Tuesday 10 November 2015

Chemotherapy - Halfway There! 3 down...3 to go!

So on Monday I had my third chemo and last EC chemo! I'm officially halfway through!! 

Now I know I'm finished with EC I thought it may be a good idea to post what I've learnt so far on the rollercoaster ride that is chemotherapy;

- Your hair is guaranteed to fall out with EC chemo. 
This is something the nurse told me on my first chemo. I made my peace with that early on and shaved it off 12 days after my first cycle of chemo. I raised over £3000 for Macmillan and I donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust. I loved reading through everyone's messages of support on my Brave the Shave page and it turned the situation in to a positive.

- The nausea is tough.
I felt sick for a good week on EC. As it turns out I'm not very good at feeling sick. Give me the pain of surgery any day over this nausea. It was for me by far the worst side effect of EC. I asked for Emend (an aprepitant) on my second cycle of EC, which lessened the feeling of nausea but not the duration.  

- The Epirubicin (the 'E' part of EC) makes your pee turn Red. Very Red. 
DO NOT PANIC this is not internal bleeding! It happens straight away. Thankfully my chemo nurse warned me about this pre-pee. 

- The Cyclophosphamide (the 'C' part of EC) leaves you with a horrible taste in your mouth as soon as they start administrating the drug.
This makes me feel sick just thinking about it. I had a humbug when they started administering it, which helped.

- The Cyclophosphamide also affects your sinuses.
I felt like I'd been snorting soap or washing powder every day for a week and half. This isn't the worst SE by any stretch of the imagination but I really didn't like it and I'm so glad I won't have this sensation on my next cycle.

- There's a good possibility you might get fat.
A popular miss conception of chemotherapy is that you are going to be sick a lot and subsequently lose weight. I'm sure this happens for some people but not for me nor the majority of 'chemo girls' I've spoken to. Anti-sickness drugs are a lot more powerful these days. I was only actually physically sick once on EC chemo. The steroids also don't help matters and make you fiercely hungry. Anyone who knows me knows I like my food. But this was a completely different scale. Having 'thirds' at tea time was a regular occurance. Jacket potato and melted cheese was my food of choice. Melted cheese on chips, melted cheese on crisps, melted cheese on anything in fact...Nom nom nom!

- Taste changes
I love food and hated this SE. Nothing tastes the same and because of the nausea you end up going off some of your favourite foods. Michele had a pasty on the day of my second chemo cycle. Now I can't even look at any kind of pasty or pie without wanting to be sick. I can't even watch the Hollands Pie advert. I'm Northern. This is ridiculous. I had pasta with tomoto sauce one day when I was feeling sick. Tomoto sauce now makes me feel sick. My boyfriends Italian. I've know idea how I'm going to explain this to his parents. I'm off curry at the moment too. I live in Bradford. It's just not going to work is it? I don't like tea, coffee or water either. EC chemo is hell for a foodie!

- Constipation
Yeah sorry about this one. This was awful on my first cycle so I think I owe this to the Ordansetron anti-sickness tablet that I had before getting Emend on my second cycle. The chemo unit will give you drugs for this if you ask. Constipation wasn't as bad for me on my second and third cycle so I struggled on. Struggle being the operative word. Sorry again.

- Headaches
Again I think I owe this one to that pesky Ordansetron drug on my first cycle. My head was pulsing and I can quite easily say it was the worst headache I have ever had. It wasn't as bad on the next cycle but I still needed paracetamol towards the end of my first week after each EC chemo. 

- Deteriorated Vision
My eyes didn't really handle EC very well. During the first week of each cycle my vision was a little blurred. I thought I might be going blind at one point but my vision improved towards the second week of each cycle. I had swollen and puffy eyelids on my second and third cycle. My eyes where watery, stung, blood shot and glazed over. No ones really sure about this SE. It may just have been general tiredness or the start of my eyelashes falling out. Who knows?

- Depression 
On the third and fourth day after each chemo cycle I got very depressed. I'm not sure why this was. It may be to do with the steroids or a side effect of the other drugs but it happened on the third and fourth day after each chemo cycle just like clockwork. Normally when you have the flu or a stomach bug you start feeling a little better around this time. Even if it's just a little bit. On chemo you wake up and feel exactly the same every day. I guess this can get to you by the time you are three days in.

- Anger
'Roid-rage' is real! I don't think I'm a particularly angry person but steroids mess you up!! I thankfully have understanding family and friends who are supportive and don't mind the odd expletive. Sorry Michele. Sorry Mum and Dad. Darren I know you can handle it!

- Get your teeth checked before you start chemo.
I didn't do this and I really regret it. I told my consultant I was up to date with my dental checks (I wasn't) because I don't like the dentist. Who does? Plus it's flipping expensive. Anyway I have a tooth that has hurt after every single chemo cycle. Chemo makes EVERYTHING more painful.

- Get your flu jab. 
I wasn't told about this before chemo but   I wish I had been given it. Check with your chemo nurse before having it done but I believe it's fine as it's not a live vaccine. Get your friends and family to have this done too if they can. Chemo is not a friend to colds and flu!

- Your mouth gets sore
My mouth was sore after every chemo. It felt thick and numb and was horrible. I brushed my teeth after every meal, which helped a little. I was also given mouth wash from my chemo unit. 

 - Extreme fatigue 
I have never felt tiredness like I have in the past few weeks whilst being on EC chemo. Zero energy. Literally there's nothing. Do what your body tells you to do and rest. I found over doing it was not helpful. So don't feel guilty and if you need to stay in bed for a week then stay in bed for a week. 

- Chemo brain
This is a real thing. Honestly I'm not just an idiot. I'm pretty sure I've seen it on the Macmillan website. I can't remember anything and I'm just generally less intelligent. The other day I forgot how to spell the word 'saw'. Then whilst watching countdown I couldn't times 75 by 10. This isn't going to go down well at work so I'm hoping this improves.

- Sensitivity to light and sound
Put me in a dark and sound proof room for a week after each chemo cycle and I'd be happy. 

- Arm pain and vein hardening
It turns out pumping poison through your body every three weeks is pretty hard on your veins. As I've had a lumpectomy and three lymph nodes removed I can't have any injections done on my left arm due to the risk of Lymphedemia. All blood tests, chemotherapy and blood pressure checks have to be done on my right arm. The veins on my right arm are now hardening and it hurts to reach up for things or strain my arm at all. The nurses have mentioned having a PICC line put in a few times but as I don't really fancy having tubes sticking out of my heart for the next few weeks I've tried to squash that suggestion. So come on right side of my body. It was the stupid left side of my body that went and got cancer. Right side please don't fail me now. 

Some of these things I knew a little about before starting chemo and others where an unpleasant surprise. I've tried to be as honest as possible so hopefully this list is helpful to someone about to start treatment and you don't all just think I'm a cancer-ridden winge bag. Remember everyone reacts differently to chemo and this is just my own experience of it so far.

I'm glad EC chemo is over with. I'm glad I only went in to hospital once due to a high tempteture. It was unfortunate it was Micheles birthday. It was also Bonfire night. We also had to wait five hours to be told my tempreture is back to normal, my White blood cells are fine and I don't have an infection so I could go back home. I guess it's better to be safe than sorry though.

I have an appointment with my consultant in the next couple of weeks to discuss my next dose of chemo now I'm officially at the half way point.

I start Herceptin on 30th November. Herceptin is an injection that I'll have every three weeks. I need this as my cancer is HER2 positive, which means the cancer cells have certain proteins that make the cancer highly active and aggressive. This isn't good but apparently Herceptin is very good at demolishing those nasty proteins! I'm having 18 sessions so this will last for a year. I've heard the side effects of Herceptin suck a bit too. Flu like symptoms amongst other things not dissimilar to chemo. Herceptin also puts a strain on your heart so I'm having a MUGA scan before I start and every few weeks to make sure my heart is behaving itself.

I can't start my next half of chemo on the same day as Herceptin as both drugs can cause severe allergic reactions and they need to be able determine which drug I'm reacting too if I'm allergic. So I start my 4th chemo cycle on 1st December. 

I'll now be having Docetaxel for my final three sessions of chemo. Docetaxel has quite the repretation in 'cancer land'. It's known as 'the Tax man' or being hit by the 'Tax Truck'. When your doctor says 'By day three you might feel like you have been hit by a bus' you know it's not going to be a barrel of laughs.

Its supposed to be more pain and less sickness, which may actually be better for me. You never know. They will also be stepping up my drug intake to go along with my harsher chemo. I'll be starting steroids the day before chemo and taking eight a day rather than my usual three. Goodbye sleep! 

From day three I'll need daily injections. These injections stimulate my bone marrow to produce White blood cells. A nurse comes to my house to do this for me, which I thought was quite nice. Although I think 'Dr' Michele was disappointed he wouldn't be getting another go considering his previous success administering my IVF injections

Anyway, I'm going to try and not worry too much about the Herceptin and Docetaxel for the moment and concentrate on recovering from my third EC chemo cycle. 

Just a quick reminder: 
Im halfway through chemo!!! 

Now let's celebrate with whatever doesn't taste disgusting! 



  1. You are inspirational KB and deffo the kick ass beeyatch we knew you would be. Happy halfway day :) xxx Deb xxx


Blogger templates by pipdig