Bald 'n Sassy

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

Archive for the tag “tiredness”

Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #1

Oh my! I have been neglecting my blog lately. It is not a deliberate act but I have been spending some time researching and planning for my next vacation. But I am back. The chronicles of chemotherapy ended at last week when I completed my sixth treatment. But the chronicles is not complete without sharing cycle number one. So here we go.

After three rounds of consultation with the oncologists, the date for the first chemotherapy treatment is set for 7 October, 2010 at 10am. I have been mentally preparing myself for this day. I attempted to sleep by midnight but I kept looking the clock. It was past 1 am when I last looked. Perhaps feeling anxious and a tad nervous about chemo. I was awake by 7am and started to get ready at a steady pace. I was ready by 8.30am. I sat down on the lounge catching a bit of the news whilst waiting for my sister to return from dropping her kids off at school. I decided to skip breakfast this morning. I just didn’t know what happens prior to start of the session.

We left the house a little by 9.15am just in case we encounter traffic jam on the highway. True enough it was a bumper to bumper traffic along the way but at least it was moving albeit at a snail’s pace. Arrived at the Mount Elizabeth medical centre 10 mins to spare before my scheduled appointment. Checked in at the receptionist and the two nurses greeted me with a smile. First task of the morning was to record my weight. Followed by signing some paperwork for insurance claims. Meantime, a phone call was placed for a nurse to come up to the clinic to draw some blood. A blood test is performed prior before the chemo drugs are administered.

The nurse arrived five minutes later and she showed to what I call the “lounge”. Just like when you imagine business lounge at airports, you sofas, music to rest before boarding. Well this “lounge” has three sofa seats and one single bed. This may not sound very sexy like the business lounge but the sofas are very comfortable and soothing music to relax patients. The nurse took out her toolbox of needles and tubes. I am not a huge fan of needles. I looked away when they poke. The nurse was nice enough to let me know when she is about to insert the needle and to take a deep breath as this happens. Ouch! I still felt the sting when the needle when in. I am just glad that this blood test process took less than 10 minutes to complete. My blood test was sent to the lab and the results are expected to return within 1.5 hour. The nurse cum receptionist suggested that I go for a walk and come back to see the doctor when the results are ready. Since I haven’t had breakfast, we walked across to the shopping mall to grab something to eat.

The results were back and my oncologist sat down to explain the objective of the test. Firstly, the blood test shows the tumor markers present in my blood. The CEA results for a normal person should be in the range of 0 to 4.7 ug/L. In my case, the CEA level recorded 28.4; almost six times higher. Basically, we need to stop this number from going further north. The oncologist shared that the CEA as a tool to see how the chemo progressing but in no way will it show that the tumor has reduced in size. The major goal of the chemo is to kill active cancer cells spreading any further. Ok, it was time to start the chemo.

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The nurses prepared the drips while I get comfortable in one of the sofas. I wasn’t looking forward to be poked again for the second time in the matter of hours but I have no choice at all. For a large body frame, I have small veins and this always poses a challenge for medical teams to find a suitable vein. She taps my left hand first to “wake up” the veins. This tapping continues for a good five minutes. One vein is located and attempt number one is progress. I looked around the room to find something as my focal point to distract me. One of the tricks I use to help me during this prickly moment is to think something funny or happy. She pokes me and I cringed with pain. Unfortunately when she tries to poke further into the vein, it wasn’t good enough and I let out a small cry. Damn! She had to try my right hand now hoping it would be better. The second attempt on the other hand worked. Mind you I still felt the pain… sigh!

A separate syringe filled with some saline solution was injected into the needle to do a test run to make sure I don’t feel any pain when the drugs are flowing through the veins. Test run was successful. Now they can begin the drip. This first session is expected to last at least three hours. I was prepared to keep myself occupied by reading. I was reading “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. My sister walked into the “lounge” to see me how I was and she helped to take photos of me all hooked up.

I started feeling a little drowsy an hour into the session. Not sure if it is the drugs or waking early this morning that made feel tired. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I surrendered to a nap. I fell into a deep sleep that I had to be woken up by the nurses to tell me it was over. Still dazed I checked my watch and it was almost 3pm. It took almost 3 hours to complete. I took a good 5 minutes to compose myself before walking out to collect my post chemo medication. When I reached home, I was still feeling the after effects and climbed into bed to nap again.

I was hoping that I would feel a little more rested after sleeping during and post chemo sessions. It was quite the opposite. I was physically drained. My body is trying to adjust itself. For the next seven days, I was house bound resting and having to deal with the side effects.

One cycle completed. Five more to go!

So my chronicles of chemotherapy is complete. Thank you for stopping by to read this. My life adventures continues and I shall share with what I am up. Keep a look out.

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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