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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chemo sucks and I feel bad

I guess I could just end with the title of this post. But perhaps I should elaborate on why I feel bad (I don't think I need to explain why chemo sucks--the idea of poison coursing through my cells and blood stream killing off the good with the bad is freaky enough without all the side effects).

*I am still nauseous/queasy and also a bit dizzy

Let me explain further. The nurse navigator that we met with the week before chemo, lets call her Nurse Sally Sunshine, made it seem as if I would have ZERO nausea--that the anti-nausea medication that they have now is so good and there have been so many advances that I should just not have a problem with nausea at all.

Well, maybe I'm an outlier (OK, I KNOW I'm an outlier) but I am having nausea. Not enough that I'm dry heaving in a crumpled heap with Julia Roberts holding my head while I wretch into a metal bin (if you've seen the film Dying Young then you know what I'm talking about), but enough that I don't feel good--I don't have much of an appetite and my stomach is constantly queasy.

I have a call out to another nurse (this one I like very much--Delma) and I have an appointment with Triangle Acupuncture next week--I have high hopes for the acupuncture--several people have recommended it as a way to help with the side effects of chemo (it helped one of my uncles). I just with Blue Cross/Blue Shield would get with the program and help cover alternative therapies (they don't, so it's all out of pocket).

*I'm not eating.

OK, this isn't technically true--I am eating--or rather constantly nibbling in an effort to hold the nausea at bay. But I'm not really eating big meals, and I'm doing just small nibbles. And it's sad--because I LOVE TO EAT. Or rather, I love food. I still do--and this is one of the saddest consequences of the chemo--having my taste buds change and not having an appetite. I've lost 5 lbs in 5 days, which I know isn't great--this is why I'm hoping the nurse will call back and/or acupuncture will work. If anyone reading this has recommendations on things to eat and how to deal with the change in taste buds and nausea, I'm all ears/eyes.

*I'm tired.

So if you know me, you know I'm a high energy kind of person. But I have to say that since chemo started, I've been much more tired--first it was at 25% below capacity, but I'd say that today (and yesterday) it's more like 50%. The mornings are better than the afternoons--and I'm usually asleep by 9pm or 10pm. I have been able to do a mile of walking in the mornings--and that seems to help with the nausea, interestingly enough. But I'd say by about 2pm I am in need of a nap, and more to the point, the energy it takes to do just a single thing feels sapping. And I'm someone used to multi-tasking, so this is a new reality for me.

There are a few more symptoms I'm having -- like some muscle/joint aches, some intermittent stomach cramping, a bit of a headache -- that aren't helpful but aren't completely constant or that feel debilitating like these other symptoms do. When Nurse Sunshine descried the side effects, she really low-balled it--she talked about how women on chemo still work and they are still Mom's who take their kids to the park and to the movie theaters and that the life I had before chemo and things I did before chemo will be things I can do while I'm on chemo.

Well you know what? She lied!

Because I cannot possibly think about walking 18 holes of golf while carrying my clubs in this heat while on chemo. And I have no desire to go to any restaurants or eat or, or to even cook, because I can't trust my cooking with my taste buds changed. And while I do recognize that there are people who are forced due to economic circumstances to work 9-5 jobs while on chemo, it should not be something that is encouraged because I AM REALLY EXHAUSTED AND FEEL SLIGHTLY NAUSEOUS 24/7. And this is the last thing anyone needs--to be working and feeling this way.

[takes deep breath -- rant against Nurse Sunshine over]

OK, sorry for the ranting/whining. I guess it's to be expected--I mean, lets face it, I'm no saintly patient person--I am a loud and opinionated woman. And I guess it's good to know that even when I'm feeling like crap (and OH YES, I FEEL LIKE CRAP) I can still be me (is that a silver lining kind of moment or is that just me recognizing that chemo or no chemo, cancer or no cancer, I'm going to keep being the person I am?).


  1. Jen,
    I'm sorry you feel like crap. I just mentioned to Matt last night that I was going to recommend acupuncture to you. I know it really helped me and hey, 6,000 years of eastern wisdom can't be wrong, right?
    Thinking of you,

  2. Just found your blog. Thanks for writing all this down. I'm just starting my own breast cancer treatment. I have to have radiation first, and then will be doing two months of AC chemo.

    Sending you good wishes and hope you feel good enough to drink a milkshake soon. =)


  3. I'm late to the party, but thanks for this. I didn't have to have chemo but I had a mastectomy. Don't get me wrong--I'm grateful for the excellent medical care i received. But cancer patients are not all alike. I'm a private person and the whole pink ribbon sisterhood thing really turned me off.I was given a pink robe with "For the Girls" embroidered on it. Nobody asked me if I wanted it. (It was also several sizes too large.) I was pressured to meet with a survivor, who joked about and made light of the situation--something she could do from her post-surgical vantage point, but my pre-surgical self wasn't in a joking frame of mind. I was TOLD that I had a nurse navigator, not asked if I would like one. (After the first few appointments I told her I wouldn't need her anymore. My introverted self only wanted family around at those intensely personal and emotional doctor's appointments.)
    Summed up, after I took control of the circumstances of my illness, my spirits improved immensely. You're the only one going through it--nobody else, including cancer survivors, knows your unique situation. If you're going through cancer and you're reading this right now, I hope you can find your own voice amidst a chorus of voices who think they know what's best for you.