The first day of chemo was the only relaxing day I’d had in a month. I got to sit in a big recliner with my big soft blanket, and free Wi-Fi for 7 hours in a quiet peaceful atmosphere. If I had been tired, that would have been an ideal spot for a nap. As it was, I was just tired of the harried rush that life had become.
All went well with the infusion; I had no immediate reactions, and went home intensely focused on “how was I feeling.” And again with the injection of neulasta the next day; there was no real reaction to it. When I got back to work the following morning I remember feeling like “Wow, I can handle this.”
It was 2 weeks before Christmas and I finally had time to start the upcoming holiday season.
I made plans. And my body laughed.
That night, day 2 after chemo, the aches and pains started. Calling it similar to an achy flu is rather inadequate for my experience. Although I have to admit that my experience with the flu is thankfully minimal anyway. This was like a pin-ball machine going off on the inner core of my body. My hip would get a zing of pain that made me catch my breath, and then suddenly my thigh or a rib would get the zinger. I couldn’t rub this away like you do when you walk into the dishwasher door that’s left open (c’mon, we’ve all done that right?!). Lying under my electric blanket didn’t ease the aches either, but it did soothe the rest of me. Day 3 to 7 was miserable, but I can’t be sure it was chemo related. Several other people I know had come down with a stomach bug and I am not sure if that is what I had or if it was chemo reaction.
As the stomach issues subsided, my sense of taste and smell whacked out. For many days my mouth felt full of acid. Eating anything acidic like spaghetti sauce was amplified and awful. Something spicy such as salsa was like having a pin cushion in my mouth. Even gingerbread was too sharp. The hardest part of this was not being able to taste my cup of tea in the morning. If you are a tea or coffee drinker, you know the headache you’ll get if you don’t get your morning cuppa, it’s not nice. So I made my tea, and yuk – it wasn’t acidic but it wasn’t the enjoyable sweetness I was expecting. I drank it anyway of course, and hoped that the taste issue would pass as quickly as the other discomforts.
The sense of smell though, that was a weird and unexpected issue for me. As I drove home from work on day 9 after chemo I thought I smelled burning plastic inside my car. I got out and it sure seemed to be coming from the engine. I was quite concerned so I had my son check it out, and he found there was no odd smell and certainly nothing on fire. Other things smelled wrong too: my hair smelled funny to me, one pair of boots in particular did too. I didn’t ask my son to smell my boots; at this point I just accepted that my olfactory settings were off!
What is interesting to me is as I got over this stomach and senses issue; I swear I could feel the path the chemo drugs were taking in my body. Specifically The lymph node where the cancer was found started to twinge a good bit, and for the first time, on the inside, I could feel the tumor in the breast. In my mind, I saw this as my weapons reaching their targets and doing their job. This is when I really began to feel like I was taking the lead.
And this leads me to the next indignity on this adventure – acne. Well, it isn’t really acne, but my neck and face started breaking out as all these drugs were being processed and removed from my system. My neck muscles began to hurt, and then there were a few pimples just along my chin. Within a day more and more pimples, beginning along the chin then cheeks, then forehead. These were sore and forceful, and itchy. A couple of them just started to bleed on their own. It was (and still is) really quite disgusting. If only it was time for Halloween and the Zombie Crawl, I would fit right in! Thank goodness for my age and solid self-esteem; and okay – heavy doses of makeup! – that got me through this latest affront.
This is all unfamiliar and strange territory for me; and in an odd way it is also interesting. Interesting, and quite frankly, fascinating. The body is an amazing system in how it handles the chemo drugs, processes them, and subsequently recovers. It’s an amazing system that is going to kill a pretty dangerous cancer.