My chemo would become about 2 issues for me. Out of all the possible side effects and things that I dreaded, I had many of them (the racing heart, the ringing in the ears, etc.). But really it always came down to two things that made me miserable: hemorrhoids and Neulasta.
The first one is not an elegant discussion. It’s something I’d normally never openly talk about, but as a warning would have made all the difference to me, I’m putting it out there for anyone else it might help. Anyway, medical chat is no time to be shy, so here goes. I’d never had such a thing in my life (somehow I was lucky for 30 years I guess). So when the problems began I was not wise enough to catch on and take preventative measures. I didn’t realize what was up until the problem was in full swing. By then it was too late.
The thing is that one of the things that chemo really screws with is your mucus(es). This means that the nice little lining of slime that normally covers your intestinal track is gone. This is rough. Seriously, this problem had me terrified every single day. I’m still shy about going into detail, but suffice it to say that if anyone ever searched the caches on my computer they’d think I had some weird fetish. I tried everything out there and read up on the possible complications (which only served to make me more paranoid, which does not help the problem)! Everyday I wondered all day whether or not I’d need the bathroom. If not I was cheerful, but scared for the next day. It all sounds so silly, but it was terribly serious to me. There is no worse enemy to have than your own bodily functions. As this one brought pain sometimes akin to childbirth (so my research said. And if you disagree don’t tell me or I’ll never have a child!), Chemo passed largely as an anxious attempt to balance my need for fiber vs. my need for easily digestible foods vs. my need for vitamins and minerals vs. my inability to eat fresh foods (b/c of low WBC) vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. It’s a maddening cycle that any person in chemo will face in some form or another.
What did I settle on? Weary of taking any more meds than necessary I first tried taking 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil a day. This is an ancient remedy and serves to line the intestine. It’s also a disgusting remedy. I discovered that I can’t stand straight olive oil and eventually it made me want to gag (not to mention burning my throat). I went on to fish oil capsules. Fish oil is also gross. I would burp foul things for hours after taking them, but they were good for me if nothing else. Eventually I found a combination of things that got me through, which I will be happy to email with you personally about if you need. But out of all the things that I thought chemo would entail, living in terror of going to the bathroom each day was not one of them! If only someone had warned me…
My WBC count was the other monkey on my back. Just after chemo #2 my best friend came from NYC. I was so happy to see her. And she took me on a very generous shopping spree to buy me clothes that I could wear (since I was still having problems with my mastectomy wound and couldn’t wear a bra). Normally I would never have accepted such a gesture, but I knew that she really wanted to do this and we had a great time. She is awesome.
I felt a little faint during the shopping but hung in there. I’d had Neulasta, which is “guarenteed” to work, so I wasn’t worried. When the time came to go to my blood tests I was severely disappointed to discover that my WBC count was nevertheless 1100. I’d gritted my teeth through the shooting pains it causes for nothing. The disappointment wiped me out as much as the low counts. Three years to get her to visit me in Europe and the rest of Wendy’s visit was spent on my couch. Boo.
Why hadn’t the Neulasta worked? That was something which I would struggle with for weeks and weeks. And weeks. The first obstacle was to get someone to listen to me! Try telling your doctors that their favorite most expenisve wonder drug that “always works”, doesn’t always work! They aren’t too prepared to believe you. trust me, I tried.
Tune in next time for my Neulasta rant…