Navigating Chemo

This is the second time I’ve had chemo in my seven years of living with stage IV lung cancer. I’m so thankful for research and new drugs for side effects. Since the last time I had these cytotoxic chemicals pumped into my veins there have been a few new drugs used for nausea. For me, they have been fantastic.

My chemo experience so far

Palonosetron hydrochloride/Aloxi is a long-acting intravenous medication given as a pre-med, which lasts about five days for me. 5 days! This has enabled me to eat normally the week after chemo when I generally feel the worst. Seven years ago, I not only felt nauseous and occasionally vomited, but food lost its appeal, and nothing tasted or sounded good. Food still doesn’t sound good, but I’m able to force myself to eat and not feel sick after.

Another drug I take is olanzapine/Zyprexa. It is mainly used for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but works wonders off-label for nausea. The best part is it’s a once-daily pill so no more worries about taking a nap and missing a dose and waking up to extreme nausea and/or vomiting. I usually only need to take this for one day after the Aloxi has worn off and I’m back to normal.

These two drugs have allowed me to keep good nutrients in my body and not lose weight during my six cycles. Please remember that everybody is different, and all drugs are not safe for everyone, but I encourage you to talk to your doctor about these if you need chemo.

Dealing with side effects

Some other common side effects with chemo are fatigue (like" beyond-tired-I-can’t-even-shower" fatigue), metallic taste in your mouth, dry/sensitive skin, diarrhea or constipation, and hair loss (no shaving – woohoo!). My first experience with chemo was pretty rough; I’m not gonna lie. The fatigue took over me like a lazy, possessed spirit. Walking to the shower was a big feat and afterwards I needed to lie down and rest. I had to keep repeating to myself: “This is temporary.” There were times that the mental struggle was worse than the physical one.

I used to try to fight the fatigue. I’m not good at just laying around and I’m definitely not accustomed to others taking care of me. I’m the caretaker of my family and I enjoy it. This time around I’ve learned to embrace the fatigue. We need to listen to our bodies and rest when it is needed. I make sure to run all my errands, go grocery shopping, meal prep, clean house, and do laundry all before chemo. The 4 days after chemo I have nothing planned but watching Netflix and cuddling with my dogs. Mentally this has helped me get through the days of sleeping 15 hours.

Don't hesitate to ask for help

If you’re like me, you don’t like asking for help. It doesn’t mean you are weak, and you are certainly not a burden on your family. They love you. I really think living with cancer is harder on my mom and husband than it is on me. They want to “fix it” and one of the ways they can contribute is by helping you. Let them. Let them cook and clean and love on you while you spend your energy on healing.

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