Sometime during treatment I asked my oncologist how long I’d be dealing with a certain side effect. The answer was like most answers regarding chemotherapy – “It’s hard to say for sure because everyone responds to chemo differently. Some side effects will be gone within a few days after chemo and others you’ll have for the rest of your life.”
Tomorrow will be one month since my last treatment and to be honest, most of the side effects of chemo are gone. I still have some though. Here’s my list:
My nails, especially my toe nails, are suffering from chemo. Several of my toe nails have changed colors. All my nails are brittle and don’t grow very quickly.
Hot flashes/night sweats are awful! I suffer from these mostly between the hours of 11pm-5am which means I don’t sleep very much on the really bad nights.
My intestines have been destroyed by Abraxane. They are improving, but I’m still fighting this battle.
I’m still struggling with my eyesight, but I think it might actually be improving. I don’t find myself squinting so much and my phone isn’t as blurry as it seemed before.
My teeth, oh, my poor teeth. I won’t know the extent of the damage caused by chemo until my new insurance goes into effect and I get all that looked at. I fear the worst though. Boo!
My memory has suffer severely. I did notice earlier in the week I was able to hold onto my son’s Subway sandwich order without writing it down, and I got it all right. It seems like such a minor deal until holding onto information just doesn’t work. Then, it’s very frustrating to you and everyone else. I’ve been told this will all come back in time. I’m praying sooner rather than later.
Fatigue is a monster. I still fight it every day. It’s better, much better, but still a daily obstacle.
My hair growth has been weird. My hair on my head has come back nearly as thick as it was before it all fell out. The back is the thinnest and the slowest growing. From watching my grandson’s hair grow, I think this is normal hair growth procedure. My other hair growth has been much slower and sparsely populated. My daughter thinks my eyebrows look weird. I hate that my eyelashes are still struggling to recover, but not having to shave but every couple of weeks is actually a welcomed side effect that could just be permanent. I think my armpits have only needed to be shaved twice since I lost all my hair and that might be stretching it. I’d be totally fine with it never growing back.
I had gotten use to the side effects of a mastectomy until my most recent surgery to have my expander taken out due to infection. Now, I avoid the mirror again. I just can’t bear the visual image. It takes me to the dark place I’ve managed to avoid throughout all of this. I’m going to try avoidance on this one because I know change is coming. This isn’t my forever just my next few months.
Weight gain – ugh! Steroids pack on the pounds. Chemo stripped me of motivation to workout. I’m paying the price. I don’t carry extra weight well. I don’t deal with extra weight well. It’s time to fight the demon of fatigue and get moving again. Pray for me on this one. I’ve really struggled with this.
I’m much stronger now than I used to be. My faith is stronger. My skin is much thicker. I don’t let things bother me like I used too. If you say something or do something to me in an attempt to hurt my feelings or to try and get your way, chances are they won’t have quite the effect on me they did before I had cancer. I used to worry and stress about everything. Now, I just don’t. I’ve learned most things I worried about were totally outside of my control and a total waste of my energy. Life is short, way too short!
The biggest side effects of cancer and chemo I pray I never ever get rid of is my relationship with God and the peace that comes with walking in His presence. My desire to give back and help others is stronger than ever. My self-check that’s totally changed the way I view myself and others. And knowledge that emotions are choices and not effects of certain situations because there’s joy in everything no matter how awful, horrible or life-threatening it might seem to be at the time.
Tomorrow, I pray for “clean blood” and the knowledge to make the best long-term treatment choice for me. Many people seem to believe that cancer is a one and done disease. It’s not usually that easy. It’s typically a chronic disease many will have to deal with forever. Cancer free sounds great but disease free sounds better. That’s the goal I want to reach.