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Shortness of breath

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

I have just finished 4 of 6 planned chemo cycles and it seems each cycle I've had increased shortness of breath just walking short distances (like to the bathroom)

I did have a bit of a rough  go in that my very first chemo, I went into anaphylactic shock from the paciltaxel. I was allergic to the additive Cremophor in the drug and consider myself lucky to be alive) and was hospitalized. The second chemo, I developed AFib. Today I had a chest CT scan with contrast to rule out a clot ( pulmonary embolism ) in the lung as that would cause shortness of breath. 
Has anyone else dealt with feeling shortness of breath perhaps caused by the chemo itself?

ConnieSW
Posts: 1538
Joined: Jun 2012

With the history of afib and shortness of breath, I'm relieved they have worked you up for a blood clot.  If that is ok, I suspect you are anemic from the chemo. I was short of breath with minimal exertion starting after my 4th treatment.  My numbers never went low enough to need a transfusion but I definitely had to pace myself.  On the positive side, I bounced back pretty fast after I was finished. 

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

Connie: thank you for your reply. It looks like there are no clots in my lungs as they let me go home after the scan today. I do have a clot in my right IJ that developed when zi got a port. It is still there. My blood work numbers have been good but not sure that they have tested me for anemia. I will ask my oncologist. Thank you. 

Molly110
Posts: 182
Joined: Oct 2019

Hello, Tina,

 

Like Connie, I had shortness of breath. Mine started between my fifth and sixth chemo, when my red blood cells dropped into the "anemia" range, and lasted for about six weeks after the last chemo. I didn't associate the red blood cell drop with the shortness of breath until my nurse practioner explained it. My RBC count was high enough that it didn't disrupt the chemo, and I think that's what my team was monitoring. In other words, it was okay to have it drop low enough to get short of breath, as long as it didn't go so low that chemo would be dangerous. Shortness of breath for me meant that I was winded walking from my car to my office in the morning and from my driveway to my house in the evening -- probably less than 100 steps total. Like Connie, I bounced back pretty fast once the final chemo was done with me. (I was so focused on the date of the final chemo as the date it would all be over that I forgot to factor in that after any chemo -- final or otherwise -- the chemo drugs will do their number on the body for a bit, so you don't start rebuilding on day one.)

It's great that your care team is checking everything out, since you may be experiencing something else. 

Best,

Molly

 

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

Thank you for your reply. It helps to hear that shortness of breath happened to others. 

Armywife's picture
Armywife
Posts: 451
Joined: Feb 2018

Chemo did a number on my heart and liver, but things did get back to normal afterwards.  Shortness of breath was a thing - and my doc said rest and sleep are the most healing things we can do.

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

Thank you for your reply.

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 218
Joined: Mar 2019

Double posts happening for some reason.

Primavera's picture
Primavera
Posts: 218
Joined: Mar 2019

Getting chemo now for breast cancer. I was finishing the fourth treatment of Adriamycin, which ended up damaging my heart. 

My hemoglobin was going down a lot with each treatment (every two weeks, and only 4 treatments as maximum). Mid November, my family got the coronavirus and I had to leave that house. I had already experienced some shortness of breath. I couldn't walk a block without having to rest, and I couldn't walk to the bathroom without gasping for air.

Still, I wasn't sure if I had the virus, if it was the anemia, or the heart damage. My chemo was stopped for two months (because of quanratine and I needed a visit with a cardiologist before continuing). I ate well during the two months with no chemo, but the shortness of breath persisted.

When I finally went back to the oncologist and I told her that I had an episode of almost fainting at the covid testing site and they had to put me on a wheelchair and I couldn't even talk, she said I needed blood and she couldn't give me chemo for another week and half.

I got two pints of blood and next day I was normal again. A week later my tests for hemoglobin came out OK and had Taxol, Herceptin and Perjeta for the first time. I still need 11 more weekly Taxol treatments and 17 Herceptin/Perjeta so I was hoping that only Adriamycin would do that to me, but I can see that others can do that, too.

Worrying about neutrophils now that are halfway on the "below normal" bar already in my app. I asked what I can do about that and oncologist said nothing. That worries me because even nurse thought that day that I wouldn't be able to get chemo because of low neutrophil count.

alicia2020
Posts: 64
Joined: Sep 2020

This thread is another wonderful example of how we all help each other. I'm so glad we found each other!

I'm so sorry you're having these problemsm Tina. I'm just about a month behind you on the treatment schedule...I have round 3 on Tuesday. I've been pretty lucky so far with the side-effects, but I know they are cumulative, so I'm trying to mentally prepare myself. My bloodwork has held up so far, but I know that can change. 

None of us have really discussed it, but I can't help but wonder how much the stress of the pandemic has effected us all. I feel a lot of fatigue. I start to think how nice it would be to make an effort to look decent...put on some makeup and "street" clothes (not warmup pants!) and go have a nice dinner somewhere. Like.....that would make me feel better to pretend to be somewhat normal for a couple of hours. And then I think about the virus and my immune system and decide, no, it's not a smart idea. We're in Texas and the virus isn't bad here like in many other places, but it's here, of course. Then I wonder....how would it be different if we didn't have the stress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment without the added stress and fear of that virus hanging over us??? Being afraid of the virus is enough...and it's not that I'm necessarily so afraid ot it in and of itself...although that is plenty...but what I'm really afraid of is that if I was to get it, it would interrupt/delay my treatment and that that could have dire consequences.

i was just wondering how y'all feel about that? Thank goodness I love being at home, but I wonder if I could go out into the world and do some "normal" things I might feel better physically and emotionally. I'm looking forward to 2021 getting a whole lot better for all of us very soon!

Prayers to all,

Alicia

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

Thank you for your reply. I just read your story. I need to do that too! What is your diagnosis? Yes the stress of the pandemic on top of the cancer diagnosis makes it extra challenging mentally and emotionally at times. I'm so glad the holidays are behind us.

alicia2020
Posts: 64
Joined: Sep 2020

Thx for reading my story! I need to update it!
When the final pathology report after the second surgery finally came back....5 long weeks afterwards...My final diagnosis was Stage 2, endometriod adenocarcinoma. The problem was the slides from hysterectomy (Fallopian tube cancer, moderately differentiated, Type 2) didn't exactly match slides from second surgery (endometriod adenocarcinoma, poorly differentiated, tiny tumors found and removed from bladder, a colon "bumper," outside of rectum, and a pea-sized spot near vaginal cuff). All cancer removed in both surgeries was enmeshed in endometriod/endometriosis tissue. GO's report even used the word "synchronous.") As in the cancer in all those places developed in tissue that may have been there for decades and had not necessarily spread. I had asked him about that before 2nd surgery. I didn't understand how I could have this tiny tumor in that tube, on the distal end of the tube, on the stroma of the ovary, and yet NOT on the ovary! My idea was that if the tube was dumping cancer cells, how did they MISS the ovary??? I said, "Isn't it more likely that the endometrial tissue was there.....laying there for years..and then became cancerous? As in it didn't spread there, but happened simultaneously?" His reply, "Well, we'll never know because we weren't there!" Weeks later the word synchronous shows up on his report!! Huh.....maybe my question wasn't so crazy! It mattered to me because spread cancer is a lot different than synchronous cancer! The extra 2 weeks for the pathology report was to determine "primary" tumor. It stated 88% certainty: Germ cell. GO's report says that's "not possible" because both my ovaries were cancer free! So he's treating me as ovarian with 6 rounds Paclitaxel & Carboplatin. From everything I've read, because the Fallopian tube is an open-ended structure and is believed to dump cancer cells into pelvis (and my peritoneal wash did have malignant cells), even if I had been Stage 1 the best treatment would be chemotherapy.

I've learned so much from all the ladies on this board! Be patient for pathologs reports. Pathology is not an exact science and sometimes they never can determine a "primary" tumor. Ice your hands and feet. Chemo "is doable." And many other things!

oh..,and to what Primavera said about no one icing at her treatment center....I'm the only one doing it at my place! I asked GO about it...and he kind of fumbled around...well, yeah, others do it, but not like you! I didn't even bother to ask him to clarify! I think he means others do it, but not intently and consistently like I do! 

Hope y'all have a good first week of 2021!

XO, Alicia

 

jan9wils's picture
jan9wils
Posts: 146
Joined: Mar 2017

Tinacap77, I had shortness of breath each time I had chemo and  a couple of times my chemo was delayed for low counts. I was treated with neulasta the first rounds and nuprogen the second time. My second time being treated with chemo (18 months after the first) was harder for me. It took months for my stamina to improve to the point that I could walk a mile or more without stopping to rest. Even with nuprogen and neulasta sometimes my blood counts would be so low I was cautioned not to go in public, especially malls, theaters, restaurants and airplanes. This was before the pandemic.

Alicia2020, the pandemic has had a horrible affect on my mood. I have been pretty isloated for 10 months now and counting.  My children and grandchildren (under 4 yrs old)  live in the area and I do get to be with them a couple of times a month. I wear a mask as do my children, or we stay outside, 6+ feet apart. I haven't been able to substitute teach and worry about meeting my monthly obligations. I go pretty much nowhere but to necessary Dr. appointments. I shop on line, get curb-side to go and groceries, books, etc.  I do live alone with my dog and take her out for daily walks, rain or shine.  I talk with friends on the phone almost daily. These activities have helped.  I do agree with you about getting dressed, doing some grooming to help lift the mood a bit. I did go to a late lunch with a friend to celebrate my birthday at a restaurant that has great outdoor seating. Because we went late we had the place almost to ourselves. It was wonderful! This is an advantage for us Texans as the weather cooperates for us much of the time. Now that a promising vaccine program is almost within reach I am desperate to hold out for that before trying more risky behaviors.

I wish the happiest new year to all of the wonderful people on this board. You have helped me more than you know, and my gratitude for you is beyond words.

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

Thank you. I appreciate your reply.

Tamlen's picture
Tamlen
Posts: 282
Joined: Jan 2018

**Note: Another member suggested I copy my post to this thread, so it didn't get lost for others. I've copied it here**

Yes, I experienced that. My chemo finished 2 1/2 years ago. By round 4 I was very short of breath and could hear swishing in my ears, matched to my pulse, when I put my head on the pillow. By round 5, my hemoglobin had gotten so low I needed a blood transfusion, not uncommon with this chemo (carboplatin and taxol). By round 6 I could barely walk across the room and it took me a while to climb the stairs to bed. I'd been a runner before chemo! Soon after round 6 I was rushed to the hospital for an emergency blood transfusion because my hemoglobin had reached a dangerously low level. I was told this was not unusual and things gradually got better over time after chemo was over. By a month out I could sleep without swish-swish-swish in my ears and was starting to take long-ish walks again.

Do you know your hemoglobin levels from your blood work?

Tamlen

tinacap77
Posts: 29
Joined: Oct 2020

Yes so far the hemoglobin levels are still within the range of normal but on low side. I get BW again this Friday for chemo next Monday.

zsazsa1
Posts: 539
Joined: Oct 2018

First of all, I was short of breath all through carbo/taxol.  I thought it was from being 'one with the couch' so much, but who knows?  Anyway, it went away.  I did try to keep on walking for exercise during the last week of the cycle, each time.

As for the IJ clot - that happened to me too with port insertion.  I went on Xarelto, one of the 'new-fangled' blood thinners (the kind where you don't have to get blood draws to monitor blood coagulation times) until the clot was totally gone.  They wanted me on it for 6 months, but I stopped as soon as the clot was gone, and it was a good thing I did, because my platelets dropped pretty badly with chemo, so if I had been on the Xarelto then, I might have had a brain bleed.

Dak82's picture
Dak82
Posts: 14
Joined: Dec 2020

So far I have noticed shortness of breath only when exercising. I walk 3-5 miles at a time and have climbed back on my bike. Cycling is when I notice it the most even keeping my power level at 1. My heart rate shoots up sporadically as well during these cycle sessions so I will monitor and adjust. I focus hard on diaphragmatic breathing to get breathlessness under control.

I had been training for endurance triathlons when diagnosed. Spent all of 2020 training then being told event was delayed or canceled. Did lots of virtual events. Did 10 mile run day before my surgery--they wondered why I was dehydrated! Anyway, I am determined to do something everyday even in bad weather--I live in northern Utah so walks are bracing to say the least. I asked my GO about the HR spikes and she said since it doesn't stay elevated it's probably nothing but to tell med onc before next chemo round.

Thanks to all for telling your stories!

Deb

Maxster
Posts: 57
Joined: Apr 2020

I am so happy you are exercising.  It is a great boost to your immune system.  I  exercised throughout my chemo and radiation (Grade 3 Stage IIIC uterine serous cancer) at age 71.  While not at your level, I did the elliptical everyday and weights and attended classes (pre Covid) and exercised at home post COVID.  Even when the steroids wore off after an infusion, my kids made me walk around the house as many laps as I could.  It is so important to keep on even when you don't feel like it and as long as your Doc says it is just fine.

 

 

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