and even more so because I love to eat! Counting down and hoping that in another month or so my taste buds will be back to normal. Ready to get my grub on if you know what I mean.
Anyhoo….I really am just super thankful that chemo hasn’t completely mashed me up and keeping my fingers and toes crossed that I will get through this last round relatively unscathed.