Fucking Chemo

cytotoxic

Generally, I try not to swear when I write. I swear enough when I talk. But I really fucking hate chemo. It’s obvious, I know. No one likes chemo. Well I hope no one likes chemo. I have spent the two and a half months since coming home bouncing between ‘chemo is a necessary evil’ and ‘nope, I don’t wanna’. I’m lucky that I have a family who are willing to support me regardless of which option I take, now and in the future.

I’ve had people tell me that I have to do chemo. It’s from a loving place, I know. I’m fabulous (true story) and they want me around as long as possible. But the reality is that I don’t have to do chemo if I don’t want to. Yes I wear the consequences but there IS a choice.

There is not a lot of evidence into the success of chemotherapy on appendix cancer. It is treated similarly to other colorectal cancers and we hope for the best. The issue in appendix cancer is that it produces mucin, a jelly-type substance which can fill up your abdomen. It isn’t attached to anything which means it isn’t connected to anything with blood vessels which is how chemo is transported through your body. The chemo can only work on any tumours attached to your organs and even then, chemo only works on smaller tumours.

The first round of chemo I did (4 cycles) was called FOLFOX, a combination of folinic acid, fluorouracil and oxaliplatin. I would go in to the chemo unit on a Wednesday for four hours to have the first lot of drugs administered and be sent home with a pump that would administer the rest automatically (via my port) over the next two days. I’d head in on the Friday desperate to be disconnected not because of the chemo but the pump which beeps every 30 seconds once the cassette containing the drugs is empty!!

The side effects for me weren’t too bad. At least the ones they warn you of. The oxaliplatin causes peripheral neuropathy, basically tingling in your hands and feet as well as a sensitivity to cold. I didn’t experience neuropathy but the cold sensitivity was unbelievable. It was like electricity passing through you. At first it only lasted three or four days, but two weeks after my last cycle I still experienced some sensitivity. It has a cumulative effect which often causes people to require a change in their treatment. I would have to eat my breakfast with gloves on, avoid cold beverages and try to stay out of the biting wind that we were experiencing during that time.

I experienced nausea but thankfully never vomited. They have some great drugs they give you these days! When the first lot didn’t work too well they tried another. “If that doesn’t work we’ve got another we can try. An anti-psychotic,” they said. Two birds, one stone I suppose!

My most hated side effect of chemo is what people refer to as chemo-fog or chemo-brain. For up to four days following my treatment it’s like my brain slows down or sometimes even closes down. I find it difficult to remember things or to recall facts. Most frustratingly for me, I find it difficult to have a basic conversation. One weekend after treatment last year a close friend came round to see me. Her wedding was two weeks away so there was plenty to talk about, but I struggled. I found it distressing. I can handle nausea, the cold sensitivity, my surgery but take away my ability to hold a conversation and I am done. That is my breaking point.

I had a good break from chemo (if you call a massive surgery and recovery a break!) but it’s about to start again. This week I have my port put back in and start chemo on Thursday or Friday. I really don’t want to. I will be put on a different chemo, FOLFIRI which also requires the pump. This one doesn’t give the neuropathy but can still give you nausea and is known to cause severe diarrhoea. Yay for me. Both types typically cause a thinning of hair, but my hair thinned so much last time there’s not much more to lose before baldness kicks in. The first sign of a bald patch, the lot goes. I’ll finally get to see all those chickenpox scars on my head!

I am 34 with a young family so of course I am going to give chemo a whack. Whenever it gets a bit tough, I think of the 72 year old woman in hospital at the same time as me who was up to her 5th MOAS. If she can keep going, so can I.

One thought on “Fucking Chemo

  1. Pingback: It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to. | Words and Whatnots

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