Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: side effects

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.

Side Effects Update

This entry is part 23 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’ve had my second chemo treatment, and things have been happening a little differently this time. The side effects don’t seem as severe, and there have been some minor changes in them.

I’ve gotten what I’ll call “chemo mouth” both times. In the written materials I’ve received and according to what I was verbally told by my Oncologists, I was told to expect this to happen. Severe cases include sores in the mouth, and may also include either an inability to taste food or a change in how food tastes, including a metallic flavor. I think it largely depends on your chemo drugs. I did not get sores, but I did get dry spots, especially near my teeth. My chemo mouth includes a dry, cracked sensation on my tongue and dry patches in my mouth, I guess as the cells on my tongue and gums are those which are frequently replaced. This begins on about Friday or Saturday following the chemo treatment, and lasts for about five days to a week. I’m at the tail end of it right now. Food’s flavor does not fail or change for me, but my mouth does become more sensitive to hot temperatures and spices in foods. This I imagine is because of the way the cells are sloughing off, leaving my tongue and gums somewhat raw.

My fatigue was not as profound this time. Though I did spend much of Wednesday in bed, I did not sleep the entire time and was actually able get a bit of writing done. Thursday, I had to go to the VA Hosp, and though I wanted a nap, I was able to stay awake and alert the entire time I was there. I went to bed extremely early both nights—before eight o’clock.

This time, I didn’t get the incredible multiple-day headache I got last time. I got a little minor headache pain, which was taken care of by hydrating on Wednesday. No unusual headache pain the following days.

I had a little bit of constipation on Wednesday and Thursday, but did not have to go to the ER over it, and it was gone by Friday. While I have a bit of diarrhea now, it doesn’t seem as frequent as it was last time, and it’s started yesterday instead of on the weekend. There have also been no bouts of incredible abdominal pain which couldn’t be relieved as I experienced last time, which I’m very happy about.

There is a dry patch of flaky skin on the back of my right hand, above the index and middle finger knuckles. This appeared after my first chemo treatment, so I suspect it’s one of the minor side effects.

I have some small bit of hair left, but I expect it to fall out within the next week. My scalp is also very dry and flaky; I’m not actually sure this is a side effect of the chemotherapy, but I thought I should mention it in case it is. In addition to the dry flakiness, I also have some sharp pain in the skin. This isn’t very pronounced unless I’m touching or brushing my head for some reason, so I try not to do it too often despite the itching. I suspect this sharp pain is a side effect of the chemo, because I had none before treatment, and it seemed to begin at about the same time I started losing my hair.

Side Effects of Surgery

This entry is part 14 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I know one thing which is a side effect—and drives me absolutely batty when I go to bed—is the fact I can’t lay on my right side any more. Trying causes a great deal of pain, in both my arm and the edge of the right side of my back, where some of the numbness crawls around. That spot isn’t bothering me much right now; I can actually feel where my bra crosses the area, and where my shoulder strap comes up back there. Sometimes I can’t feel these things due to the neuropathy. This is a definite side effect of the surgery, because, from what I understand, they had to cut a nerve under my arm, and it apparently affects this area in addition to the back of my arm.

What I’ve noticed just the past few days, as underarm discomfort fades since the lumped-up steri-strips have come completely off the healed-up wound in my armpit, is a bruised feeling which extends down the entirety of my arm from the armpit. There are even some faint bruises, I’m guessing left over from the surgery, because I haven’t done anything or been touched where they are (near the inside of my elbow, and just above). It almost looks like someone grabbed my arm and dug in with the full length of their fingers. It hurts to stretch or raise my arm, but not as much as it did when I had the JP drain in. As I said, just a bruised feeling, and the “no, you don’t want to do that too much” feeling from it.

Good news is that the JP drain entry point is nicely scabbed over, and the surgical wound under my arm is well-healed, though a little purple. The cut in my breast is very well-healed; it’s just a pink line right now, though I do still feel some residual pain if I move it too much or press into it, probably due to the stitches under the skin. Sometimes my breast will throb with pain for a few seconds, but it always passes, and usually happens in response to me doing something to cause it, like press my folded arm against my breast. Some few of the steri-strips have come off my breast, but most are still quite well attached. I may peel them off next time I shower so when I visit the Oncologists again, they can see my skin’s healed up there.

The other day, the I got a call from the VA to set up an echocardiogram appointment. I’m to report for the appointment at ten AM. It’s supposed to be a fasting test, which will just be totally wonderful (LOL), and I’ll get to eat lunch afterward, then go do the blood draw they want. After that, I get to spend about two or three hours hanging about because there’s no point in trying to come home when I’ll have to turn around and go right back up to the VA for my three o’clock appt with the oncologists. I’ll definitely be taking books and music. Not sure if Mom will want to come, but I’m thinking not. If she does, she’ll probably come up just before the Oncology appt so she doesn’t have to spend all day at the VA like me.

Bits and Pieces

This entry is part 12 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I have a few things to say here. May have said some of them before, but I thought I’d try to go into a bit more detail about anything like that.

Such as the numb area of my arm. Today, I can tell it goes around to my back a bit. Its borders back there tend to fluctuate, I think depending on whether or not I’m having other sensations. Like itching. Itching is fun. Neuropathic area itches, reach to scratch, realize area to scratch is actually numb to the sensation of touch, so can’t actually scratch the itch. Sometimes those itches settle in the edge of the numb area, where the one I’m trying to ignore right now is. This is a mild annoyance, and not as traumatic as the sensation of pain which sometimes crawls through the neuropathic area. Sometimes this pain comes on its own, sometimes something I do (usually moving my arm up so my hand is somewhere at head level or above) causes the pain to come. This generally strikes the back of my upper arm, is fleeting, but is shocking at times when I least expect it. Other times, it’ll come in and hover for a while.

Really, I’d rather have this than cancerous lymph nodes.

The steri-strips are still on my armpit and breast. The ones under my arm are peeling off at the ends and bunching up toward the middle, right over the wound from the surgery. I think it’s this which is causing the bruised feeling in my armpit, and the sticky areas keep catching on hair growing and pull it without warning, usually at night when I’m laying on my left side. Move right arm to more comfortable position, pull hair.

This is not to complain, exactly. It’s not that much to have to deal with. Just thinking there might be someone out there who might want to know about all the little discomforts which come with cancer treatments.

Yesterday, I received a call from Robin (a nurse, not Robyn, the Physician’s Assistant who came with my surgeon). She wanted to discuss the order Dr. Weiss, the head Oncologist, put in for something called a “porta-cath.” I think that’s what it was called. It’s something they insert under the skin of the chest for long-term chemo treatments, and she said it made sense they ordered it if I’ll be getting such treatments for a minimum of at least four months. It makes administering the chemo drugs easier and less stressful on the body—she said it can be rough on the veins if doing it through an IV. I have to go in at 7:30 in the morning on the 15th of next month for a fasting lab (whee, no eating/drinking after midnight) and report to the AMU clinic for the porta-cath to be inserted. According to Nurse Robin, they’ll sedate me for the procedure, so I’m going to take Mom with me so she can handle the cab. Also according to Nurse Robin, the sedation will wear off after a few hours and I’ll definitely feel like they’ve done something, but it shouldn’t be too painful. We’ll see about that.

If I find out they’re not doing the chemo long-term, I’m to call and tell Robin, and they’ll arrange to do something slightly different. Something about having a tube hanging out my body, and dressings which need to be changed, with a lot of care required. This enthuses me no end, I assure you, so I’m kind of hoping to do the porta-cath instead.

Robin was most displeased I recalled nothing of this being discussed during my last visit with the Oncologists. I could have heard something about it, and it may not have stuck, but she said it was up to them to make things clear, and she was upset I hadn’t received the printouts they promised. So, I’m kind of hoping my visit with them on the 7th turns out to be nothing more than me getting those printouts and hearing again what they’ll be doing, and maybe getting a firm answer on just how long and how frequently I’ll have to be in for chemo.

Today I got the letter the genetic counselor, whose name is spelled “Anne,” sent me. I’m glad she didn’t take her time about it. I have the distinct impression she got back to her office last Friday, prepared all this, and had it in the mail by the time she left the office for the day.

Some interesting facts from the letter she sent me (I haven’t read the printout from a cancer center’s website she gave me yet. Can’t bear to look at that bit yet).

-Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic (not due to inherited factors).
-Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
-A combination of factors can contribute to development of breast cancer (including smoking, unhealthy living).
-Simply getting older can cause breast cancer—most women who develop it are over 50.
-Approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by inherited predispositions.
-Changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 can also lead to an increased risk of other cancers, including ovarian cancer.
-In some families, a specific genetic change can’t be identified, but many members do develop cancer (more than expected by chance). In such cases, it’s considered familial, though they can’t identify the specific cause.

Once again, she iterates I should get the genetic test because of my complete lack of knowledge of health history of my father’s side of the family and my young age (39-40) at developing it. She’s going to call me before the 7th to make sure I do want the test, then put the order in for the blood for it to be drawn at the same time I have it drawn prior to my visit to the Oncologists on that day.

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