My couple of days at home after my stem cell “harvest” Tuesday have been spent dealing with a few mild and odd side effects and mainly getting things ready for the real show which starts Monday.
The mild side effects are a little too weird to explain suffice to say I slept poorly, have had a fairly consistent low-grade headache, and some odd body warmth issues.
The preparation is all about food, home, clothes and getting ready to be near the hospital and not home for several weeks. I’m still finalizing my team here in Crawfordsville watching things for me. I have several people keeping an eye on my house and its security.
I sort of felt motivated today to write some really general tips for anyone ever facing chemo therapy. My only expertise is I’ve been through it twice – once pretty intense and other much milder. Monday I start six straight days of strong chemo – the middle four days I have chemo twice a day.
- Attitude, Attitude, Attitude. I think any cancer patient will repeat that advice. You have to stay positive, attack it, and fight back. I remember my second chemo ever back in 2015 when I spent 2 of four hours in the chemo chair listening to an older woman cry and moan. I felt bad for her. Chemo is very toxic and makes you feel like a waste dump – but there is no pain in the process. And usually, there are few side effects while it’s being administered. Occasionally the patient will have some dry mouth or a bad taste in the mouth – but nothing too bad.
- Drink water. Drink lots of water. Water flushes the chemo byproducts from you body. Those bad boys cause and compound the side effects which can make your life miserable to beyond miserable. I’ve gotten pretty good at this. During my preparation visit the nurse said at least 48 ounces a day. I’m going to ask, and any cancer patient should as well, if I can drink more than that. In 2015 I could always tell when I had not been drinking enough.
- Eat small meals. You don’t want to throw up because once it starts …. Don’t down a pizza, spicy tacos – just eat like you have a brain.
- Ask questions. Relentlessly ask questions. Ask them what they’re doing and what that next bag of chemo juice is and what it does and what it’s going to do to you. My experience, particularly in today’s world, the nurses, doctors and technicians must be schooled in patience and taking every question seriously. I had a 4.5 hour stem cell harvest Tuesday – on my back, needles in both arms and not able to move hardly at all. I peppered my nurse with questions about the process and the centrifuge the whole time.
Get over the hair thing. It’s hair and it will grow back. It slightly amuses me that many people make that one of the first few questions. I’ve now got an accurate, polite – ok maybe a little snarky – response. “Of my Top 20 concerns about chemo and cancer treatment, losing my hair wouldn’t break the Top 40. Use the opportunity to try some funny hats or scarfs for the ladies.
- Be comfortable. You’re getting nuked during chemo and it’s not a New York fashion runway. I wear sweats. If you have a port in your chest, and you probably will, it’s much easier on everyone if you wear some sort of buttoned shirt or blouse and not a pullover.
- Treasure your spouse or caregiver. No one gets through chemo alone. And in my case, the six straight days of chemo is going to leave me extremely vulnerable to infections. For several weeks I have to be near the hospital, not allowed to drive, and my caregiver has to be with me. That’s especially true for the time period right after the stem cells are returned to my body after the week of Chemo. It’s not easy for anyone to see what the barbaric side effects of chemo can do to a human being. It’s ugly – I’m not going to lie. I got through my tough one not too bad. But vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation aren’t uncommon. Most important – don’t hide things from the person trying to help you. Even more important, realize they’re under strain justo keeping an eye on you.