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My Chemotherapy Experience

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I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in December 2017. I am a homeschooled mom and full-time homemaker.

Here is what the IV bags look like for chemo.

Here is what the IV bags look like for chemo.

My First Time Undergoing Chemo

The port was already implanted. My doctor told me that I would have 12 cycles/rounds of chemo every two weeks. I was nervous and didn't know what to expect. What if it made me sicker? What if my body couldn't take it? What would happen to me? A lot of what-ifs. But I gave it all to the Lord and trusted Him with my situation.

When I arrived at the cancer center, a nurse took me to a room and accessed my port to draw blood to see if everything is functioning well. When my test results were ready to be viewed by my oncologist, he came into the room and discussed them with me. He assured me that I would be fine.

My chemo started at 10:45 am and ended after 5:00 pm. I ordered my lunch at the hospital, and my husband went to the hospital cafe to have his lunch too. This was our routine for the next six months.

I was closely monitored by the nurses. I was so blessed to have doctors and nurses who were so caring and attentive to my needs.

After my infusion in the hospital, my nurse filled my infusion pump and attached it to my port. I continued my chemo at home for 48 hours. I had to sleep with the pump and carry it around wherever I went. I couldn't take a shower because I couldn't let water get into the pump. I just washed up using a washcloth. It was hard at first to sleep with it. Luckily, the pump had a carry on bag with a strap that allowed me to hang it on my shoulder.

My chemo was scheduled on Mondays, and I had to return to the hospital cancer center on Wednesdays for the pump to be detached from my port.

Here is my port being accessed by a chemo needle during the therapy. The nurse who did it was so gentle that I could not feel when he inserted the needle inside my port.

Here is my port being accessed by a chemo needle during the therapy. The nurse who did it was so gentle that I could not feel when he inserted the needle inside my port.

How I Prepared for the Infusion

In order to minimize the pain, I applied a numbing cream 30 minutes before chemo. It helped a lot—sometimes I couldn't even feel them attach the pump to my port. Some of the nurses had a gentle touch—the chemo needle just went in without a sting!

I spent almost all of my day in the hospital cancer center. My husband was the one who drove me there. He's a very active person; he walked around outside while waiting for my chemo session to finish. It's a blessing that my chemo was not in the winter.

This was during one of  my chemotherapy sessions. My hair was still thick here. If I am not mistaken, this was my second session.

This was during one of my chemotherapy sessions. My hair was still thick here. If I am not mistaken, this was my second session.

Chemotherapy and Its Side Effects

Before giving me chemo medications, they gave me some type of vitamins to protect me from the harsh side effects. The nurses also added steroids to be administered through the port.

Oxaliplatin and Peripheral Neuropathy

The first chemo medication they gave me was Oxaliplatin, which is a platinum-based medication and an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug. It is used to treat colon or rectal cancer that has spread. It is an antineoplastic.

"Antineoplastic drugs are medications used to treat cancer. Antineoplastic drugs are also called anticancer, chemotherapy, chemo, cytotoxic, or hazardous drugs. These drugs come in many forms. Some are liquids that are injected into the patient and some are pills that patients take."

The worse side effect I got from this was peripheral neuropathy, which causes numbness, tingling, and cramping of my hands and feet often triggered by cold. The symptoms started just 30 minutes after my first infusion. I took a sip of cold water, and it felt like a lot of thumbnails were hitting my throat. I also had a hard time chewing my food. My jaw would hurt a lot, and it would be hard to open my mouth. It started to feel better after a few minutes.

I had to use a glove to take something from the refrigerator because it hurt when I touched cold things. I am glad my chemotherapy started in April and ended in September. It could be worse if I got it in the winter.

Fluorouracil Caused Discoloration and Digestive Issues

After a few hours, they added the second chemo drug, Fluorouracil (5 -FU). It is an antimetabolite drug.

"Antimetabolites are types of chemotherapy treatments that are very similar to normal substances within the cell. When the cells incorporate these substances into the cellular metabolism, they are unable to divide. Antimetabolites are cell-cycle specific. They attack cells at very specific phases in the cycle."

5-FU is used for a lot of types of cancer, including colon, anal, breast, cervical, and bladder. My worst side effects with this were the discoloration of my fingernails, toenails, and hands. The discoloration disappeared about a year after chemotherapy.

Here are other side effects caused by this medication:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite: There was always a metallic taste in my mouth and food tasted like nothing
  • Low blood count: Halfway through my cycle, my blood count plummeted so much that my chemo was postponed by a week.
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Generalized pain

My doctor gave me a hotline number in case of any severe reactions. Thank God I was able to handle the side effects and didn't have a severe one.

General Side Effects

The five main side effects from my chemo that seems hard for me were:

  1. Peripheral neuropathy: numbness, tingling, and cramping in my hands and feet
  2. Nausea: started three days after chemo
  3. Extreme fatigue
  4. Decreased appetite
  5. Hair loss

It's funny though that the day after chemo, I felt fine. I cleaned the house with my pumped attached to me. My husband and I went grocery shopping. I seemed to have a lot of energy because I was taking steroids. Then my body became tired for the rest of the week until I had my next round

Here is what my infusion pump looks like.

Here is what my infusion pump looks like.

My Experience With an Infusion Pump

The pump was my buddy for six months. It was by my side from Monday to Wednesday every three weeks for six months of chemotherapy. After spending the day at the cancer center of the hospital, my nurse would fill my pump with a chemotherapy drug. I would then return to the hospital after 48 hours for my pump to be disconnected from my port.

My pump had a carry-on bag that looks like a shoulder bag. I carried it wherever I go: church, grocery shopping, walking, etc. After a few months of wearing it, I get used to it.

Here are some things I had to deal with:

  • I had to sleep alone in bed because I didn't want my husband to get exposed to my chemo medication.
  • I had to lay my pump beside me and make sure it was placed properly so that I will not tangle the soft flexible tube.
  • I would pray that the pump wouldn't leak because it's very toxic if it spills. The nurse gave me a chemo bio-wipe bag in case there was an accidental spill.
  • I was so careful handling my pump, like handling a fragile thing.

Thank God that in my six months of chemotherapy, it did not leak.

During our grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, one of their sales associates gave me a cut orchid. She saw I was carrying my chemo pump, and she wanted to make me feel good! What a thoughtful act of kindness!

During our grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, one of their sales associates gave me a cut orchid. She saw I was carrying my chemo pump, and she wanted to make me feel good! What a thoughtful act of kindness!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Lorna

Comments

Lorna (author) from USA on January 20, 2020:

Hello Lorna! How nice of you to always comment on my new article. God has been given me strength during and after those hard rounds of chemo. Thank you again for our prayers.

Lorna Lamon on January 20, 2020:

Hello Lorna - I am so impressed by the way you are coping with you treatment, in particular the side effects. You also appear to have adapted really well to the pump which you take everywhere. The kindness of your nurses and the public is inspiring and I am sure will keep your spirits high. You are always in my prayers. Blessings.