One of the biggest stressors of chemo (you know, other than the fact that they're pumping poison directly into your veins) is the list of possible side effects.
Here's a list of the possible side effects of Taxol:
•Low blood counts. ...
•Arthralgias and myalgias, pain in the joints and muscles. ...
•Peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of the hands and feet)
•Nausea and vomiting (usually mild)
Each week, especially after the first couple of days after treatment (so, like, Wednesday, Thursday, and yes, even Friday) I sit around and obsess about every single thing I feel.
Just a few days ago, I started getting a little numbness in my toes. It was sporadic, didn't last long but still...is it the start of peripheral neuropathy? Will is spread, start lasting longer, become irreversible? Should I call the cancer center the instant I first feel it? (Don't worry, I mentioned it today to the nurse practitioner. She said to keep an eye on it, maybe note when it happens in a journal and mention it to the doctor if it seems to be getting worse, lasting longer.)
But sometimes, maybe I've just sat in the recliner too long and that's why my foot is asleep. Last night, I slept on my hand and woke up with it completely numb. I knew, logically, it had nothing to do with the chemo, but I wondered if maybe I'd made it possible for neuropathy to take effect because I'd sleep on my hand. Of course the feeling came back like it always does when you get your chunkalunk body off your poor hand.
Today when I got home from chemo, my stomach hurt. Was it because of the chemo or did the chicken BLT I had at Cracker Barrel just not agree with me? Who knows? The end result of that stomach ache was not pretty, but again, who knows what actually, REALLY caused it? After using the bathroom (twice) I felt better.
My hair...Olivia still adores my bald head. She has asked more times than I can count why my head it white. I answer her each time with the fact that last summer, I had hair. This winter, my head isn't seeing the sun thanks to the hats I wear. That's why my head is white.
We buzzed my hair back in October. There is still quite a bit of stubble there but it shows no signs of actual growth. It's still about a quarter of an inch. So, no more real loss but definitely no growth. I didn't expect it to grow back but I still watch for it. Six more week of chemo, then the hair watch will truly begin.
Mouth sores...well, let's see. I don't have any actual open wounds but my tongue hurts. There's a spot on the back, bottom left side of my tongue that pretty much hurts all the time. It's gross. My mouth is in a constant state of dryness. I have to drink water all the time to keep it moist (ick) and that just makes me pee every half hour. I brush my teeth several times a day and use Act rinse at the advice of my dentist to protect my teeth from the dry-mouth. I'm so tired of this one and I'm pretty sure it's all chemo related. There really aren't a lot of other reasons for my mouth to be REALLY dry.
Oh yes, wait, there's one that's not actually mentioned in the above list. Bloody snot. So flipping gross.
I wake up each morning with a very stuffy nose. But I can blow the stuffiness away. The ick factor is that the snot is bloody. Then, after I get the snot out, I have to keep blowing because (look away, WARNING, GROSS DETAILS AHEAD...YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)there are basically what looks like bloody boogers that need to come out.
I've mentioned this to two of my chemo nurses and both of them recommend a humidifier in my room. Okay, fine. I'll get a stupid filter for my stupid humidifier this coming weekend and see if it happens. Never fear, I WILL update you on the state of my bloody snot. I'm most excellent at over-sharing, if you haven't noticed.
Then we have the normal aches and pains. My neck often hurts. Is it because of the chemo or because I played three hours of Candy Crush and Pet Rescue while lying in bed last night? Is it because the chemo causes aches and pains or because I'm not moving enough, getting exercise and sunshine instead of settling down on the recliner with three blankets on my and watching season three of Black Mirror?
I'm also cold most of the time. Is this a chemo thing or just the fact that's January and January is a stupid month (other than being Alyssa's and Mitch's birth month, which makes it an AWESOME month) except it actually kind of sucks because it's so damned cold outside and gray and the snow that was once so glitter and pretty is now just brown and gross.
And there we have it...all the symptoms I'm experiencing that could possibly be chemo related but also have other, perfectly ordinary, non-chemo possible explanations.
It's enough to drive the sanest person crazy.