FAQs 2

Some people have asked for more details – particularly about chemotherapy and the side effects so here goes: (skip if you don’t like detail!)

Q. How is chemo administered?
A. In my case intravenously through a drip in my hand. This takes an hour and a half, during which they administer five drugs (three chemotherapy and two anti-sickness) and a saline flush. You go as a day patient and sit in a room with five other chemo-patients. You can take a friend. Some chemos take longer. I’ve heard of them taking up to eight hours.

Q. How often do you go?
A. Every three weeks for a total of six sessions. My last session is 6 October.

Q. Doesn’t it make you really ill?
A. It does with some people but it hasn’t me. The main side-effects are hair-loss, sickness/nausea, sore mouth, tiredness, aching bones, increased risk of infection, skin dryness, loss of taste and something called ‘chemo brain’. Of those I’ve had the hair-loss and mild fatigue. I’ve not had a sore mouth but have had sore eyes and a sore bottom! I can still taste food and am eating loads. Blood count gets low which causes immune deficiency but I have not caught any infections so far.

Q. What’s ‘chemo brain’?
A. It’s a fuzzy-headed feeling where your brain doesn’t work properly. Not sure how to differentiate between this and normality!

Q. Do you have to be in isolation so you don’t catch infection?
A. No, but there’s a window between 7-14 days after treatment when you’re most at risk. I avoid busy places like pubs, public transport, offices or anywhere you’re rubbing shoulders with people. If I’m seeing people I check first that they’re bug-free.

Q. What happens if you catch an infection>
A. You may have to be hospitalised and given intravenous anti-biotics or anti-virals.

Q. Can you exercise?
A. Gentle exercise is good. They recommend a daily walk while on chemo. I’ve also been cycling. Sadly not allowed to swim due to risk of infection.

Q. Has all your hair gone?
A. No but what’s left is very wispy like a baby’s. It will grow back, probably thicker than before, and may well be a different colour and texture. Hair often grows back wavy; they call it chemo-curl! Body hair falls out too. I’ve still got eyelashes and eyebrows but these may go before the end.

Q. How does chemotherapy work?
A. It flushes out the whole system, attacking cancer cells. But it’s a blunt instrument; it also attacks other fast-growing cells such as hair follicles and the lining of the mouth.

Q. Any tips for minimising side-effects?
A. Take the anti-sickness drugs they give you for the first three days. Be kind to your body; don’t overdo it and get lots of rest. I find alternative therapies help (acupuncture/hypnotherapy/yoga/reflexology*). Eat lots of fresh fruit and veg. There’s also the ice-cube trick; if you suck on ice-cubes or drink ice-cold water while they’re administering the drugs, you’re less likely to get a sore mouth, apparently. Works for me so far!
*You can’t have massage while on chemotherapy because it stiumlates lymph glands, but foot massage is fine.

Q. Will the side-effects get worse as you have more sessions?
A. Possibly although I’ve not noticed this yet. For the final three sessions I am on a different drug which may have different or worse side-effects, but may not.

Q. After chemo will all the treatment be finished?
A. No I will have a short course of radio-therapy (which I’m told is a doddle compared with chemo), then I’ll be on hormone tablets for a few years because mine was a hormone-fed cancer.

Q. Have you completely healed up after the surgery?
A. Mostly although recently the scars started stinging again – might be the chemo reaching parts other medications don’t reach. When they operated they couldn’t get enough back muscle to in-fill so they put a tissue expander (basically a saline bag) into the new boob. This gives me jip from time to time. Once I’ve finished all treatment they will replace it with a small silicon implant so that it matches the other breast.

Q. So you’ve got to have another operation?
A. Yes but only a minor one. And it helps to remember that some people have this operation for fun!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 10:55:11

    No mention of the 'back orgasm' recently!! Is this still occurring? Lucyx

    Reply

  2. medicalmutiny
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 13:48:50

    Sadly it was a short-lived phenomenon. Probably just as well as it was a bit random! x

    Reply

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