I can feel it creeping in slowly, stealthily, trying to take over my brain. It’s that pre-chemo anxiety. Before my breast cancer diagnosis, I experienced anxiety rarely. Now, it pops in for a visit much more frequently than I care to admit. It makes me angry. I have one week, every other week, when I feel good, almost normal. I want to embrace every single good day that I have because I know how awful I will feel once I have my next treatment. And so it goes, one bad week, one good week.
This is why I resent that anxiety. It wants to tap me on the shoulder a day or two before chemo and say “Hey, you’re about to feel like crap. Remember last time?” I mentally swat it away. I have no time for this when I’m feeling happy, positive and NOT sick. It’s like I’m being ripped off by worry.
So here’s what I do. It’s a mental tug-of-war. Fighting cancer is always part physical strength and part mental. I may have said that before but it bears repeating. I tell myself “The chemotherapy is shrinking my tumour and destroying my cancer.” “Every time I sit in that chemo chair, I am one step closer to the end of treatment and the beginning of being cancer-free.” It’s become a bit of a mantra and most of the time, it works.
This week marks the half-way point of chemo. I have 8 treatments over 16 weeks and this is a milestone that I can celebrate…on my good week. I’m currently on the AC-T regimen. AC is the chemo cocktail for the first 4 treatments while T is the last 4. It’s a lot of words I have trouble pronouncing so I’ll leave it to the experts.
“An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used to treat breast cancer. It includes the drugs doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, followed by treatment with paclitaxel (Taxol). Also called AC-T and AC-T regimen.” www.cancer.gov
The side-effects are different for AC vs Taxol I’m told so I cannot speak on the whole treatment with authority, yet. I do know that, on the plus side, Taxol does not include nausea as a side effect. On the down side, it does include leg pain and neuropathy. Taxol also means I’ll be sitting in the “chair” for three hours instead of 45 minutes. Good thing I have very entertaining friends who have promised to sit with me. I like to mix it up so that not one person (including my husband) gets stuck with the same task. Plus, I like to hear what’s going on in everyone’s life and getting chemo is a great way to catch up. How’s that for a positive spin?
In all fairness, as crappy as chemo makes me feel, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I still remember those cancer movies from the 80’s (Dying Young anyone?) and was ready for the worst. Research has come so far since then. There are a number of medications that help, especially with the nausea. You can’t exactly cruise through it unscathed but it is so much easier than in years past. My health care team wants me to have minimal discomfort and have solutions to almost any side effect that may cause me issues. I know there are people who would rather me forego chemo altogether for an alternative therapy but I have a lot of faith in my oncologist and believe this is the best way for me to come out of this alive.
In my mind, I have no choice but to follow the time honoured tradition of listening to my doctor who has 35 years experience and my nurse who is a 20 year breast cancer survivor. I will take this one day at a time, be grateful for every moment that I feel well, and I will squash that negative voice in my head until it’s time to roll up my sleeve once again and hope for a good vein.
(Photos in this post are from my first Chemo Treatment)