Breast Cancer : How Bad Is Chemo Really?

nurse with IV drip

While this might sound like a simple question, “How bad is chemo really?” the answer has many facets.

There is a protocol – what drugs you’re given to give you the best chance of survival.

There is a process – what actually happens when you go to get the chemo.

There are side effects – what happens after you have had chemo.

Step One – The Protocols

Firstly, the protocol is reality simple for me, based on:

1) The type of cancer they had found.

2) All of the other people who had a similar diagnosis and what they responded to.

3) Further research.

= what I get!

 

Step Two – The Process

Secondly, the process is also fairly simple.  I went to a ward in a hospital. Not a usual ward, though this one had lots of armchairs and a couple of beds. I sat in the chair and received a drip.  The drip contained the drugs I needed, based off the protocols.  Nothing too scary so far!

But then of course, there is the emotion as well.  I had all of the information but nothing really prepared me for the first time the drip went in – there was no turning back now! Having all the information didn’t really prepare me for it.  After all, it’s hard to separate the body from the mind and my mind was going a thousand miles an hour.

So, the first time I just sat there, trying not to freak out.  There was no panic, but just the expectation of what was to come and how bad would the side effects be.  The first time, it took about three hours as they loaded up saline drips, then the first drug, more saline, second drug, more saline again.   By the time it was over, I was full – quite surprised I wasn’t leaking.  I felt fine, but nothing had really happened as of yet.  The drugs were in, but they would start working soon enough, so what would happen next?  Just what side effects would I have?

Step Three – The Side Effects

By the next morning, I found out about the side effects……I was in a bit of a haze – the feeling I get when I am almost asleep, but still conscious, not quite asleep yet, but not awake either. It was weird and I was sick, really sick.   I couldn’t do much more than just lay around for the first few days afterwards and get looked after.  My mum and dad came over each day. I was really no trouble. I wasn’t eating or really moving, but it was nice to have them there.

I could just lay around, as I had done everything I needed before I had chemo, thank goodness.  The shopping, washing, ironing, shopping, cooking and cleaning were all taken care of, so nothing to do but just lay there and recover.

The side effects had started, besides the usual nausea and vomiting, within a couple of weeks my hair had started to fall out.  It was like having a little animal in the house…there was hair everywhere.

 

Decision Time!

My hair was thinning fast and by Christmas Eve, I had my first bald spot.  We were off to my husbands work Christmas party and I had a decision to make.  Do I face the world or stay home and deny what was happening?  You guessed it – I pulled on a bandana and off I went.  My logic was, if I stepped back from the world now, there I would stay and I wasn’t beaten yet!

After lunch, I went to visit my friend Sandra and she got rid of the rest of my hair. I was tired of cleaning it up anyway! To be honest, it was quite liberating and this was one way that I could take back some control of what was happening to me.

But I knew that I needed a plan – a plan for chemo and a plan for after it.  Life was going to move in three weekly cycles now, as that was the treatment plan – chemo every three weeks.  As I found out, I would be lulled into a false sense of security as the best I would feel was just before I had chemo again.

Then the cycle would continue again.  Life was reduced to the next three no point looking any future ahead than that.

 

So had bad it chemo really?

The protocols and process are quite easy.

The side effects are a bit different.  Every chemo drug is different and they all have different side effects.  My best advice is to understand what the common side effect are and how to deal with them.  There is more information here.

Love

Gai

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