I think anyone would be scared facing chemotherapy. When I was diagnosed I said I can understand needing surgery, I’m fine with that! but why on earth do I need chemotherapy? My breast care nurse said what exactly is your view or chemotherapy? I said bed ridden, thin, bald, sick…? She said no it is much more advanced now and a much friendlier medicine. We give you anti sickness drugs so your not sick and we encourage you to be active rather than lay in bed. I was relieved to hear this but of course I still worried and imagined the worst.
Everyone reacts different to chemo the possible side effects are:
Hair loss, sickness, headaches, fatigue, achey joints and bones, skin rash and weight gain (from the steroids taken alongside chemotherapy), loss of taste buds, mouth and throat sores, diorreah, constipation, blood disorders, nerve pain, nervous system effects and more. You won’t get all of these side effects, it’s a wait and see situation.
Usually you are fine for around four days (so I have heard) then you get ill for around seven days, your third week is when you are more yourself and have a stronger immune system and then repeat the process. Often people undergoing chemotherapy will plan things to do in this third week. I will have to be careful I am not around anyone who is ill, the common cold could result in pneumonia for me!! Any sign of high fever will result in a hospital visit and ill be put in a side ward with a antibiotic drip injection.
I’ll never leave the house!! 🏡
- Use a dark gel nail varnish, my nurse thinks there’s no truth to this one however I have heard chemicals in normal nail varnish can react with the chemotherapy and the dark nail Polish stops the sunray expoure to the nail bed. I know people who have lost nails during chemo.
- Use a acetone free nail varnish remover. Your nails will get slightly damaged through chemo but will grow back. Unfortunately some people lose their nails.
- For eyelash and eyebrow regrowth use caster oil
- A NHS synthetic wig is waiting for you free of charge (max amount varies depending on location). I read one comment about them being ‘dear, uncomfortable and itchy’ there are real hair wigs available online but they are costly.
- Use alkaline free deoderant
- Use sensitive Toothpaste, alcohol free mouthwash and a soft kids toothbrush. Your nurse should provide you with a mouthwash similar to corroded.
- Watermans shampoo and conditioner really help with hair regrowth.
- You could have eyebrow tattoos in prep for losing them if your oncologist is in agreement, they look very realistic and help with the loss of your brows. I left it too late to enquire (you need 6 weeks healing time).
Questions to ask your oncologist, I have added the answers too which may help you:
- What type of chemo am I getting and how long for? A: 3 rounds of FEC and 3 rounds of FEC T. First threw will be injected via seven syringes each visit. Last three will be drip fed.
- Will I have anti sickness drugs? A: yes we will try various types until the sickness is controlled.
- Will I receive daily injections for a week? A: yes you will
- I am triple negative, do I have access to Zoladex for ovarian protection? A: yes I will be okay to go ahead with Zoladex
- Will I be on steroids? A: yes only a mild form for a few days each round
- Do I need a dentist appointment? And dental care before chemotherapy? A: you could go and ensure good dental health before starting but it’s not essential as long as you have no worries about the health of your teeth currently. A mouthwash will be provided and you will need sensitive Toothpaste and a soft brush.
- Can I take any drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen during chemotherapy? A: yes but paracetamol could bring your temperature down which needs to be monitored.
- Do I need a flu jab? A: yes I do think this is necessary before chemotherapy
- Does healthy eating help? A: yes it could help and drink plenty of water
- Is your immunity better I’m the third week? A: yes you will find that your immunity is low so your more prone to illness which could be serious. If you catch anything you will come to hospital and be injected with antibiotics. I don’t want you to put your life on hold though you can still go about your dailt activities just be more aware and more cautious. Your immunity is stronger in the third week.
- Is it possible to exercise and go to the gym? A: I would avoid the gym as may pick up germs, it is more beneficial to go for walks and bike rides
- Can you refer me to get a wig on the NHS? A: yes NHS wigs are available.
- Are there long term side effects? A: there can be an effect on the heart long term.
- Will I have gene testing? A: yes you will need to see if you have the BRAC gene which may affect your decision to have a mastectomy on the other side. This will also help to determine if you have inherited this gene.
- How will I monitor my health during chemotherapy? A: you will need to monitor your temperature and will be given a 24 hour contact number.
- Should I consider being involved in a clinical trial? A: Yes this often gives patients access to new drugs available to test them out. There isn’t anything available at the moment in this area for triple negative.
I was shocked to hear it could effect my heart in the long term and hear it confirmed by a pro that cancer can come back in future. I start on 19th October and it is a scary thought. I will update my chemo journey in a new blog post.
Today 5th January 2017 I went to my radiotherapy planning session which already seems so early! I am only on my 4th round of chemo. I know that you get 4 weeks off after chemo but I only seem to have 3 weeks and then I’m straight into radiotherapy.
I found the appointment very serious in which is was sat down and told how the radiation beams could potentially skim my lung and heart as the chest wall is curved and lazer beams are straight.
I was told my skin would turn pink or red and could potentially blister. I have seen results of radiotherapy and it really does shock me how red the area goes. I really hope I don’t suffer too much. I will have 15 rounds of radiotherapy and will feel very tired for a month or two afterwards.