Chemo & Managing Side Effects

posted in: Cancer 0

Another early start for the hospital but good news: red cells are up by .7, platelets up a little and best of all the paraproteins are down from 35 to 22, with white cells at 4.1 so just in normal range. Dr Humour was characteristically relaxed about the numbers and was clearly happy with the current progress. Husband can continue to have chemo as planned.

Day 1 the nurse gave him some hydrocortisone cream to put on the back of his hand to help with the discomfort caused by Bendamustine. Running saline along with the Bendamustine seemed to work really well and he found it less uncomfortable this time. The only downer was that the nurse couldn’t get the cannula into his right hand so had to use the left hand again. They try to use one hand one day and the other the next, to give the veins a bit of a rest. We’re just grateful that he was able to have the treatment.

He did feel really sick when soup was brought into the ward for patients’ lunch. He couldn’t eat anything as a result and was struggling not to be sick. Apart from the lingering smell of soup in the air the treatment went well enough and he even managed to sleep a bit.

Day 2 went well due to chatty patients, interlacing conversations about current political events with observations about constipation and nausea. The consensus seemed to be salty foods to help with nausea and taking Lactulose (and the odd Senna tablet) before and during chemo to ward off constipation.

It’s quite a juggling act to balance medication for nausea and constipation. Ondansetron is clearly very good at dealing with sickness but it can also bring awful constipation. Husband is forever asking himself if he really feels sick enough to take the Ondansetron. Of course it works best if you take it in advance, so you have to try to see into the future… It’s trial and error but the Lactulose and Senna seem to be a good way forward and Metoclopromide does seem to help keep the edge off.

The following week went well. Nausea came and went at odd moments. Husband insisted that it wasn’t at all bad so he didn’t feel that he needed to take medication. He thinks that overall he felt less sick this month than he did when he started chemo but that the occasional queasiness (usually brought on by smells or bending down) is going on for a bit longer. Eating a little helps, particularly fresh oranges.

All in all he’s getting through this treatment way better than we’d hoped. Spring is definitely in the air and he’s making the most of gardening leave and siestas. There’s an odd disconnect between the horribleness of cancer and the simple but very real enjoyment of working a bit in the garden. They are opposite sides of one life. They coexist. The cancer is always there. It always will be. But life is also always there. We choose to focus on the things that make life good – the colours and sounds of the natural world, the feel of the wind and sun on our faces, the feel of the dog snuggled up next to us on the sofa.

We know that this will become more difficult but it is a long process. I can’t bear to refer to this as his cancer journey! We acknowledge the reality but we do our best to take back life from cancer by simply focusing on the good things. Cancer demands time – treatments, appointments and all the waiting around in hospitals. It takes up entire days. It controls our calendar. But it is also ticked off a to do list every time Husband has a hospital appointment. Cancer has its days but most days are more about life than this wretched blood disorder.

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