A few weeks ago marked one year since I finished chemo. Six rounds of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta every three weeks and I was done. I was trying to think of what I wish I had known before I started and the first thing that came to mind was to start hydrating days in advance of infusion day. Dehydration was a struggle for me, having to go in twice for IV fluids. There where days where I struggled to drink and eating just wasn’t happening. What I later learned is that most breast cancer patients gain weight during chemo, I lost 20 pounds. For the most part what they told me about chemo in “chemo class” was true. It’s effects are definitely cumulative and run the same same course over each round, which was nice in a way because it added a little routine to the chaos of treatment.
What they didn’t tell me was just how horrible things would taste, I quit drinking coffee and anything with caffeine because it tasted like I was chewing on metal. They didn’t tell me either that some side effects may not show up until months after I finished chemo like when my fingernails started to split and pop instead of being lost during chemo like I had read about so many people experiencing. I guess too what they didn’t tell me is just how powerful the chemo is and how it can so quickly impact other parts of your body. Somewhere around the third or fourth round I experienced some heart troubles and learned about ejection fraction, which has to do with how effectively your heart pumps. I also got to add another doctor to my roster after seeing a cardiologist because my heart rate would get so crazy just sitting in a chair.
Thinking back on it now though, I think the thing that I don’t think I could have understood until I experienced it myself was just how powerful chemo is. Yes, I knew I would lose my hair and it would attack fast growing cells but never did I think it would be so fast that I could see how effectively the chemo was working. My tumor was in a position where it was visible without having to feel around for it and after the just the first round of chemo it shrank so much that it was no longer visible. My oncologist looked at and said “holy crap.” In a way, I think it was the first time in my cancer battle where I truly felt I was going to be ok, because I could see just how well the chemo was working. And that my doctors knew what they where doing.