What is Chemo like


When I first found out I had cancer my first question was, "will I need chemo". I watch movies, tv, read books so I knew what chemo was. I knew that it made people extremely sick, caused them to lose hair and was basically HORRIBLE. I was more terrified by the chemo than I was by the cancer itself.

I wasn't too concerned about radiation, surgery or life in the hospital. My main focus was the chemo therapy. I had absolutely no idea what to expect but it frightened me. Well here is the skinny on Chemo for those of you who haven't faced it.

There are many different types of chemo therapy. Oncologists chose what type they will give you based on all sorts of information, what type of cancer you have, what other treatments you are receiving etc....Every type of chemotherapy has different side effects and every person reacts differently to each type. There are also many ways to recieve chemotherapy. Some chemo is taken orally while others are administered by IV. Just like cancer, chemotherapy cannot just be lumped into one category.

My chemotherapy day was Friday. This is how it works. If you are getting chemo via IV you have a day that you receive your treatments. Its always the same day every week. Normally you are taken to a reclining chair. I received treatments at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. At Dana there is a floor where chemo is administered. On this floor there are many many chairs. The only thing that separates your chair from another persons are curtains. There is a small amount of space, just enough for the cancer patient and a loved one to keep them company.

As you may know many people fighting cancer do so while living their day to day lives as well. People fighting cancer go to work, parent, attend college etc...Many times I saw men & women in their suits, mom's and dads who just dropped their kids off at school etc...Myself, I was only well enough to be in a chair for my first administration of chemo. I was very sick throughout my entire treatment. I didn't work, didn't attend school, didn't do very much of anything. Because I was so sick I had my treatments while laying in a hospital bed. I was on the same floor as the chemo chairs, my area was still seperated by the curtains the only difference was I layed in a bed.

The entire process takes many many hours. For me the usual time was between 6-8 hours. First they give you hydration, then the chemo, then more hydration and many times anti neasua. Its a long process. Many times I slept through most of it because I was also on heavy duty pain medications. I can't imagine how hard it was for my supporters who had to sit for so many hours watching me suffer, watching so many people fight against cancer.

My chemo was cisplatin. The side effects of this form of chemo includes severe form of kidney impairment and hearing loss. I did not lose my hair. It was funny because I was certain that when one gets chemo they lose their hair but not every form of chemo has this side effect. My kidneys were watched very carefully. If you have been reading my posts you will know that my tumor caused major problems with both my kidneys. So my kidneys were closely monitored to be sure they didn't fail. I did not lose my hearing. However, I do get ringing in my ears every now and then. Some days my hearing is better than others but for the most part I am fine. Yes I also suffered from the throwing up, neasua etc...Every chemotherapy has that side effect, can't be avoided. But it was doable. I did it, you can do it too. And, the good news is when you are done with treatments you will start feeling better and it will become a distant memory soon enough!

If you have had, having or going to have chemo please comment to this post and share your experience.

30 comments:

Aubrey said...

I'm visiting again but this time thru SITS. Yay on being a saucy blog this week!

Amy said...

My mom went through so many types of chemo over the years, that I cannot even begin to tell you what all she did. Most of her experience was just as yours though. From the nausea, to hair loss, to sitting in the chairs in a room receiving her meds. It's a really rough experience.

ms. changes pants while driving said...

wow.

Brooke said...

My cousin had to go through Chemo and lost all of her hair and all of that good stuff. I cannot believe what a great attitude she had. She was amazing and is i remission!! Yeah!

My other cousin is going through chemo AGAIN. She does not have cancer but another blood disorder. I am not really sure. But she went through all the chemo and bone marrow transplants and it didn't take so she is not doing it again! What a tough cookie!

Brooke said...

I am here from SITS by the way.... :)

Obsessedwithlife said...

Definitely had my fair share of cisplatin (think I maxxed out on it like MANY other drugs)...chemo is yuck. The more I got over the years, the more sensitive I was to it...not my friend and yet it is? Such a love/hate relationship!

R

Megan said...

You are such an inspiration. I cannot imagine going through what you have been through.

Jen Sue Wild said...

Graet blog. Thanks for shareing such a hard part of your life with us.
Found ya via SITS

G. said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! Now, I'm glad I found yours. My step-dad passed away from cancer a year ago and I remember my mom telling me stories of how he was dealing with the chemo treatments. I can't even imagine what it must be like to go through that.
I'm sure this blog is an inspiration to many women! Thanks for sharing.

Eudae-mamia said...

Thank you for the peek behind the curtain. My MIL and a dear friend are both cancer survivors - it helps to know what they went through, especially since neither really wants to talk about it - rightfully so.

Em

Rene said...

My hubby is currently going through chemo. His regimen is R-CHOP which is a cocktail of 5 different drugs that I can never remember all the names but I do remember Rituxin, Adriamycin, and Vincristine. The Rituxin takes about 6-8 hours and the rest take around 4 hours. We spend a day and a half at the chemo center. He has a port in his chest so he doesn't have to mess with the IV stuff so that's a little more comfortable for him. I would highly recommend going with a port.

Our particular center is really nice in some ways but in others it's really lacking. There is very little privacy - no curtains at all. They do have nice recliners for the patients but crappy little plastic chairs for their supporters. I bring a camping chair with me because it's so much more comfortable. There are no TVs so I bring magazines and books. I usually work on some cross stitch while I'm there and next time we are going to bring our little portable DVD player. I was able to find a splitter for the headphone jack so we can plug in 2 sets of headphones at one time. I think the boredom is probably the worst part of the actual chemo infusion.

Hmmm...side effects...well, hubby usually has a side effect about 2 hours into the Rituxin - chills and shaking. They turn it off and then administer benadryl until he calms down. Then they start it back up and he's usually fine after that. He gets anti-nausea drugs at the beginning of the first day and some more the 2nd day. He has pills for home but he hasn't had to use them. Right now his big complaints are he is losing his hair (just on his head right now - still has his eyebrows, lashes, etc.) and he's really tired. He has Leukemia so his cancer causes tiredness as well so it's to be expected that he would be tired. He also has to take prednisone for 7 days after chemo and that messes with his sleeping - frequent waking and vivid dreaming. He takes ambien the week he's on the prednisone. His type of chemo is really hard on his kidneys too so he drinks about 2-3 gallons of liquid for 5 days after chemo to get it flushed out of his system quickly. I also have to wear these attractive green gloves when I clean the bathroom or if I have to clean up any other bodily fluids (which I haven't had to do..thank goodness!!). He also has night sweats from time to time. He will wake up soaking wet from head to toe and I usually have to change the sheets for him.

His chemo is given every 3 weeks and next week will be his 3rd treatment. He will continue this for 6 treatments total and then hopefully he will be in a remission status and can get his bone marrow transplant. That's the plan anyway!

Pennies In My Pocket said...

This is such a great post. I know about chemo from family members who have been through it. My hubby's dad went through radiation and man oh man was that painful, too.

I think it's just amazing how encouraging you are. It makes me have goosebumps just knowing how many you are reaching and how you offer HOPE to them. :-) Blesses me to read your stories.

~melody~

Elizabeth said...

How yucky! I can't imagine being in that infusion room and feeling awful; it's a zoo!
My chemo experience was exactly the opposite. I had no nausea, was able to work, and take myself to chemo alone. I went to a local hospital and there were only 15 chairs.

Tammie said...

My day for chemo was Thursday. Cisplatin also. My hair thinned quite a bit. I did not have any vomiting. Mostly tired. I did have terrible night sweats. The pic line was horrible, the taste in my mouth after treatment was nasty and I developed floaters in my eyes,I had a crazy sensitivity to smells.Each Thursday was dreaded but I made it through.

Barbara DeBose said...

Just checking in on you, my SITS sista. keep up the great work.

Keeper of the Skies Wife said...

You are such an inspiration!!! I think God allows us to go through certain things in life so we can be there for others when they go through the same and help to comfort them. That is what you are doing with this blog!!!

Marla @ Stolen Bon Bons said...

I was going to tell you congrats on being a SAUCY blog. But I think congrats on being brave, strong and sharing your story makes you amazing.

AngiDe- Nana's Box said...

I'm a little late on this, but CONGRAT'S on your recent feature! Just linked over there and read and checked out the site. Really cool!

Angie
www.nanasboxnonprofit.blogspot.com

Becky :) said...

Meaghan,
You are an amazing person for sharing this hard time with all of us. The fact that you care about what others are experiencing during the time they have to endure this, well it makes you wonderful and caring person.
I have not ever had to go through this and to be honest I pray that I don't. But with that said, I know now what to expect and how to be there for someone I know who may have to go through it.
I really enjoy reading your blog and I think you are an awesome person.
I'm so glad that you kicked cancer's ass!!!!

By the way, I love the layout!!!

oº˚ Queen Bee ˚ºo said...

Thanks for coming by the other day! I'm fixing to do blog pages that are cancer related -- I will come back and let you know when I get my first one up. I lost my grandpa to cancer years ago. I remember what he went though. One of my good friend had cancer and she is now cancer free -- but she was so sick and she lost her hair. I love reading your blog -- I will be back. Thanks for sharing -- Much Love --

Swirl Girl said...

I am visiting from SITS -
YOU ARE AMAZING AND INSPIRATIONAL TO ALL PEOPLE! and yes I was shouting!

I just lost my dad to cancer and I had Thyroid cancer this year as well. Thankfully, 3 surgeries and early detection meant I didn't need radiation and it did not spread.

I am taking part in the Relay For Life this weekend. I have volunteered each year prior, but this time - it has a much more profound meaning to me.

Keep up your sunny disposition -I know it's hard...but you can help so many people just by doing what you are doing.

Stay strong and be well...
Swirl Girl

Ashley. Unscripted... said...

Congrats on being a Saucy blog. I look forward to reading your story.

Ronnica said...

Tahnks for sharing your story.

Congrats on being a saucy blog this week!

Kellys said...

I found your blog quite by accident and am so glad because you are quite an inspiration. When going to MD Anderson with my husband for treatments, I sat in the lobby and watched people pass through. Old, young, white, black, brown, Americans, people from other countries who needed interpreters, all living life, but dealing with cancer. After having gone through it with him, I am so in awe of you guys!! Survivors are the bomb!! Thanks for helping get the word out!! Keep up the fight!!

sassy stephanie said...

Oh Meaghan. Thanks for stopping by. My hubby is taking his third "hit" of 12 tomorrow. Every other Friday, by IV for two hours. I was just talking with him trying to figure out what it was all like. I have known people with cancer, but have never actually seen the treatment and side effects. It is heartbreaking. You, my friend, are one strong and outstanding young woman.

Ned said...

Just found your blog! I am a cancer survivor stage 3b Hodgkins Disease. I had 6 months of chemo which really sucked and turned into 8 months. My experience is radiation is worse. Chemo you puke, lay around for days, and then you have good days. Radiation goes on and on...I had a hysterectomy just 11 days ago. Fun times.

angie said...

I'm so glad you stopped by. Your blog is definitely one I need to delve into farther.

What a wonderful site you have. And what an inspiration you are!

angela | the painted house said...

Found you via SITS.

My husband was diagnosed with non-hodgkin lymphoma in Feb this year. He is now in remission after 7 rounds of chemo--praise the LORD! His experience was very similar to what Rene described. Very hard on him. He and I were just talking tonight about how thankful we were to have his health back and it all just seems like a horrible dream. We made a huge lifestyle change with his diagnosis--going vegan and sugarfree through his treatments. We are continuing to eat vegan at home and limiting sugar to very little. I think there hasn't been enough discussion about cancer and diet and its correlation to some cancer and its role in prevention. I really wish there would be more research done on that.

So happy that you kicked cancer's butt. I love hearing all the happy ending stories!

My best wishes to you,
Angela

Ally said...

Hi Meaghan, I too kicked cancer's ass :) I had lymphoma in 2005 and was diagnosed at the age of 24. I had chemo and radiation, my chemo was ABVD. Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine. Yucky stuff. I've just stumbled onto your blog, and it's so good to hear about the experiences of other cancer survivors!

Britnee said...

Well, my mother in law (before she passed) had cervical and lung cancer. Myself, and her daughters would go up with her to get her chemo. It was actually not that bad of the situation. We got to talk, and yes there was NO privacy. We didn't have curtins at all. Just a lot of chairs, lined up. She didn't start loosing her hair until one round of chemo that she actually had to stay in the hospital for a few days for. I can't think of the name of it. It actually not only made her loose some hair, but her mind for a few days. A side effect that they didn't tell us about, was going "crazy". It was a scary few days, and she didn't get that chemo again. Even though it was the only one that really had any effect. But we couldn't be with her 24/7 making sure that she stayed in the house and safe. We had school and work. This was the only chemo that every made her loose hair. But even though she was such a wonderful and inspiring person...she passed away early this year. But, as for the chemo, it made her sick as a dog, but she was a real trooper, esspecially for having seven children, and a husband!