I’m halfway done with the chemical fun!
Okay, this could be worse. I’m not going to lie, it could be better too. What would be really nice would be if this was the end and this was as bad as it got. Who knows? Maybe this is where the elevator stops. My oncologist has been indicating all along that her goal is to balance all my medicines to minimize side effects in order to prevent a real disruption in my normal life, and I must admit that there’s clearly been a great deal of research into formulas intended to over-ride the worst physical reactions to the main event of Chemotherapy. Truly, I have not experienced anything like the stereotypical impression many of us have of nausea and vomiting that once was the hallmark of chemo patients. I’m grateful to live in a barf free zone.
However, it seems to me there is still a little work to be done regarding the side-effects of the anti-side-effects drugs that have been introduced to help out. First, there are the steroids that actually do limit the nausea, but that interrupt your sleep when you are already fatigued. On the bright side, I find that I’m not feeling fatigued when I’m awake in the middle of the night. So there’s that. Not horrific, right? It’s really only when I’m trying to keep my eyes open at my desk at work the next day that I notice the fatigue. Then there is my increasingly unpleasant reaction to the Neulasta shots that follow the main infusion by 24 hours. The Neulasta is given for the all important boosting of white blood cells and platelets which all chemo drugs deplete. It’s really important. Without Neulasta I’d have no immune system to speak of. But . . .
I was told, warned if you will, that the main side-effect of the Neulasta would be pain in my joints and/or bones, something like arthritis. Alright, I’ve had arthritis, I can deal. In fact, as it turns out, I’ve had only minor arthritis, and this artificially induced “arthritis-like” pain isn’t even as bad as my actual arthritis. Would that I could leave the side-effects of this one right there and toddle on. If wishes were horses, beggers would ride.
There’s this ramping up phenomenon that I’m having difficulty describing to my doctor’s and nurses, who all seem, by the way, sincerely interested, and concerned for me. But they keep giving me that tilted head, quizzical look dogs give you when you try to tell them how your day went. There’s no spark of recognition or understanding over words like “printer crashed” or “left on hold for 3 hours.” My flesh feels like it was used as a pincushion by the entire labor force at WH Bagshaw needle manufacturers in my sleep. I can’t touch anything on myself for almost two days without flinching, and PLEASE don’t hug me! I have a tendency to cross my arms in front of myself without thinking about it, and I almost pass out from the surprise. On the other hand, it helps me to wake up at my desk.
Let’s just back wing a bit and take a look at that part where the goal is to prevent disruption of my normal life. It’s a given that the realization of such a goal is impossible. Aside from spending 3 hours of a working day in a clinic every two weeks getting drips and infusions, there is the muscle fatigue that makes you lose interest in regular activities, and the tendency towards depression that you don’t want to show . . . not because it looks weak on your part, but because it worsens the depression of those who love you and who are feeling helpless already.
Then all of the above combines with the simple fact that foreign chemicals are piling up in the storage areas of every cell your body can still maintain, and this can make you cranky as all get out. I hear myself respond to the question, “Can I get you something to drink?” by saying, “I just finished a cup of TEA!” And how normal is your day going to be when there’s the chemo-brain that makes even simple decisions nearly impossible. Please don’t ask me “either/or” questions, such as, would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow, or get coffee together this afternoon? I can’t handle options; I short-circuit. My priceless husband asks me if I’d like him to cook dinner tonight or order out and I self-implode, as my brain wimpers, Yes! Either! Which would be better? What would you rather? I don’t KNOW!
Well, all of this is normal, and for the most part temporary, and there is this unmentioned side-effect of having cancer and being a chemo-patient that is, you’re forgiven.
And still, when I’ve thought all of these things, and rolled my eyes, and lamented all the losses and insufficiencies in my current world, I’m brought up short by the knowledge that things are just crap right now, but I’ll live through it. Literally. And, I’m halfway done. 🙂
How cool is that?