You wouldn’t think there were any “pros” really to having cancer. You have to search really deep. Turns out I’ve become a glass half full kind of gal since my mortality has been presented to me on a platter. Now that chemo is 2+ weeks behind me, I’ve had some time to really contemplate the process. So, here’s my pros and cons of chemo.
I’ll start with the cons. They are easier and I can’t wait to bitch about them.
- Fatigue is the most common side effect. It also is lamer than a bag of one legged ducks. During the first 4 rounds of chemo, I received doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide (AC). It’s known not so secretly by some patients as the Red Devil because the Adriamycin is blood red and also because it sucks donkey balls. It’s notorious for making you feel like complete dog shit. I have to say I “lucked out” because it mostly made me feel like I needed to sleep constantly. If I didn’t sleep constantly I felt like I had run a marathon the day before. Walking up the stairs to get to the bathroom or go to bed was exhausting. The last few stairs my legs protested just enough that I felt like I had, in fact, accomplished a significant work out. It was the easiest cardio I have ever done. In the last few weeks of that shit, I may or may not have cried on a few occasions with the dread of having to climb those lame ass stairs. The Sailor may or may not have offered on those occasions to just carry me up. I never accepted. Not because I’m stoic or stubborn but, because our stairs are open on one side and have no rail over halfway up. The Sailor is strong but, I could still just picture both of us taking a tumble. But the offer always heartened me. He was willing to fireman carry my sickly weak ass up a flight of stairs if needed, that was enough.
- Everyone knows this one. It’s the most recognized side effect. Hair loss. I had cut my medium length tresses into a pixie a month prior to prep for it. They say your hair will start to fall out about 14 days after your first round. That just happened to have been the day of my second round. And nothing happened. Day 15, 16 and 17 came and went as well without any noted extra shedding. I thought for just a split second that my hair was freaky hulk hair that wouldn’t fall out. Maybe just stop growing for the duration of the treatment. Then Day 18 came. Granted, I was actively watching for any note worthy hair changes so, when I started running my hands through my short locks and coming back with 10 or 20 hairs at a time, I knew that was it. I took a shower that afternoon while the sailor was at work to shampoo my hair one last time. I left a hair ball the size of a 6 week old kitten in the drain of the shower. I text the Sailor and sadly delivered the news that B-Day (bald day) was upon us. He told me not to fret and that we knew it was going to happen eventually. So I tried not to sweat it. He didn’t mention the kitten he had to extract and chuck in the trash before showering. The next morning I woke and the 10-20 hairs were exponentially more. Not wanting to sit idly by and watch my blonde hair slowly die and fall all over the damn house then needing to be cleaned up, I dug out my old Wahl clippers and fucking shaved my head. I texted the Sailor to warn him he was coming up to a shaved dome. I’m guessing he thought back to the kitten/hairball and wasn’t surprised.
- Headaches. Sudden. Out of nowhere. Sharp. The Sailor got good at seeing the visual cues of one and had ice packs at the ready.
- One only really hears about puking and diarrhea from chemo. So that was what I was prepared for. FALSE. I didn’t shit normal for 4 months. Constipation is the worst. I’ll take the rhea over not being able to poop anytime.
- Hemorrhoids. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s bad enough I talked about pooping in the last bullet.
- The day after treatment I was required to get shot that helped my body to produce white blood cells since the chemo would kill off and suppress anymore getting made along with all the other cells in my body. I was lucky enough to get the option of having a little pod stuck on my hip to administer the shot the next day rather than having to drive back. Fuck that pod and fuck that shot. I know it helped me not get a common cold and having it lay me up in the hospital or kill me but, really fuck it. That shit makes you ache. I thought I had to be growing a few inches every time because it felt like my legs were in the process of stretching. Then I started Taxol and well fuck that too. Fuck that one even harder. The body aches were worst in my sternum but, radiated in my lower back, legs and hips as well. Add the fucking pod into that mix and I wanted dismember my entire body myself.
- Muscle Aches. Yeah, fuck these too. Fucking Taxol. I swear I thought T was way worse than AC in the ACT treatment. My achey damn bones coved in my achy damn muscles. I found walking around slowly and gingerly or even just standing and swaying helped a bit but then I’d sit down or go to bed and it would be infinitely worse then when I started. For 8 weeks I ate Motrin and stood next to the couch swaying like a weirdo from the bone and muscle aching.
- Numb and or tingling fingers and toes is called peripheral neuropathy. And it is the pits. No, pits isn’t good enough. It fucking blows flea infested donkey dicks. It started slowly. In my fingertips and a little in the tips of my big toes. Each round it got worse. By the time round 4, my final round, of Taxol came around I constantly felt like all my toes were falling into holes. If I sat for too long, when I stood up, from the balls of my feet to the tips of my toes prickle like I was sitting on my feet for hours cutting off circulation. Luckily my fingers didn’t progress beyond that first stage of slight numbness in the tips. Oh, and it takes 6 months to a year from the last treatment for this to wear off. Yes. Possibly a year of dead feeling sometimes painful toes. Awesome.
- Speaking of feet, Taxol turned both my big toenails and several of my other toe nails black. And they’re probably going to fall off. Some might hang on and grow out naturally but, my one big toe… It’s going. I’m pretty sure only the cuticle is keeping it in place at this point. It lifts up a couple centimeters when I file it. Like a muppet mouth talking to me while I file it. For a couple of weeks it actually weeped clear fluid. I had to take antibiotics for a week when I’m pretty sure it was infected because the fluid started to look cloudy and yellow. And smell. It could have been gangrene but, my doctor told me that was a bit dramatic and that it’s just an infection from being sweaty in a sneaker at work 3 days in a row then wet from the shower I took to wash the fried fish smell off my person upon coming home. Damp warm places are where bacteria like to live. The Sailor called it my zombie toe. I threatened to touch him with it at night in bed when he wouldn’t go get me juice. He got me juice. The zombie toe had a little bit of power there for a while. I still hate the zombie toe. Thank goodness it’s not summer time so the public has been saved from seeing my toes.
- Not being allowed to eat raw food doesn’t sound like a big problem. I can handle not having sushi for a few months… Yeah, that’s because I didn’t really think that through. No apples unless you fry them or bake them first. No guacamole. No salsa. No unpasteurized juice (bye bye fresh squeezed or cold pressed juices and Apple cider). No poached eggs or eggs over easy for that matter. And your burger? Well done. Medium Well if you like to live on the edge. And on it? No lettuce, tomato or onion unless you get grilled or fried onions. Are you starting to see how this escallated quickly once I started to try and cook or order off a menu? I never thought I’d say this but, I just wanted a fucking salad towards the end there. Like my body was begging for something green and un-fried or sautéed or steamed for once.
- You know when you’re talking to someone or writing an email and you can’t think of a word that you know you know and you can feel it right there in your brain just taunting you? That’s fucking what chemo brain is like but it happens several times a day everyday. My life became a series of playing catch phrase and charades throughout the day. Usually with the Sailor. And it continues, though not quite as often thank God. The Sailor has gotten good at the game. A few scenarios between The Sailor and I for your amusement. Scene 1 – Me: In my PJs putting on my Uggs and jacket. Sailor: Where ya going? Me: Out to…. um you know, the thing with the paper I mean envelopes that comes everyday… the guy in the little truck with no door…. Sailor: Are you going out to the mailbox? Me: YES! To get the mail. Scene 2 – Watching a movie. Me: The actors for the adults look a lot like the kid versions of their characters. They had a really good…. Uhhh… Person that like interviews the people, I mean actors, for the jobs in the movie and picks them. Sailor:…. Casting? Me: That doesn’t sound right… but, yeah. Casting. Casting Director! Casting Director! That is what I meant. You were right. Scene 3 – Me: We need to go to the NEX. The cats need… uh, the stuff they shit in… Sailor: Litter. Me: Yep. Litter. And the stuff they eat. Sailor: Cat food. Me: Yeah, I didn’t forget “cat food”. I was just sticking with the theme of not knowing words to make it seem fun.
Now onto the pros. This is infinitely harder.
- No hair means my prep time for leaving the house has been cut down by at least 30 or 45 minutes. No blowdrying, curling or straightening. Not to mention not worrying about trims, cuts, highlights and color. It’s a welcome relief for a bit.
- Speaking of no hair, no shaving. Or waxing. Or tweezing. It’s glorious.
- Yoga for cancer patients and survivors at the hospital. I actually haven’t gone yet but, I’m positive that I will. Eventually.
- I have a legitimate excuse to actually live in pajamas. When you’re feeling crumby and fatigued no one expects you to put on jeans or slacks. Flannel PJs or yoga pants and an over sized tee are more than acceptable even when you have company.
- Its the perfect excuse for a secret introvert to have for when she wants to be alone. Even when in perfect health I rarely am in the mood for the casual hang out. It takes a momentous amount of will power to want to leave my funk hole to adventure out and be social. Or even more to invite someone into my abode to hang. I mean, that means putting things away and cleaning and that’s just all exhausting. I’d prefer to to stay in my flannel PJs on the couch surfing the web and binge watching Downton Abbey eating ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and melted peanut butter. The struggle is real. See my previous post for further details.
- Soft skin. So since my cells aren’t regenerating like normal, my skin is shedding like a MOFO. So I, hating flaky skin, have been exfoliating and moisturizing like a little mofo to combat it. Results, fucking fantastic looking skin.
- Speaking of good skin, good bye menstrual cycle. No hormonal zits! No tampons and undie liners. No cramps and crazy time (aka PMS). I can wear any color or type of underoos I want on any given day without worry of fucking Aunt Flo coming a couple days early to ruin my cute lace top pink and grey leopard print VS cotton undies. It’s glorious.
So there you have it. Now you have an idea on my Chemo “experience”. Mostly sucky. Very sucky actually but, a few silver linings. I mean, you have to try and find the silver linings or an already sucky situation can be unbearable. Like when you want to cry when you see your bald head but, you think, “At least I don’t have to shave my legs or wax my bikini line though…”
And it could have been worse. Much worse. I was reminded of that fact every other Tuesday when I went in for my chemo and would see so many people so far worse off than me. I wouldn’t say that I am lucky but, really all things considering I have been so far.