Sunday, May 30, 2010

Intravenous Domestos - part 5

I felt informed and anxious about the side effects of the new drugs heading into intravenous domestos number five. I know that pharmacutical companies are obliged to list all the possible side effects and that it doesn't mean that you are going to experience them. However, they were pretty horrid and I didn't want to involve myself in anything that may remotely result in any of these side effects. I was particularly anxious about my nails falling out. I had lost my hair and my dignity, I wanted to keep my nails. I had been speaking with nurses and they had told me that the new drugs I was going on seemed very well tolerated and that the side effects were not so severe as my first drugs. I found it very helpful speaking with the breast care nurse about the side effects. She was very kind and went through the extensive list of side effects and I asked her how often she had heard about people experiencing them. Apparently the nails falling out doesn't happen often, but then again I did have my first car stolen (and returned) five times, so I am not a big follower of statistics. I also read that about 700 women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Australia. Which, when you think about it - doesn't seem that many, especially since I know about four others.

I had my usual sleepless night before chemo and was feeling physically sick on the drive to the hospital. In order to avoid my nails falling out, I had to put my hands in ice gloves for the duration of the treatment. I am not sure how it works, but I think it has something to do with my circulation. One thing that I do know is having my hands in ice gloves for two hours is bloody painful. However, I am very stubborn and didn't want my nails to fall out, so I just put up with the pain. I felt the risk of frostbite was worth keeping my nails.

One thing I was not looking forward to was that 5-7 days after the drug infusion, and after putting up with the usual side effects, there was a second wave of side effects that kicked in. So, after the first week of the usual exhaustion, nausea, headaches, insomnia, confusion, dizziness and aching joints; I could look forward to body sores, mouth ulcers and bleeding gums. I must admit I was looking forward to (well, that might be too strong a term), but I thought that the diarrhoea would be a welcome change to the constipation. However, the severe diarrhoea came after a week of severe constipation. I kept having these waves of diarrhoea, dizziness and nausea all at once. I would go to the bathroom and not be sure if I was going to poop, puke or pass out! When I felt like this, I would call my mum, then sort out the poo issue. That way if I puked or passed out, I knew the cavalry was on its way with a bucket and a cold compress. On day five, the mouth ulcers, body sores and bleeding gums kicked in also. It was horrid. I couldn't eat properly, and when I did manage to eat, I had to keep rinsing my mouth out as my gums would bleed so much all I could taste was blood. It was a very effective diet, but somewhat extreme.

It was during this second week that I was exposed to a virus and was fighting a fever for five days. By the fourth night of having a high temperature, my oncologist said that if it didn't get below 38 degrees, then he would look at putting me into hospital until my chemo was finished. The thought of going to hospital for just over two months was less than appealing. As my mother was hovering above me armed with a thermometre, I was thinking cool thoughts. Thoughts of Greenland, Iceland and polar bears filled my head. As I was waiting for the thermometre to beep, I felt sick with worry. My temperature came out as 37.9 degrees, I was saved by .1 of a degree!

It was also during this second week that I think I hit my lowest point. I was tired, cranky and in pain. I was just over the whole thing and wanted it to be finished. I thought about all the people that had told me that these drugs were better tolerated than the first ones I was on. All I have to say is 'liar, liar pants on fire'. I know that everyone is different and people have different reaction to drugs, I just seemed to get every side effect possible! These drugs knocked me for six. It took me a good two weeks before I felt well enough to leave the house.


  1. You are such an inspiration. Your blog is so honest and I thank you for sharing.
    I had had 3 friends go through what you are going through and I am really happy to tell you they have come out the other side with a clear bill of health. x

  2. It’s surprising to hear you in high spirit yet a good trait to share to everyone. It’s all just a matter of dental hygiene. Hattiesburg dentists’ high spirit in battling dental hygiene is equally as agile as your spirit; forcing me to believe that you have a trait of becoming an advocate. Here in Hattiesburg, Orthodontics staff are looking for people like you; a high spirited, born-leader.