Bald 'n Sassy

Life is for the living. Live simply. Expect less.

Archive for the tag “chemotherapy”

Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #3

It is a week ago since my chemo cycle #5.  I’ve rested at home for the past few days battling with the constant headache.  Today, I am back to my normal self and energy is back too.  Ok, time to look back at my other chemo sessions.

It’s Tuesday 23 November and cycle # 3.  This marks the half way point of my treatment. Yeah to me! The appointment was set at the usual time of 10am.  Blood test needed to be done and as soon as I stepped into the clinic, my favourite nurse turned up to do her duties.

It was back to the clinic after having my breakfast to find out my results.  I am always eager to find out if the tumour markers (CEA) figures has decreased.  Indeed it has dropped to 17.4 from the last test of 26.  I’m making good progress if I say so myself 🙂  A positive sign that the drugs it’s doing the trick.  Aside from reviewing the blood tests, she prodded my legs and tummy to check if I was in any discomfort or show any signs of any physical side effects from the treatment.  So far no major problems detected.  Time to start the session.

As you may or may not figured out, I am not a fan of needles.  To make it even more challenging for the nurses, I have small veins. That means it is more difficult for any medical staff to find my veins to do blood test or even administer simple saline solution.  When it is time to do poke me, it is a hunting game for the nurse.  They tap on hand first to see if there is a good vein.  For this session, the nurse was confident that she found one and proceeded to poke me.  Ouch!  I could feel the needle going in.  But that’s not the end of it.  Even though the needle is in, she has to test to make sure the solution can flow through my veins.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good vein after all and proceeded to withdraw the needle 😦 . Put some pressure and band-aid on and on to find another one.

The nurse tried the other hand hoping that she would find a better vein. She finds one and crosses her fingers that this time it works. Bingo!  Thank goodness it was successful.  Gosh, I was poked with needles 3 times in a one day.  Not fun at all and I bruise very easily.  In the next few days, I expect my hands to turn purplish green.

Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife” book kept me company in this session. I started to get very sleepy after an hour into the session.  I didn’t fight it and took a nap in the chair.  I wasn’t completely asleep as I could hear the nurses shuffling in and out attending to all the patients in the room.  I woke up around 45 mins left into the 2.5 hour session.

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On the way home, I still felt very tired.  Not too sure if was the drugs that was causing the drowsiness or the lack of sleep from the night before.  In any case, I resisted to sleep in the car.  I was just eager to get home and sleep in my own bed .  I did just that.  I managed to catch a 3 hour nap and woke up in time for some light dinner.  The following 7 days, I place myself under house arrest.  This period is where the side effects kick in.  Oh what fun eh!

It’s way past my bedtime now.  Time to head under the covers.  Good night from me!


Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #4

It’s day 5 since my chemo cycle #5.  Most of the days, I am so darn tired and feeling nauseous.  I’ve been fighting the ongoing headache that stays with me regardless how much I rest or sleep.  I won’t let this headache get to me.

It’s time to pen down my chemo session number 4.  My doctor was taking an early Christmas vacation till 20 Dec.  This mean I had to postpone my chemo session from 14 Dec to 21 Dec 2010.  Yep, it was too close to Christmas but I had no choice.  The appointment was set at the usual timing of 10am.

Grabbed my smaller cooler bag and left the house by 9.15am.  Arrived on time and this time, I had my favourite nurse from the lab to take my blood.  She sat down next to me and took out the necessary equipment ready for the extraction.  It took her a few moments to find a good vein and insert the needle to fill 2 tubes.  I didn’t feel the needle at all – it was painless!  Phew!  Once the band aid was applied, I rested for a few minutes before leaving the clinic to grab my morning meal while the tests are carried out.  Was getting a little peckish.

Time to see the oncologist to review the blood test results.  She was concerned that my white cell counts was low and contemplated to delay the session if other factors in the blood test was not good enough.  I was having a runny nose over the last week leading up to this session and this contributed to the less desirable results.  Luckily enough, the remaining blood work was satisfactory to continue.  I just had to let my body battle the sinus on its own.

The other important result in blood test is the tumour markers otherwise known as CEA. The markers have reduced to 17.4 from 26.0.  It is always a good sign to see this number decreasing.  A big sigh of relief.  Time to start the chemo.

There was another patient who had a head start.  Took my place at the back sofa while the nurse rolls out the drip.  We’re choosing the left hand as the lucky hand to insert the needle.  As usual, I was squeezing away my little red heart to aid in finding a good vein.  Tap, tap, tap and alas she thinks she finds one.  She sprays my hand with some antiseptic and the needles goes in.  I look straight, take a deep breath and think nice thoughts.  I could feel the pinch when it hits my veins.  Thank goodness the pain was bearable. 

Somehow I always find a way to take a single-handedly take a picture with my phone to mark the memory. That’s just me!  Luckily, I had my book with me.  This time I was reading up on a book about stock market wizards – intriguing.  Even had time to chat via instant messaging with some friends.  That certainly helps me to pass the time.

In the first hour of the treatment, I could feel my chest getting very warm.  It was getting uncomfortably warm and for a few moments found it hard to breath normally.  I remained calm as much as possible. I gathered that the drugs are just working through my body.  As I expected, it took around 2.5 hours to complete this session.

I left the clinic shortly after picking up my medication for the next week and confirming the next appointment.  I was feeling a little chilly and craved for some hot soup to warm my body.  As long as I can remember, this would be my first Christmas where my mood is not very festive at all. Even though we had guests over,  I spent a lot of time in bed resting and sleeping.  I had to avoid crowds because I fear of catching any colds or fever.

The finishing line to the end of my chemotherapy is in sight.  Just 2 more sessions to go.

Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Dealing with side effects and how I deal with it

What I am about to share about dealing with chemo and the side effects are purely from my own personal experience. Each cancer patient may encounter different side effects depending on the type of drugs administered by their specialist.

Prior to starting chemo, I have done my fair share of research on the drugs to further understand what they are and their possible side effects. The two drugs my doctor has prescribed to treat my cervical cancer is Carboplatin and Taxotere. As you can imagine, the search engine spewed a whole bunch of medical websites and some of the articles are just not meant for patients to digest.  One of the very first sites I stumbled upon that was easy to comprehend is presented by Scott Hamilton, the former American Champion figure skater who has a benign brain tumor removed.

The side effects usually occur in the first week after chemo. I put myself on a 7 day house arrest after each session.  Reason being is my immunity level drops considerably which means I have to avoid large crowds and anyone that may have fever/cold. Here is a snapshot of what I experienced thus far.

  • Hair loss: The medical term is Alopecia. This is a very common side effects (and a very visible one too) to almost all cancer patients.  To minimize the sudden hair loss, I decided to shave my hair after the first chemo.  By the second chemo session, my scalp was smooth.

From the pictures here, it looks like I am having a good time shaving my head.                    To be brutally honest, I was eager to go bald.  I mentally prepared myself . When                I sat in the hairdresser’s chair and told him what I wanted to do, he was                                apprehensive to do so.  But I assured him that it is what I wanted to do.

  • Lethargic.  I get tired very easily.  I take naps whenever I needed.  Listen to your body.
  • Sleeping pattern goes haywire. I then to wake up several times during the night having to go to the toilet.
  • Lack of appetite. I still have my 3 main meals in the day. I eat small amounts to give me some energy. I believe that it is important to maintain a good nutrition throughout the treatment.  This may help to deal with other side effects better.
  • Headache: This is my least favourite effect. A constant headache or hangover feeling that lingers on for a good few days. Feeling stoned throughout the day is not a pleasant feeling. I don’t take any medication to deal with this.
  • Nauseous: I do have nauseous feeling at least 2 days after chemo and this disappears around 4th/5th day.  I am given Emend (Aprepitant) tablets prescribed by my doctor before and post chemo. This assists in reducing vomiting and triggering nausea.
  • Susceptibility to common bugs, fever: As briefly mentioned above, your immunity is very weak in the first week post chemo.  It is best to stay away from large crowds in public places and lay low from those who may have fever or common cold.
  • Scars, freckles gets darker: Any cuts, scars or freckles becomes darker as each chemo progresses.  But don’t worry, according to my doctor the skin tone of the freckles will return to normal once all the chemo rounds are completed.
  • Brittle Nails: Nails are very brittle once I started chemo.  I have noticed that my nail bed shows one dark line indicating when I had chemo and one white line when my nail is growing.  It is safe to put some nail strengthener to help your nail from chipping from doing day-to-day tasks.
  • Psychological: Apart from the physical side effects, I must not forget the psychological side effects.  No words can describe how difficult it is to deal with the cancer, let alone endure the treatments.  I urge you to be talk to your family and/or friends about how your feel.  Tell them about every little thing you are experiencing from brittle nails to lack appetite. They are there to support you every step of the way.

Hope my experience helps you or someone who you know who is tolerating chemotherapy.   Now, I am feeling tired.

Signing off now to get some shut-eye.

Chronicles of Chemotheraphy – Cycle #5

Dark clouds coupled with showers outside my windows. This was the weather that greeted me yesterday morning. It is the second Tuesday in the new year but it was another in schedule where I had to go for chemotherapy. This mark as my fifth treatment. I wanted to spend a few minutes to blog this last night but I just didn’t have enough energy to write one sentence.

As you would have gathered from reading my other blogs, I am taking my time to scribble my experiences. But at least I can say “anytime is a good time”. So this is a good time for me.

My sister drove me to the appointment. Arrived a few minutes after 10am. First thing as soon as I stepped into the clinic, I took myself to the treatment room to have my blood test. A nurse from an external lab services came in to do the necessary. My favourite nurse wasn’t available. And not being big fan of needles and it hurt a teeny bit this time. I had to wait for at least 1.5 hours before the results are back. In the meantime, I would step out to a shopping mall across the road to have my late breakfast.

Headed back to the clinic to see the oncologist and have a catch up session before I begin my chemo. She went through the result and said my immunity is looking good except the white blood cells (which was to be expected). She asked me what I did differently from the previous session. I replied that eating habits pretty much the same but the only thing I started to do is swimming. Exercise was one of my to do list from the start of the new year. She commended that it was good and advised me to include some exercise in between cycles. Doctor said exercise could potentially slow down the dormant cancer cells. I am even more motivated to continue with swimming. The other positive result in the blood test is the CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) markers. The markers level has reduced from 8 to 6.7. It indicates that the drugs are reducing new cancer cells from producing and spreading to other parts of the body. This was music to my ears 🙂 Thereafter, I walked out of the office, had some medications whilst the nurses prepared the drugs for the chemo.

Made my myself comfortable on the sofa and while a nurse hunts for a good vein by tapping my right hand. It took a good 5 minutes before she was confident one was a good vein. Then she inserted the needle. I looked away taking deep breaths to calm myself while she does the insertion. No matter how calm I try to be, I could still feel the needle going in. Once again, it did feel a little painful but tolerable. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to administer the drugs. In this period, I had my book with me to help me kill time. My session ended by 2.45pm. Waited a few minutes to compose myself, picked up my post chemo meds, paid the bill and left to grab myself a small bite to eat. Reached home just before 4pm. Even during the car ride home, I could feel the onset of tirenes. All I wanted to when is to take a shower and take a nap as soon as I get home. The nap wasn’t a comfortable one either. My body was aching and kept tossing and turning. I felt even more drowsier and stoned than before the nap. I know I have to endure this for a little while longer. That’s about it from me for this chapter. I’ll be back with more posts with my other chemo sessions. Stay tuned!

Sleepless in Singapore

Yes, I am having one of those nights where my body is feeling tired but my mind is still active at this hour. But oh no,  this out of sync mode has operated for the last several nights – tsk tsk. I should be in bed by now especially when I have wake up by 7.30am.  My alarm is all set.

I had plans to continue with my regular swimming exercise but the it didn’t help when it rained for the entire day.  So I took the time to spring clean my notebook to create more space on the hard drive.  One of my tasks that is has been on going for the last many months is sorting out my travel photos.  I have only managed to upload about 4 different cities.  There are over 6,000 pictures taken during my adventure.  As you can imagine, it will take a little time to filter them through.  I shall endeavour to finish this ASAP!

The date 11.1.11 marks the 5th cycle of chemotherapy treatment.  This would be second last treatment as planned by the oncologist. You may scratching your head and wondering what is going on? Let’s speed up the timeline a little.  I was first diagnosed in early Nov 2008.  I had my surgery and radiation.  I was in remission with my cancer since early 2009 till June 2010. Upon my return from my travels,  I discovered my cancer has relapsed.  This time the tumor has grown outside my vaginal walls and started to spread to my gall bladder.

Just like my other posts, I will take the time to share my experience going through my second obstacle.  I hope I have the energy to take some time to pen down my thoughts after chemo.

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