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Chemo Countdown Begins!

ejourneys's picture

I have now had two Taxol infusions. Two down, ten to go.

That's worthy of a meditation doodle countdown. :-)

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So far, my side effects are minimal compared with Adriamycin/Cytoxan (whose side effects had been fairly mild all things considered). I have a bit of edema (about a half inch above baseline) with no discomfort. I have some slight abdominal cramping for a few minutes on the day of infusion and the day after. Due to metallic "chemo mouth," I continue to travel with a small bottle of lemon juice to add to my water. My blood work continues to be wonky, though within an acceptable range as abnormalities go.

My weight has continued to hold fairly steady, in contrast to the overnight gain (8.5 pounds at maximum) following my A/C infusions.

I had taken nine hours' worth of naps after my first Taxol infusion, spread out over four days. So far, after my second infusion two days ago, I have taken a 3.5-hour nap only on chemo day. Unlike with A/C, my Taxol infusion comes with Benadryl, to guard against possible allergic reaction to the preservative mixed in with the Taxol. Pre-meds also include the steroid Decadron, anti-nausea med Aloxi, and Pepcid to quell stomach upset.

I already take Prilosec to combat heartburn from chemo, so I checked that with the chemo nurse. She told me I can continue to take both on chemo day, since I take Prilosec by pill and receive Pepcid by IV.

My Decadron dosage had been halved, beginning with my fourth and final A/C infusion and in response to an elevated heart rate. One unforeseen benefit of the reduced dose was that the neuropathy around my old injury site (from a 1966 compound fracture) vanished. Based on my reading, I had pegged the neuropathy to Adriamycin, since it had come prior to my start on Taxol; but the steroid seems to have been the culprit there.

I no longer receive a Neulasta shot to rebuild my immune system, so I no longer need to take Claritin and Tylenol for several days to combat Neulasta's side effects. I also no longer need to take the anti-nausea pill Emend. While on A/C, I had called the pharmacy that mails Emend to me to order my refills. Delivery had been scheduled for two days prior to chemo, and given the cost of the pills I had asked for a signature requirement. I am fortunate in that Merck's patient assistance program covered that expense.

The day of Emend delivery always had me on tenterhooks, especially since the pills sometimes arrived after 7 p.m. On those days I called the pharmacy to let them know, in case something had fallen through the cracks and they had to reschedule delivery for the day of chemo, directly to the cancer center. Given chemo's reputation for nausea, me without Emend was like Linus without his security blanket. As soon as the pills were delivered, they went straight into my chemo bag.

I had gotten Emend for my first Taxol infusion before learning that it wasn't necessary. I called the pharmacy to cancel my order when I got home from chemo that day, but my message had not gotten through. Two days before my second Taxol infusion, the UPS guy was at my door with the pills.

I refused delivery (which was like Linus voluntarily surrendering his blanket) and called the pharmacy to give them a heads-up. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive. What if I did need the Emend, even with Taxol? I told the chemo nurse my security blanket analogy. She'd seen that nervousness in patients before.

I came through the infusion fine, much to my relief. Even if I'd had problems, the chemo bay was equipped to handle them. The Emend had come with its own side effect, which had interfered a bit with my swallowing, to the point where I had slept partially upright the first night after chemo. I'm glad I no longer need to do that.

After my long nap I picked up my order of organic veggies from our local farmers' network, whose delivery day is the same day of the week as chemo.

That was a first for me. I had skipped ordering at the time of my A/C infusions, which had been given three weeks apart. Taxol infusions are every week. Given my extenuating circumstances, the network had offered to deliver my food orders without charge. While I was and am very thankful for the offer, I said I would be thrilled if I didn't have to take them up on it. So far, so good!

In fact, I had exercised that evening -- the first time I had done my workout on chemo day. My intensity was lower, to be sure, but it was still comparable to some of my "regular" workouts prior to chemo. Taxol is indeed living up to its reputation for being "a walk in the park" compared to A/C.

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