As I sat in mass (good Catholic girl here) this morning, I was reflecting on my chemo days. Tomorrow marks being two years post chemo. I am not what or who I used to be.
The side-effects I suffered during five months of chemo were so painful and horrific that I am still processing the trauma. My chemo treatment was 4 Adriamycin & Cytoxan and 12 Taxol. I almost passed out when my oncologist revealed what my chemo treatment would be. I thought there was no way I could work or even survive that much chemo. How would my body tolerate this poison? That’s the scariest thing…the unknown.
I’ve listed the top five of my toughest moments battling chemo, in no particular order:
- I would rather vomit daily than battle with nausea. It was beyond horrible. It was hard to keep on top of it. Plus, add my tongue swelling and mouth sores to the mix. My taste buds died and have yet to return. I no longer like going out to eat. It’s a waste of money since I can’t really taste the food.
- The night ALL my hair fell out in the shower. I literally had a buzz cut with some bald patches walking into the shower and came out completely bald. I can still hear the echo of my screaming in disbelief and fear.
- The fatigue and neuropathy continues to be unbearable, but I just continue to push through it. My energy has not come back like I thought it would. I would say my quality of life is around 30% because of the chronic fatigue and daily pain. It also caused severe dizziness to the point where I could no longer drive and walking with a cane for a few months. I got neuropathy within the first 10 minutes during my first Taxol chemo treatment. The nerve damage to my hands and feet was done. If one more person suggests acupuncture or B-vitamin complex, I will scream. This was not gradual. I can’t even fully express what it felt like when it happened.
- My hair growing back completely different has been one of the biggest struggles. I know it looks cute and all that. It hurts when people don’t validate my grief over my hair. You see, each time I look in the mirror, it is a constant reminder of how cancer and the chemo literally changed my physical appearance. I can’t ever NOT think about what I’ve been through because the reflection staring back at me still looks like a stranger.
- The palms of my hands and feet looked burned. The chemo literally burned me from head to toe. I look at my pinkish, white palms now and just shake my head. It took almost a year for those to heal.
I was so weak by my 16th treatment that I had to get a blood transfusion two weeks before my surgery to boost my system. That was an odd experience. It was the one time I actually got grossed out…seeing those two huge bags of blood ready to flow into my system. *Gag* my whole face was flushed and my eyes were red. Who knew I would morph into Bella from Twilight!
I’m a slow healer. I know that stems from being born three months premature. It always takes me a long time to heal from everything. So, I am hoping my taste buds will return by the end of this year.
I had many more side-effects than the ones listed above and didn’t even list all the infections. My oncologist actually said not only was I getting the “mother load of chemo”, but that I was getting the “mother load of side-effects.”
The toll chemo can take on the body is tough. It depleted me of all energy and affected my cognitive thinking, which I have mentioned in previous posts. The term “chemo brain” is too benign. Though I am mentally sharper, it has taken two years to get to this point. Writing, coloring, reading complex articles and books helped to strengthen my thinking. I still have some slight issues with my short-term memory but can function okay. It’s no longer affecting my ability to learn new things.
In my chemo experience, it was not about losing weight either. The dosage and number of steroids needed before each treatment completely blew my weight up. It made me feel bad about myself. It hurt my self-esteem. I didn’t feel pretty. I actually haven’t truly felt beautiful until recently.
Me on that final chemo day 2/26/16. What you don’t see in this pic are the band aids on each finger because my fingernails had fallen off.
A few weeks after that final day…even after blood transfusion…
The weight gain really showing in my face…
Me this afternoon…two years later!
What a difference two years makes, huh?!
Chemo is hard. Chemo is painful. Chemo is scary. It will try to break you. It takes a long time to heal from it. I’m pleased to say it did NOT break me. I felt like dying sometimes but fought like hell with everything I had to live.
I continue to walk with purpose but with some struggles. I’m physically weaker and have modified many areas in my life after this battle. That is why I always call myself a warrior because chemo nearly killed me.
Until next time,
6 thoughts on “It’s my CHEMOversary…two years out”
I had the exact same regimen last summer. It was horrible, but I had a complete result from the treatments. I started with two tumors in each of my breasts. One was 5.2 cm. When they did my bilateral mastectomy in December, I was NED. I believe that doing the chemo saved my life. It made me tougher and it strengthened my faith in God. I had to depend on Him to get me through. I have “chemo-brain” still along with neuropathy in my feet and 12 more lbs. left to lose from the 20 I gained. I’m still exhausted all the time and I have to return to work in April after I finish my radiation treatments (25), which I hear will further exhaust me and probably burn me. I’ve started Tamoxifen, which I have to take for 10 years. It takes a very strong person to get through these terrible treatments. My prayer is that they at least come up with a cure that we can depend on. As things stand today, reoccurrence is always out there lurking and stealing my joy.
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I had 33 radiation treatments. It truly is a different sort of fatigue. I also burned terribly. Do you have Aquafor or some type of thick lotion ready? Battling chemo fatigue on top of radiation fatigue was super tough. My faith is so strong and never wavered. I had to just trust more than I ever had before. I get upset a lot that I feel like a 90 year old when I’m only 41. Still, I’m here and have my passion and purpose again. Please keep me posted on your treatment. Chemo and radiation are different beasts but still will knock you off your feet. Sending hugs!!!
Thank you for your words, you validate all I’ve been through and continue to go through. Everyone thinks, “oh, you are all done, why aren’t you like you used to be”? Because I’m never going to be that person again. Love to you Warrior Sister!!!
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I know, right?! I really thought something was wrong with me because I couldn’t process that I was never going to be the same. It truly is a grieving process which is what I think some just do not understand. Love to you, my Warrior Sister!!! HUGS!
Great bblog I enjoyed reading
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Thank you so much, Dale!