I wanted to take this holiday opportunity to provide an update on Nicole's progress but also say thanks. Thanks to all of you who have provided support, thanks for the prayers and thoughts, thanks to the doctors and nurses, thanks for the food, the gifts, the books. Thanks for the Chick-Fil-A at the hospital. Thanks for helping to make a very scary experience a lot less so, and thanks for being great friends and family. Thanksgiving can sometimes come and go without a thought to the importance of the day and how we are truly blessed, but Nicole and I recognize that we have many blessings and all of you are on that list.
Because we are most often asked about Chemotherapy and because Chemo has such a multitude of quirks and gifts, I thought I would do an update FAQ style...
What's the status?
Nicole finished chemo on Nov 10th. 4 treatments, all done. We meet with the radiation oncologist on Monday and she'll start 6 weeks of radiation soon after.
Does it hurt?
No, chemotherapy itself doesn't hurt. If you've ever had an IV, you've experienced what it's like. The chemicals used can have some minor side effects like subtle burning at the injection site, or in Nicole's case, phlebitis, which is the swelling of the veins used for the chemicals. Each time she had treatment, they chose a new vein to keep the swelling and pain to a minimum.
Do you lose your hair?
Yes! Lots of it! I still find long blonde hairs attached to household objects. They have discovered many miracles in the treatment of cancer, and the way to keep your hair is NOT one of them.
Does it make you nauseous?
Yes and no. Chemo is so specific to each person and how their system handles the drugs. In most cases, the docs provide ample anti-nausea drugs before, during, and after the treatment, so it's not much of an issue anymore. Nicole didn't get sick one time, but described her post-treatment stomach as 'rot gut.' While she never threw up, she also said the best description is your stomach with a hangover, where you just don't really feel like eating or drinking anything.
Do you get tired?
Yes, though I don't think it's an acute symptom. From an outsider perspective, it just seemed like Nicole would feel normal one day, feel tired the next, and there wasn't much of a pattern to it. She had trouble sleeping from the steroids she had to take, so she always had an erratic sleep pattern the days immediately before and after treatment, but then almost seemed normal after that.
Any other symptoms?
Nicole would tell you that the biggest side effect of chemo wasn't from chemo at all, it was hot flashes from the Depo Lupron she took. As we mentioned here before, she used Depo Lupron as a way to put her ovaries to sleep to help with fertility, and that means she got an early preview of menopause. She is very anxious to be done with that part of the process and be able to sleep under the covers again!
Also, she says there is a definite symptom called 'chemo brain.' She noticed trouble remembering things and some cloudiness that wasn't there before. That aspect of chemotherapy isn't entirely understood yet, but there are research studies underway to determine exactly what effect it has on cognitive abilities.
Happy Thanksgiving! Take time to look around the table today and say a word of thanks between bites of turkey!