Updated: Jan 30
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Let's talk chemotherapy! I am on a lot of facebook sites and a lot of women have to go through chemotherapy. Note: I am not a doctor just a patient so ask your doctor before trying anything. Some of you may only have a few treatments while others will go through many weeks. I had the combination AC aka Red Devil. It's Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and Cytoxan (Cyclophosphamide) - 4 treatments of this and then 12 weeks of Paclitaxel (Taxol)
I ended up getting a port which ended up being my best friend. Take that as a grain of salt... lol. The picture is right after it was put in. It took about a week for the soreness to go away and then I hardly noticed it. I say this because I hate needles and the port was the access point to draw blood every time I went in and to give me my chemo. I lathered the area with Lidocaine which is a numbing cream 45 minutes prior to my appointment - any appointment I was going to get pricked. Lidocaine is a game changer and I still use it for my Zolodex shots. I hardly feel the poke.
Getting chemo for the 1st time is scary. It's the unknown. You don't know what is going to happen or how you will feel. I was lucky enough to have my husband or whomever come with me to my treatment but honestly they could have just stayed home. I kept myself busy or really (on Taxol) I slept the entire time but we'll get to that soon. So when you get there for me at least I had to go in the day before as they drew blood to check my white blood cells. If they are low you may have to postpone your treatment. I met with my oncologist first and then went in the next room for my treatment. With every treatment they flush your port and they give you an anti-nausea drip first. Some may have a reaction and your first treatment you are there a bit longer as they need to see how you do...reactions to it.
What do you bring? What do you need? This is the question most asked. So here it is: some tips and tricks:
Snacks - they may provide drinks and some small snacks, but I always brought a sandwhich, fruit, crackers or we stopped at Jack-N-Box and got me a breakfast sandwhich...yummy that tasted really good for me while in treatment. Haha, it was like being pregnant again because I ate what tasted good for me.
warm socks - it was always cold for me so they gave me blankets but I also brought
chargers for electronics/phone
sometimes I brought my computer - I actually was able to work the entire time through chemo
coloring books - check out my friend Danielle Mitchell's coloring book
My latest book: Breast Cancer Word Search
I'm sure you may be wondering, Marci did you get sick? Did you lose your hair? Unfortunately yes to both. After the first treatment many said it hit them 2 days after so that is what I was expecting. I had treatments on Friday so I thought okay Sunday is when I might get sick. Oh no! Remember everyone is different. I got sick that night! Luckily my parents were able to be here and help the entire time. (They are snowbirds from Ohio). They took my kids the entire weekend so I could rest and get better. Ok let's get back to me getting sick. My head was in the garbage can that night. I couldn't eat, couldn't drink. I had my husband call the on-call doctor twice. I tried to have soup but the spoon tasted like metallic. I tried to drink it with a straw but nothing tasted good. I couldn't even nibble on a cracker.
They had me on anti-nausea meds Zofran which did nothing for me, I think it made me sicker. The ended up putting me on a different anti-nausea but can't recall the name. The doctor said try to get anything down- eat applesauce with sugar, pudding with sugar. He told my husband whatever she craves let her eat it. (pretend I was pregnant again) They didn't want me losing weight. I also had to check my temperature because if it went higher than 100.5 then I had to call the doctor or go to the ER. Luckily I never had a fever the entire time.
All weekend I was in bed and thinking can I really do this again in two weeks? I was scared! The nurse had me come in Monday morning so they could hydrate me since I hardly drank any water. Another tip: have them hydrate you after each treatment. This was a game-changer for me. From then on I wasn't sick. Achy yes but not head in the garbage can sick. Again every one will react differently. You know your body.
I got through the weekend and then I was back working. I am a Realtor so I was out showing homes in my mask! I was cool before Covid as I was already sporting the mask!
After the treatment they put on the Neulasta On-Pro shot which went off 27 hours after treatment. I got achy so Claritin and Aleve helped. Make sure you stay on top of your medications. Even if I didn't feel anything I still took it to prevent anything.
My second Red Devil is when my hair started to fall out. Now I knew it was coming so I actually started to cut my hair short and then I had fun with it. I colored it pink and the day it started coming out I had my husband shave it into a mohawk. Why not have fun with it? I wanted to stay positive the whole time. Yes I had my break downs. When my daughter came home from school that afternoon she saw me with my mohawk and then I said come on help Daddy shave the rest so she did. I cried after they left the room and when my mom looked at me I burst into tears. It was real. I had cancer and I was now bald.
I got through the Red Devil and then had to do Taxol for 12 weeks. That was so much easier. They gave me Benadryl every time before the actual chemo. That knocked me out, after the 1st week they had to give me less. They do this again to make sure no allergic reactions. I was so droopy from it, I remember talking to some of the nurses and nurse navigator but I felt like I was so drunk and so out of it. I slept the whole time and came home and slept more. That night I was fine and the next day back working.
Chemo is tough but so are you! I did meet with the nutritionist and she gave me suggestions on what to eat. I tried ensure but honestly didn't like the taste of it. They gave me a cookbook of what to cook while going through chemo. This did help as one time my white cells were low so I had to avoid certain foods. Here are some tips for what to eat if that should happen.
At home if I was tired I would nap. You need to listen to your body and rest. You are going through so much, your body is fighting this disease so let it. I couldn't wait to be done and ring that bell! I cried my last day. I cried because I was happy I got through it. I cried because for 6 months I saw the nurses every week and we laughed and talked they were like family to me and I was scared to go to the next step which was radiation. I was going to miss them but it was time to move on. I still tear up watching this.
Check out my journal The Breast Cancer GPS which can help with more tips and tricks. Also check out some of these shirts to let let everyone know you are done!