Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: chemo side effects

Following Final Chemo

This entry is part 27 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’m glad I had only four cycles of chemo. I had it relatively easy and I know it. My friend JA Marlow‘s mother has a very invasive and aggressive form of brain tumor. Early last year, Mother Hen, as JAM’s mother is called, had surgery to remove the original tumor and radiation. She’s been receiving chemo in pill doses at home. Unfortunately, the tumor has regrown, and it’s in an area which is affecting her much more than the original tumor did.

By comparison? My experience with breast cancer is nothing.

It has been my hope that putting my experiences up online would inform and assist other people with breast cancer, if not other forms. With that in mind, I’ll expound a bit upon my last post-chemo experience.

The fatigue was as profound on Wednesday as on most other previous days. I spent most of the day in bed, but was able to get up, eat, and putter around a little bit, though I was never up long enough for a cup of tea with water properly boiled in a kettle. I drank orange juice most of Weds and Thurs, as that was quick, easy, and tasty—so tasty, in fact, I drank my first two gallons before my three-week cycle period ended. It’s probably what helped me avoid getting sick about a week or so later, as I felt the beginnings of symptoms of an illness my mother recovered from just prior to her visit the week after chemo week, to drop off homemade burrito makings and an apple pie.

On the Friday of chemo week, I went in to see my new official (and hopefully permanent) Oncologist, Dr. Colonna (not sure that’s the correct spelling, but will correct it in later posts if it’s wrong once I’ve seen her again), who is specializing in breast cancer up at the VA. She’s the one who sat and talked to me and Mom all those months ago, answering the many questions my mother and I had about various things to do with my cancer diagnosis. She was pleased with my progress and sent me on my way with encouraging words.

The next week wasn’t as bad, PottyTime wise as previous cycles. I think it may be because I entered a heightened mixed-state phase (my bipolar is mixed-state, meaning I have symptoms and presentations of both mania and depression at the same time) and spent two nights out of that week awake because I couldn’t sleep. I don’t suggest this as a method of shortening the duration of the diarrhea, though that’s what it seemed to do for me. By the end of the week, my PottyTime phase was pretty much over as well, but I was not in any kind of condition worthy of being called “human.” I wasn’t a raving lunatic, or abusive, or temperamental. I was Jell-O. And this despite my two sleepless nights not following one right after the other. There were one or two nights where I actually slept between them.

I finally got fed up and shaved my head of all the straggling hair leftover from chemo-balding. Now I have stubble and fuzz. I did this with my women’s fancy wire-wrapped razor in the shower (the wire wrapping is important. Would not have done this without it) since I don’t have an electric shaver I could have used dry as I generally don’t shave my legs, and that’s what I’d use it for if I had one.

Chemo mouth was more severe. The cycle previous, it had spread to throughout my mouth, and this last cycle, it did the same, only drier. For the first time, this part of post-chemo treatment annoyed me. Could not eat anything spicy, as I learned one night when I made French toast (I put pepper in scrambled eggs, and in my Ft egg mixture with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweetener, with a dash of salt and a few tablespoons of milk), because I think I exhaled flame after that meal. My mouth hurt for several minutes during and after eating that French toast. Hot temperatures were just as prominent, so drinking my tea while it was still very warm was out of the question; tepid was the hottest I could handle. Also, it felt as if my tongue had numerous cuts on the top, though I don’t think that was actually the case. I tell ya, between heat killing the top of my mouth and even the softest, blandest food torturing my tongue, I’m rather amazed I ate at all. LOL

Earlier this week, I went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for my radiation setup appointment; I’ll write about it sometime next week.

Side Effects Update 3

This entry is part 26 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I had my third chemo treatment on the 31st of December. Yes, New Year’s Eve. Then I proceeded to sit up past midnight (not really celebrating, but just zoning, fiddling with different things, and generally being a nuisance to myself).

Oops, I forgot to take my prep-antinausea meds the evening before and the morning of my treatment before leaving home. Nurse who did my chemo was displeased. I felt baaaaaad for forgetting my meds. I’m usually very good about taking them. It’s a good thing they provided about 20mg of the antinausea medication as part of chemo at the hospital, or I may not have been able to eat lunch. There was no appreciable difference in my administration-condition regarding stomach upset, though I did feel just vaguely uncomfortable in a very distant way.

Otherwise, my chemo treatment went pretty well. Had a little fun once I realized I could adjust the foot of the bed as well as the head, and had myself quite comfortable once treatment started. I read about halfway through a paperback by a favorite author while I was getting treatment, which was nice.

The next day? I was out most of it. Though I was up between seven and nine that night; there’s an entry on one of my writing logsheets for me starting a new project on that day. I’m not going to say much on it in this post, however, though I will admit it’s my Casi/Vel story.

On Thursday, I had an appointment with my Oncologist, and I was fairly alert for that. Was still draggy due to chemo fatigue, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the second day after the first treatment, even if it wasn’t as good as it was after my second treatment. Apparently, the severity of side effects fluctuates.

Like the diarrhea. That started the Monday after treatment, and lasted most of the week. Was uncomfortable by the end of last week, but not as tortured as I was after the first treatment’s experience with that week of PottyTime.

Chemo mouth wasn’t as pronounced this time around, either. The most I had was a slight sensitivity to spices and temperature, not nearly as much as after previous treatments. Tongue felt only a little dry, and for a shorter period of time, and I didn’t get any spots on my gums which felt particularly dry. It was more an all-over condition on the roof of my mouth, and not as severe as the spots were.

I have one more chemo treatment, and that’s supposed to happen on the 21st. Following that, I’ll be going in for my radiation setup appointment and then begin radiation. I’ve decided to join the research study they’re performing, so I’m not sure how long I’ll be going in—could be anywhere from three to six and a half weeks. I’ll discuss it more once I know what’s going to happen.

Beginning of the Writing Year

On 1 January, I started a new story. This was unplanned, the result of an idea which wouldn’t leave me alone long enough to focus on other stories. Writing out the initial scene on this NewIdea worked; I was able to write on Unwritten Letters. The next day, I ended up writing more scenes in NewIdea, which, for lack of a better title at present I’ll refer to as Casi/Vel (the two MCs).

January second and third, I rather plowed through the opening of this story. Unfortunately, this focus on the NewIdea coincided with a rather severe case of chemo fatigue, as I had chemo on Tuesday. I was not expecting my third round of chemo to take me out like it did, but I lost my connection to my writing, though I wrote anyway. It was the oddest, most disturbing two days of writing I’d ever experienced, even taking into account Hell Year of Writing in 2012, which was my worst year of writing overall. In 2012, I spent most of the year in despair with my writing, hating every word, but so desperate to write I forced words out, which only exacerbated my depression and writing downswings. I spent at least half of 2012 in a writing downswing, where I didn’t write unless I had an outline and some sort of incentive (Julno, Nano). I barely got my 2012 FM Anthology story written and turned in on time, and it was the only writing I actually enjoyed the whole year.

The second and third days of this month were like that, only worse. I not only detested my writing and couldn’t stand to look at it immediately after writing it, but I also felt so disconnected from it I doubted it was any good. Normally, when I have doubts, they’re not unfounded, but I was in no condition to figure out the problem and deal with it until yesterday (the 4th).

When I came back to myself—started feeling connected to the story and characters again—in the evening of the third, I asked an online writer friend, Jennifer Amriss, to read through what I’d written already. This was important. I’d regained contact with my writing on an emotional level, but I knew something was wrong with it, and couldn’t identify the issue. Not knowing the issue blocked me after I wrote one scene where I felt connected to my writing and my characters, so in order to progress, I knew I had to identify the issue and deal with it so I could move on. The reason why moving on this project was so important? I was not receiving any inclination to work on either of my other projects; the only ideas I was coming up with went to Casi/Vel.

Jennifer kindly agreed to do a quick read-through of the 12+k words I’d managed to write on Casi/Vel. I emailed her the project and distracted myself until she contacted me. Her verdict: the first several scenes read like a textbook. She told me where she thought the story actually began to open up and where my writing started touching the characters in such a way to make them real.

I had two options. Either try to fix the faulty writing, or simply cut the first four or five scenes or so to the point where Jennifer told me my writing got real. I didn’t make a decision on the third, primarily because I wanted to make sure I was actually in touch with myself and my writing mind and I knew the best way to do that was to sleep on the issue.

Yesterday, I cut the scenes out. They had no pertinent information I could not provide a different, better way, and it would have taken too much time and effort to fix them up to a point where they didn’t read like a textbook. What little important information I needed to include, I was able to sprinkle into the first couple scenes as exposition attached to dialogue or in descriptions and whatnot. After the cut, I had just under 7k words, and I proceeded to rebuild my wordcount right after the cut, since dealing with the problem removed the block.

Another good thing about making the cut . . . I’m now able to deal with UL and TPOM3. I read the most recently written scenes of UL and its plot cards last night before bed and am ready to get two new plot cards on it before I write a scene. I also plan on getting at least two plot cards on TPOM3, out of order, later.

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