It seems remarkable but my chemo is about to end. I cannot wait! It feels like it has taken forever but in reality, only two months so far and it will be three months until the majority of the chemo drugs are out of my system. It does however take longer to heal completely from the side effects and some stick around for a while unfortunately.
- I have had side effects ranging from vomiting, nausea and a migraine. I have felt seedy more days than not.
- I have sore eyes and a sore scalp plus bleeding noses, headaches, indigestion and problem skin. My latest bugbear is a pain at the back of my nose which is hard to describe but there all the time.
- Lately I have noticed that my voice has gone weak and it’s difficult to talk to people for any extended time.
- I get breathless when I do half an hour of walking. It is not about fitness but side effects of Herceptin and chemo.
- My energy levels have reduced by 50 to 75%. I find driving more than 10-15 minutes very tiring. People often say to me “you seem fine” but I am using up my energy with that interaction and then will rest later.
- Sleep: I have lost my ability to sleep on a regular basis.
- My hair is falling out quite a bit but luckily will not fall out completely.
- Chemo brain: I find it difficult to concentrate or remember words correctly.
- Weight: I’ve gained about 5kg in the last two months from the drugs but also resting a lot.
- Immune system: I have a zero or almost zero immune system. I have become phobic of germs and people with colds. My red and white blood counts are now the lowest they’ve been in years.
- I feel mentally tired as well as physically tired. I am sick of being sick; it is boring and depressing. Also, during the night, thoughts come about cancer and how the year has gone.
- Different chemos: I had a trauma with the first chemo and an almost miracle with the second one. It is amazing what drugs can do. The third cycle was in between – they all seem to have different personalities.
- Friends and family: some people have been in contact and others not at all. That is normal for this kind of thing and was easier this time around. Cancer is a sifting exercise with people in your life.
- Work: I am so glad that I chose not to work. I would have had a much harder time if I was trying to work as well.
- The hardest part of chemo has been the side effects, especially from the first chemo. Physically, it was hard to tolerate and mentally, very difficult to decide to go back for chemo number two. In the end, I decided that I didn’t want any regrets – so have the chemo and move on.
What I am thankful for:
- An Oncologist who listened to me and tweaked treatments to help me.
- An Oncology District Nurse who listened to every single side effect and reassured me that it was normal and then prescribed the right things to help me.
- A Breast Surgeon who has been vigilant with me.
- Some lessons learned from last time. I didn’t have a mortgage this time so I could stop working during surgery and treatments, rest and recuperate.
- Friends and family who have been supportive and been in touch. Thank you. Especially my parents for looking after me.
- That my treatments were free this time; Herceptin is funded publicly (but last time, we had to raise around $67,000 for Herceptin treatment). And thank you to the women who advocated for free Herceptin until it became a reality.
- Writing these blogs and doing the website. It had been great therapy for me.
- The Cancer Society for support and art therapy.
- That I was fit before I started chemo.
- That I didn’t need six months of chemo.
Onwards and upwards
I now go on to a further nine months of Herceptin (by IV every three weeks), plus the final stage of the breast reconstruction, a small surgery in December. I will focus on recuperation and gradually rebuilding my energy and strength. However, Herceptin also makes me a bit tired and will slow down the recovery a little.
I am looking forward to getting my energy levels back and then gradually making some lifestyle changes.
I am planning an end of chemo celebration. I have some girlfriends coming to stay in November so I’m sure we will think of something.
In terms of the future, I honestly believe “if you can do chemo, you can do anything”. So it’ll be time to set some new goals for the future.