Bald 'n Sassy

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

Archive for the tag “nausea”

Slight change of plans for round 5

Number 5 must be my lucky number.  It is exactly 5 days ago that I had another round of chemo treatment.  However there is a slight change of plans. The morning of the treatment started like any chemo session – a blood test.  I was hoping to have my favourite nurse to draw my precious blood but wasn’t my day.  I am not sure if she was rushed for time.  It was rather painful when she poked me with the needle. I could feel the blood flowing into the tube.  My arm was sore and weak for several hours – this is the first time I have felt any discomfort post a blood test.

So what is the change of plan you might ask.  The cancer marker level in my blood test showed a northward trend – about 10% increase from 56 to 62. This is not what I wanted to see.  My oncologist did not hesitate to advise me that we need to change the chemo drugs.  The plan is to go back using the set of chemo drugs administered last year.  The combo drugs are Carboplatin and Taxotere.  Before we proceeded with the treatment, she gave me an option of changing Taxotere to another drug called Taxol. From what she explained to me, Taxol is within the same class of Taxotere and used to various cancers such as breast and ovarian.  Taxol can be administered either on a weekly basis or every 3 weeks. I just can imagine not having a rest in between each session.  Plus my veins would not be able to recover in time.  I could have opted to insert a catheter but I can’t bring myself to go under the knife once again even if it is for very short duration.  I would be silly enough not to take up the 3 week plan. Mind you it takes around 4 to 4.5 hours to fully administer.   At least I have a longer period to recuperate in between each session.

Now that treatment plan took a detour, the next question I had to ask the doctor is how many rounds would I need to complete.  The answer I received is “Until the cancer markers has stabilized”.

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I am happy to say that the side effects for the new drugs are much easier to manage than the Japanese Campto drug.  No nausea, a slight headache and body aches for a day or two.  Mind you I am still very cautious about my immunity in the first post chemo.  My white blood cells has crept up a little higher but I am not completely out of the woods.

I am looking forward to walking out of the house for some natural Vitamin D tomorrow.  The other happy news is that I can fit in more swimming days in between treatments.

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Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #6 (The Final One!)

I woke up with feeling nauseous and suffering a hangover. And the hangover lingers on for at least 4 to 5 days at least. It’s an expensive way to have a hangover.

Anyhow… I made it! Yep, I have crossed the finishing line. I had my sixth and final chemotherapy session on Wednesday, 9th Feb. On the day itself, I woke up at 6 am, a good 1.5 hours earlier than the scheduled alarm clock. I put it down to anxiety together with the movements of my niece and nephews getting ready for school made it more challenging for me to catch extra 40 winks. I decided to wake up and slowly get myself ready for the 10am appointment.

Arrived at the clinic on time and I saw my favourite nurse from the external lab waiting at the receptionist. I couldn’t be more happier to have her draw my blood for the last time – it was fated. I happily made my way to the treatment room and sat in one of the sofa chairs ready for the test. A few minutes later, a different nurse was assigned instead. I tried to keep my disappointed look as subtle as possible. I wanted to ask, “Where did the other nurse go to?? I demand that she comes back and to take my blood!”. I had to accept that it wasn’t to be. I forged on and let the other nurse do her job.

I looked away as usual while the needle is being inserted and adopt my “happy thoughts” at the same time. I felt the poke and it hurt a tiny bit. Glad that this part of the treatment is over in less than ten minutes. Now, I just have to wait for 1.5 hours for the lab to turn around the results. Meanwhile I step outside to feed my tummy some breakfast. I was craving for an egg sandwich. Walked across towards the food basement of Takashimaya shopping centre and grabbed my egg sandwich in a Pomodoro bread roll from the Peck bakery. It really hit the spot. Walked around the atrium investigating the post Chinese New Year sale with my sister. The 1.5 hours flew by and time to head back to the oncologist’s office.

I didn’t have to wait for long before the lab faxed in results. Found out that only half of the report is ready but my doctor proceeded to ask me the usual question if I had any side effects from the last chemo session. She also checked for any physical signs such as swelling in my legs and around my neck for lumps. All good so far but she did notice the my tan lines on my back. She commented that I was burnt but I replied that I diligently apply sunscreen with SPF50 when I swim. She wasn’t overly concerned and mentioned in the past that the chemo drugs can darken the skin a lot faster than a normal person. I was also advised to reapply sunscreen every 15 mins instead of the 2 hour rule as I have come to learn. However, I should return to “normal” a few months later when the drugs are out of my system.

My haemoglobin is low which is expected. Other vitals such as red blood cells are also in the low range. What I am keen to know are the tumor markers/CEA results. It is this number is that will decide if I need more treatments beyond the six cycles originally prescribed. If the number increases or decreases by more than 10%, this indicates there are active cancer cells in the body. The ideal result we are looking for is within the 10% mark. In cycle five, my CEA markers recorded 6.7. The results for cycle 6 is 6.4. A huge sigh of relief for me. My sister shared the same sentiment. My wish for not wanting to endure another two cycles has come true. The oncologist is happy as well. Let the last chemo session begin.

Made my way to the treatment room and sat down ready for the nurse to poke me again (for the last time.. yeehhaaa!). She looked at both my hands and decided to use my left. Once again, the hunt for a good vein commences. Tap, tap, tap the hand to wake the veins and successfully finds one. Sprays a numbing agent before she inserts the needle. In all honesty, the numbing agent doesn’t work for me. I can still feel the pain when she sticks the needle in. First prod – ouch! Waits a few seconds before she pushes the needle a little more and I could feel my vein being enlarged (yes it did hurt). Low and behold, she wasn’t done and poked a little further in to make sure she gets the needle all the way in (ouch again!). Overall, I am delighted that she managed to find a vein within the first try.

Got my book ready to keep me company for the next several hours. Reading a police mystery this time called “The Ritual Bath” by Faye Kellerman. I wasn’t sure if it was the drug or waking up early that made me feel drowsy into an hour of the treatment. I didn’t fight the feeling. Closed my book and closed my eyes. It only felt like a few minutes when I dozed off but when looked at my watch, I woke up just a few minutes just as the last few millilitres of drugs was administered. I developed a hiccup not longer as soon as I woke up. I found it very odd. The nurses gave me some water but the hiccup persisted. The senior nurse did mention that hiccups could occur because of the drugs. This is the first time this has happened. As I have shared in my other posts, there is always something new crops up in each cycle. So, the hiccup was my last surprise.

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What is the next step? Well, I have to do a PET Scan in 4 weeks time to check if the tumor has reduced and any further signs of cancer still visible. In the meantime, I will use the next few weeks to rest and spend sometime researching on my reward – another vacation! I so deserve it!! I was toying an Asian country like Japan but I am more inclined to visit the Middle East & North Africa – Israel, Jordan and Morocco. Egypt would be a great place to see but given the political unrest, I have to strike it off the list.

Despite not feeling one 100 percent well right now, I wish I could show a dancing emoticon here in this post to illustrate how I am happy not to be poked again for a very long time.

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 http://www.chemocare.com 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.

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