Fifth chemo

I remember looking at berries like this when I was little, and wondering if they would taste as good as they looked. Little did I know a hundred years later I'd be feasting on the yew tree's bark, or derivatives thereof!

I remember looking at berries like this when I was little, and wondering if they would taste as good as they looked. Little did I know a hundred years later I’d be feasting on the yew tree’s bark, or derivatives thereof!

Tuesday was my fifth chemo and my first dose of paclitaxel, or Taxol. It is almost always part of the chemotherapy regimen for triple negative breast cancer. Dr. Brezden outlined the side effects at my last appointment, because Taxol requires premedicating with steroids—dexamethasone in my case—to prevent a hypersensitivity reaction. I take pills at 12 and six hours prior to chemo.

I gave Tessa the day off from hospital duty because she was studying for the written test to get her G1 drivers license, a huge undertaking for her since she has been a very mobile, happy-not-to-drive person. Unlike me, she was not consumed by the age of 15 to get her learner’s permit, a fact the we both put up to geography—in Stratford, where I grew up, the most important thing in the world was to earn your wheels so you could get the hell out of Stratford. Here in Toronto, TTC and buses guarantee you can get anywhere, and if that didn’t work, Mum’s Taxi would. But after our already copious trips to St. Mike’s, Tessa realized that our freedom would be increased if she could drive back from the hospital, and that as I get sicker, being able to drive for errands would be a benefit to both of us. So she stayed home and studied her butt off.

My man came in from Hamilton and accompanied me for the day. I suppose I am spoiled, having someone with me for each chemo day. It gives me a back-up memory of anything said by my doctor, the nurses, specialists, pharmacists. Plus it is just plain old-fashioned company—someone to share observations with, laugh with, get a coffee or a cookie, distracting me when  my port is accessed, a gentle hand on my arm or a pat on the back..

Dr. Brezden told us there is no nausea with Taxol, which was great news that I didn’t believe—until today, three days later, no anti-nausea meds and no nausea. Nice! She mentioned that neuropathy is a side effect, usually not until after the third or fourth dose. Taxol is not one of the chemos that causes hand-foot syndrome, so that should cease—that would be worth pure gold to me. Blistering skin and burning, pulsating fingers, thumbs and soles of my feet has been a huge impediment to most things, like walking, standing, doing up buttons and zippers, opening bottles, typing, texting, washing dishes, taking showers (cold  and cool showers are OK, warm and hot are not). Some swelling is possible, as are aches and pains. I take OTC Claritin to fight the bone pain that my Neulasta shot causes, so I figured any aches and pains would be covered by that. WRONG!

Thursday morning I woke up achy all over, but especially in the knees and hips. I got layers of warm clothing on, slathered my feet with thick guck, then cotton socks, then thick “spa” socks, then slippers. I had two visitors coming in the afternoon—my longtime best friend from high school, Pam, and my bro, Ed, who was in town for the Conn Smythe  Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction in support of Ontario Easter Seals. And I had set out a busy morning for myself, in relative terms—get Luka to school, take Graydon to an appointment, take Tessa to the bus for her first weekend off in Mummy-care since December—she is going to Montreal for the weekend—then pick up Graydon and take him to West Side Cycle on Roncesvalles to get his fixed up bike, then go look at phones for Graydon. As the day wore on, the pain got worse. I went from feeling like an grumpy old lady to a weak-boned invalid—pain was playing a concert in my body, with spikes in my hips and back, then solos in an ankle, a wrist and knee. I could feel the pain piping up all over place to place, but never leaving the hip area, though. Just like I waited for the Neulasta pain to establish itself before I hit the internet, I dragged out the computer and started serious research for Taxol pain. There it was, usually cropping up on day 2 of administration. Pain meds that worked were heavy hitters, so I went for my best, plus ibuprofen. One hour later, almost nothing. Panic started, I’ll admit. I’d already let the pain establish itself, and it was getting worse. Pain affects my thinking and emotions, so it’s the whole deal when a medication doesn’t work. Pam had to cancel her visit, which was good, because I was getting  less sociable by the minute. An hour before Ed arrived I doubled the dose of my heavy hitter and added 400 mg ibuprophen, then laid down. Forty minutes later, success! I was human for Ed’s visit, but didn’t move from the couch.

So, news from his family—my nieces are brilliant, so there’s always something amazing going on education-wise, like Ashley attending university six hours a week to attend math classes (she is 12 years old!!!!). We shared some stories—Ed had more of course, since he’s out doing stuff and not staying at home all day. And Ed is a star storyteller anyway—he can tell you a story about anything at all and have you laughing all the way through it.

So I managed my pain Thursday night, and woke Friday in the same state of severe aches and a newer feeling of extreme bone weakness, like I could snap my ankle as I was waiting for the water to boil. The good thing about Taxol bone pain is that most articles and bloggers said it subsided after day seven, which means in three days things will be looking up!

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11 Responses

  1. Very proud of Tessa for getting her G1 – right on. Sorry to hear about the nasty side effects … couch is a good plan. Great Ed came round for a visit … I still have his Christmas presents here! Hear that Ed? Get over here or I’m drinking them, lol.

    • I’m totally proud of her too! I can’t remember my mark on the written test, but I’m sure it was 100. You too??
      These side effects are heavy—the couch is the best place for now. And too funny about your comment on Ed’s Christmas presents—within two minutes of Ed arriving, Graydon went to one of the packing boxes and found one of our gifts for Maddy—an electronic marshmallow-roasting stick with room for four monster marshmallows. Made me wish, again, that this WINTER WAS OVER!!!

      I’ll pass on to Ed that you’ll be drinking his Christmas presents. He’s back for Easter if you can restrain yourself!

  2. Hi again Jackie 🙂

    Saturday morning, -9 outside but my living room is sunny and warm, so it’s a writing and catching up morning.

    I hope that you’re feeling better today, less sore and achy. I’m glad that you had a good visit with Ed too. When we were kids, he gave me a little diamond horse pin that I still have. Such a sweet gesture.

    As always, thinking of you & wishing you a pain and fatigue free day ❤

    love, Jen

    • It’s Sunday morning, -18, -24 with the freaking wind chill, and I’m where you were 23 hours ago. Ed has a talent for gift-giving, best when he has time to shop, which Graydon inherited from our side of the family. When my Graydon has money, he comes up with THE BEST ideas for presents and hunts them down tirelessly. I’m actually trying to get the energy together for a post…

  3. I’m so glad that you are writing this, it makes me feel like I’m there with you. Sorry the pain is/was so bad on this new drug. That’s great that Ed came and yup, he sure can tell good stories. If the damn weather ever turns to spring I can brave 4 lanes and come hang out and wait on you 🙂

    • And I’m so glad you’re reading it! I’m again on the couch, this time waiting for pain pills to kick in. There was snow again last night, so when will this end? Maybe by May? And then you can brave the four lanes of crazy-ass traffic and wait on me after my surgery, which is when I will be calling people and begging for help, for sure. I’ll put you on the top of the list, OK??

  4. I grew up with those berry bushes at my house. My mom still has them!

  5. Thinking of you and sending lots of love your way. xo

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