[cancer] Chemotherapy, the first two weeks

and I are off to the infusion center in a couple of hours. I’m up, walked and more or less ready.

Over the past two weeks I have weathered a host of side effects. None of them have been as bad as expected, except the exhaustion, though I still managed to walk every day, and write most days, and squeeze in a trip to Seattle. I did mismanage my spoons yesterday. Was feeling pretty good, so never quite got around to stopping and resting as I should. Compounded this with a food crash heading into the lunch hour. By yesterday evening, I was stupidly tired, and had a small emotional meltdown.

Basically, I’ve learned to live with chemo. I’m told the first round of side effects typically sets a patient’s pattern going forward. It’s my expectation that the side effects will get worse as the sessions go on and the drug effects build, but really, I can live with this, and it’s less frightening than I’d expected.

We did produce a side effects worksheet last night, with consultative input from . This is so I don’t forget to report anything to the oncologist this morning. I’ll put it here under a cut for mild medical TMI, for those who are interested in the details.

Side Effect Duration Intensity Remarks

Headache Day of infusion, 24 hours High to mild Unusual for me

Confusion Day of infusion, 3 hours Moderate

Extreme fatigue Ongoing High to moderate Diminished somewhat over 2 weeks

Oversleeping First 6-8 days High to moderate From 10+ hours down to my usual 6

Bowel distress/severe diarrhea Days 7-9 Extreme Indescribably foul odor, very loose stool, possibly related to pre-existing intermittent lactose intolerance

Bowel distress Ongoing Moderate Slightly looser and more frequent than normal

Neuropathy None observed n/a

Cold sensitivity First 5 days Very mild Limited to back teeth

Impaired short term memory Ongoing Mild Like I often am, just a bit more

Impaired long term memory Ongoing Mild Unusual for me

Impaired thinking skills None observed n/a Other

Slowed thinking skills First 5-7 days Mild All my faculties, just slowed down

Impaired observation/EQ Ongoing Moderate to mild Diminished somewhat over 2 weeks

Loss of appetite Ongoing High to moderate Diminished somewhat over 2 weeks

Food ‘crashes’ Ongoing High to moderate Diminished somewhat over 2 weeks

Nausea 10 minutes, day 3 Mild

Sexual dysfunction Ongoing Moderate Libido largely intact, erectile dysfunction, difficulty reaching orgasm

Excessive dental plaque Intermittent Moderate Could this be a sign of thrush?

Some of the side effects are distinctly unpleasant, some are socially embarrassing or difficult to discuss (especially the bowel distress issues and sexual function issues), but they are all very real parts of the cancer experience.

We’re keeping today’s infusion low key, just riding it out and seeing how I do. will be back down tomorrow, with a quiet weekend for all three of us here at Nuevo Rancho Lake. I’ll update as I can.