Saturday, April 21, 2007

A little something on the side?

I've been studying my FEC Chemo factsheets and reading up about all the lovely side effects I can expect.

Apparently a small minority of women don't actually feel any different during treatment (apart from maybe a little balding...) but that is only the small minority. Most people experience one or many of the following:


1. Pain/difficulty around the IV cannula being inserted, or whilst certain drugs are actually being injected as the vein in your hand is so small. I have 'bad veins' as they are known in the trade so this has been worrying me. When I've previously had IVs fitted it's been very painful, and they've not always got it right first time. I've read some horrible accounts of women who are actually terrified of going back for their final two chemos as by treatment no 3 or 4 it has got so painful, their veins have hardened and shrunk, and every nurse wants to be the one who can succeed, so they get repeatedly stuck until they;ve forced a cannula into the bridge of their FOOT or somewhere equally painful and awkward. People with no previous phobia of needles have ended up never being able to face an injection again. Great...
2. Feeling hot and dizzy
3. Itchy nose
4. Metallic tasting mouth
5. Pink pee from the epicrubicin


1. Bone Marrow Suppression (reduction in the bone marrow's ability to make new cells)
2. Nausea and vomiting (well controllable with anti sickness drugs for most apparently)
3. Diarrhoea
4. Sore mouth and ulcers (they advise you to get dental treatment done before you start chemo; and I've read reports of women who can only eat 'soft' foods like soup or ice cream during treatment)
5. Fatigue (extreme tiredness that no amount of sleep can cure - many find this lasts for a few months after treatment as well)
6. Aneamia (low count of red blood cells)
7. Lack of ability to concentrate or think clearly
8. Sore, gritty eyes
9. Runny nose
10. Skin complaints (darkening of fingernails and toenails, redness or soreness, darkening of skin, increased photosensitivity etc)
11. Hair loss (FEC causes total hair loss in most people, usually beginning within 2-3 weeks of the first treatment and can apply to all body hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as the hair on your head; hair grows back after treatment so I did read an amusing note by one woman on the BC forum about how she still had a bald patch right in the middle of her pubes two years after finishing chemo; they make you wear an ice helmet during treatment to try and reduce the amount of drugs reaching the follicles during treatment and thereby hope to minimise hair loss - I asked them what it felt like, apparently it is like having an ice cream headache for two hours)
12. Infertility (I have already blethered on about this enough, but am lucky in that my chances of losing fertility are apparently less than 10%)
13. More rarely, some people can develop heart problems so they do an electrocardiogram (ECG) to read your heart and make sure you're not likely to have a problem. Mine's booked for Monday morning.

To control the nausea I will get anti-sickness drugs.
To minimise the hair loss I have cut my hair short and will wear an ice helmet.
To prevent unwanted 'chemo' babies, I've switched from the pill to the coil.
To avoid cannula pain and being stabbed too often I'm having a portocath fitted (a valve opening into a fine tube inserted into a large vein through the chest wall, sitting underneath your skin and allowing them to simply 'stick' you once every time and get it right, first time).
To have the treatment at all we have changed our plans and decided to stay in the UK. For now.

This had better work, that's all I'm saying.


Steve said...

yeah - but have you read the POSSIBLE side effects on the back of an anti-allergy medication box?

the possibles are terrifying - the actuality is better. I promise you.

and if the veins are awful - they'll give you a port which ain't pretty but is easy.

take care doll - and don't let 'em scare you - okay?

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

You are right. I am just using that most amateur of psychological techniques - prepare yourself to expect the worst and then be pleasantly surprised when only some of the bad stuff happens. Or ecstatic when not much of it happens at all.

Secretly though, I am fantasising about the chance that it will all be a bit anti climax.

(But I am having a port fitted - had trouble providing veinage for a mere blood test today.)

In the meantime I am using it all as a solid reasoning to go shoe shopping...