Before starting chemotherapy, I found it very helpful to read other first hand accounts of what it going through the whole process felt like. Obviously each patient will have their won unique experience, and there are many, many different types of chemo. I want to share my experience with starting chemo just in case it ever helps someone else going through this. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone. I’m going to get into all of the gritty little details- good, the bad, the ugly and the gross- so if that sort of thing is just too much for you, just scroll on by this post.
My chemotherapy treatments have been broken down into two phases. For the first eight weeks, I will have chemo every two weeks. After that, I’ll switch to a different kind of chemo that is given weekly for twelve weeks. In other words, it’s going to be a long summer.
As of today, I am in the midst of my second round of chemotherapy. Here’s what my experience has been since my first day of chemo:
Thankfully, I am allowed to have a support person with me, so my husband Roderick took me for my first appointment. After arriving at my cancer center, I was taken back to a room with a comfy looking, heated recliner, and offered a heated blanket. Depending on the type of chemo you receive, it can make you feel very cold. I’m already the sort of person who is always cold, so the chair was quite a welcomed luxury.
I had been prescribed a numbing cream for to put over my chemo port, but I completely forgot to put it on. The nurse brought me a glove full of ice to numb the area, and getting the port hooked up felt just like getting an IV put in your arm.
Once I was all hooked up, I had about three hours to sit there while the machines did their thing. I was given saline, nausea meds, and a steroid in addition to the chemo. One type of chemo looked like bright orange soda running through the IV tubes. The other was clear like a bag of saline. I felt a little cold during the process- the heated seat definitely helped. When all of the medications had been administered, I felt a bit weird, but not in a way I can easily describe. I’m sure it was mostly a mixture of nervous feelings from not knowing what to expect next. It was a beautiful, sun-shining day, but all I wanted to do was go home and wait to see what would happen. I spent the remainder of my day at home resting on the couch and folding laundry.
My chemo was administered on a Monday. My chemo nurse told me that Wednesday would be my most difficult day. By Tuesday evening, I was ready to do nothing but lay down in bed. I was feeling very tired and wiped out. Sometime around 2 a.m. the vomiting started. Followed by the pooping. (Oh yes. That too!) The nausea came in surges that made me feel hot, then sweaty and cold. I swear I had more poo that first night than a regular person would have in one week. I don’t know how it was even possible. The night carried on in waves of nausea, dashes to the bathroom, and short interludes of sleep in between. By the morning, my stomach was empty but I was still having dry heaves. I started to panic when I couldn’t even keep down my nausea meds with a sip of water. All I could think to do was make “This too shall pass” my mantra and wait it out.
By Wednesday night, I was still feeling quite nauseated. I was finally able to keep down my nausea meds and water, but even eating a cracker still seemed like a chore. Roderick had to open bottles of water for me. I slept better on Wednesday night, but was still awakened several times by a sudden and overwhelming urge to throw up. I spent both Thursday and Friday in bed feeling utterly drained, sick, and to be entirely honest, pretty gloomy too. The sickness I felt from chemo felt worse than any flu or morning sickness I’ve ever experienced. It most definitely made me feel like I had been pumped through and through with poison. “This too shall pass.”
By the weekend, I was still feeling tired, but I was finally up to coming downstairs to be in the living room. Finally coming downstairs after being shut in my dark bedroom for days left me feeling euphoric. I was so thankful to be around my children again. I didn’t have energy to make dinner, or do the dishes, but I did have enough energy to sit and play video games with my kids and that is just what we did. 🙂
I felt gradually better through out the week. The sense of being tired never quite left, but just feeling well enough to leave the house to go to the grocery store had me excited. When it was time to go in for my second round of chemo, I felt so much more prepared. Not knowing what you’re about to be up against can be so scary. In my opinion, chemotherapy totally sucks to go through. There’s no qualm about that. But I’d rather push through this nasty stuff than face the alternative.