Word to the wise.... never, under any circumstance, eat falafel immediately after (or before) chemo. If, by chance, you are asking yourself why, you will have to read the whole post. The answer will be somewhere in there. sneaky. I suppose you can just use the "find on page" function and search for falafel... that could work too. Unless I've anticipated your move and sprinkled the word throughout the post to keep you from doing this. sneaky X2.
I've figured out a few other interesting things while undergoing my treatments... for those of you who will (sadly) have to deal with similar experiences in the future, here are some pointers, tidbits to ponder, and random ramblings from moi...
1) With regards to the shiny yet fuzzy scalp that you may acquire, the culprit isn't cancer or radiation, it's chemotherapy. Chemo is also responsible for a butt load of other nasty side effects. It is, however, important to note that just because you have to undergo chemotherapy, you aren't guaranteed to lose your hair. This leads me to my next point-
2) There are many different types of chemo. When I started out, I had no idea just how many. I figured there were a couple standard ones they gave all patients. FALSE. The frequency and duration of the chemo cycles, as well as the number of cycles and the actual drug given are all dependant on several factors (type of cancer, extent of cancer etc.).
3) Before your hair falls out, your head hurts. Correction- your scalp hurts. If you have ever had your pony tail too tight for an extended period of time, that's pretty much exactly how it feels. My doctor told me it would tingle. HA. Tingle my foot... it "tingled" for about 3 days.
4) The falling of the hair doesn't happen all at once, at least not for this little lady. For me, it started while I was in the hospital (the 1st time) and continue for about 5 days before I had a minor Britney style freak out and shaved it off. I may be a little more...particular than most people, but I'm pretty sure that having a trail of falling hair following you around for a week (literally) would make just about anyone crazy.
5) People have told me that having chemo is kinda like being pregnant. Upon hearing this, I was kinda relieved. My immediate reaction was "I can handle a few cravings and some nausea, I don't even have to give birth. No problem. ". Hahaha...ugh. False.
If this is what pregnancy is like, I'm opting out. I literally can't eat for a week post-chemo. The thought (and smell) of 99.9% of all food/drink makes me want to spend some quality time with my new best friend, the toilet. The things I do manage get down are bizarre cravings that hit 1 minute, and are gone the next. It's just a case of finding and eating it as fast as possible. After my first round, I only wanted to eat bibimbap and kimbap. The staple of my last round of chemo was poutine. I have no idea what it will be this time, Corn pops doused with diet Dr. Pepper? Who knows. The good news is around day 5, this usually starts to ease up and I can cook for myself again.
6) For those of you that have had falafel, you may recall that it stays with you (read: every burp for the next 7 hours is a twisted reminder of what you did). Now, picture this happening and all the while wanting to vom every time you dare think about food (let alone smell or taste it)... ha ha. Nasty.
I will never eat falafal again.
7) If undergoing chemo, consider investing in clothing that can be cinched and loosened as needed (a nice moo moo, perhaps?). The combination of chemo and the hospitalizations has resulted in my weight dropping from 132 to 126 pounds. I know that may not sound like much, but nothing fits me. All of my pants are too big and I'm left feeling like a slob. I'm not trying to have a pity party here, I'm just trying to emphasize how having cancer can affect your perception of yourself. It doesn't bother me everyday, as it's not everyday that I leave my house (discussed in next point) but when I do, it can be difficult.
Feeling pretty when you have one breast, a bald head, terrible skin (thanks again chemo), and clothes that don't fit can be... trying. Hell... sometimes even looking in the mirror can be trying.
8) Chemo kills your immune system. The last three times I've been to the emergency room, my while blood cell count has been 1 or less (normally between 4 and 11). My neutrophil count has been virtually non-existent (neutrophil=infection fighter). I mentioned in a previous blog that chemo leaves you more susceptible to infection and illness... but I didn't know that it would be this bad. I've been to the emergency room 3X and hospitalized 2x, all this after only 2 treatments.
Which leads me to the real point of this bullet; it's tough to strike a healthy balance between staying home (which is "safe" but drives me crazy) and going out and exposing myself to potentially harmful germs (which is fun). I am now on medication that is supposed to help increase my white blood cell count , but I'm not sure how well it is working. Plus, the method of administering this medication, is uncomfortable, at best.
9) Giving yourself needles sucks. Since my first hospitalization, I've started giving myself injections of neupogen. This is how it works...24 hours after my chemo treatment, I bust out a needle and 1mg of neupogen, swab my leg and jab that sucker in. This happens for 10 days, then I get a rest until the next round. The drug is supposed to reduce the risk of infection by like 50% by boosting my production of white blood cells.
Now... for someone that has no problem sitting for hours getting tattooed, one would think this wouldn't be a problem. FALSE!
The first time I tried myself, my hand froze about an inch above my leg and I could not, for the life of me, stab it in. My nurse finally had to grab my hand and ram it in for me. Maybe it's just because I felt like such crud because of the chemo, maybe it's because I'm a wuss. Whatever the reason... it took me a good 6 or 7 days before I didn't freeze up.