I haven't blogged much about the side effects from chemotherapy. Some of that is because I don't really want to give much power to them. Plus, every cancer patient has a different experience with chemotherapy and every patient experiences side effects to differing degrees. I joked early on that it seemed like each round of chemo brought a new and exciting side effect. That really has remained true. Part of me wonders if that is because as each new side effect appears, I learn how to cope or deal with them so the next time I actually notice the new ones.
So, I decided to give my side effects power rankings. The higher the side effect is ranked the more desirable a side effect it is. Imagine if you could pick and choose your side effects you'd select the ones ranked highly.
#1 - Hair Loss, by far, not a bad side effect to have. Sure, it is a hassle and a half some days to decide what I'm going to put on my head and it is the most obvious sign that I have cancer but it really doesn't bother me much. I'm actually excited that when chemotherapy is finished I will find out what color my hair is ...I've been highlighting or coloring my hair since I was about 16 so this should be very interesting.
#2 - Weight Loss - Hey, as a woman that has dieted longer than I've been coloring my hair, totally self explanatory. The only reason it doesn't rank higher than hair loss is because I'm also losing muscle mass.
#3 - Fatigue - I really can't complain about the fatigue since I am still able to sleep quite well. Now that the Steroids don't give me the manic high anymore, I actually am enjoying the rest.
#4 - Vision changes - Blurry vision and dry eyes still bother me about 5-7 days out from chemo but aren't really much worse than typical allergy eyes.
#5 - Mouth Sores - the Ann Arbor/Magic Mouthwash really does make a difference. These would be ranked higher if it was a persistent problem but like the vision changes they peak around day 3 and are usually gone by day 7.
#6 - Constipation - Not fun at all, I have finally learned to just start the Senokot-S on day 1 but still the first week is never good and makes me feel like a grumpy old woman.
#7 - Dry mucous membranes - I'm really talking about one particular area in general, which let us say is drier than the Sahara desert. I guess this is a perfect time to prepare for menopause. I've found some relief with a product called Liquibeads, it is hormone free which was a requirement given to me by my Cancer center.
#8 - Peripheral neuropathy - Which is just a fancy way of saying I have tingling and numbness in parts of my hands and feet. It has really gotten worse with each round and bothers me even more now that it seems to have taken hold of my right hand.
#9 - Nausea/Headache post treatment - these tie because unfortunately they are closely related. The nausea is bad despite the Emend and Zofran and the Zofran and Emend cause the intense headaches. This round I am going to talk to my doctor about switching the Zofran out for a different anti emetic to see if it can make these side effects a little better.
#10 Chemo Brain/Chemo Mouth - Another tie because these two are my absolute most hated side effects. Confusion, distraction and memory loss are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to chemo brain. I love to read and chemo brain has made that a chore. Chemo mouth is just as bad because it makes it so much more difficult to get the nutrition and hydration needed when going through chemotherapy. Favorite foods are no longer appealing. Water tastes horrible. These take away some of the best pleasures in life.
So there you have them the latest and greatest chemo side effect power rankings. I actually had a discussion recently with some fellow cancer patients about chemo side effects. We decided forget about water boarding, chemo would probably be a more effective interrogation tool.