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Message
Posted by 10yr survivor on October 12, 2000 at 07:52:02:

In Reply to: Please share your chemotherapy/radiation experience. posted by Mizrabelle on April 09, 2000 at 00:42:37:

: My mother was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy and will soon be undergoing radiation treatments. One of the side effects she is experiencing from the chemo is low red-blood count causing extreme fatigue and anemia, low white-blood count which effects the immune system.

: Because of fatigue she is too tired to leave the house other than for her treatments and doctor visits. She is really interested in hearing others experiences with chemotherapy and radiation. The side effects, pain, fears, does it get worse/better, etc.?

: She would greatly appreciate you sharing your experiences with her during this difficult time.

: Sincerely,

: Mizrabelle

Mizrabelle,

i am a 10 year survivor of cancer. please let me share with you my many experiences after having lived through it all. i received a nine month protocol of (mostly in-patient)chemotherapy, and several low-rad radiation treatments to my right orbit. my cancer was two-fold: i had a tumor behind my eye, and acute myelogenous leukemia.

my CHEMO side effects included physical symptoms:(i probably had almost all possible symptoms, so don't let this scare you into thinking you will, too): nausea, hair loss (all the hair), fatigue, mood swings due to the dosage of birth control pills i was on (to stop my periods, because i might have hemorraged when blood counts were low) physical symptoms also included mouth sores, skin rashes (hives, dry, splotchy spots), gastrointestinal disruption (i had frequent gas and heartburn)...

both white and red blood counts were affected.
i received several blood transfusions over the period of my protocol, and was effected by fainting, and tiny red spots on my skin when i needed the blood (platelets mostly, although i recieved whole blood as well). infections were common, and really some of the most grave complications for me. my central IV line became infected at one point, yeast infections, thrush, and i had several serious infections because of hang-nails (yes, hang-nails threatened my life!)

mental effects of CHEMO included: memory loss, and a general state of loopiness. these symptoms mimicked attention deficit disorder, if you've heard of that. i forgot how to do simple math problems, had a terrible sense of direction and inability to imagine objects spatially, lousy short-term memory, and a low ability to concentrate or maintain an attention span. i also struggled with depression, although i would say for most of the period i was on chemo, the drugs i recieved for premedication to prevent nausea altered my mood and made me somewhat of a druggie. i was in a state of adrenaline, and survival mode. i was afraid. all the time.

affects of RADIATION: memory loss was significant, but short-term, traceable directly to the treatments. because the treatment was to my head, i had headaches, and felt a slight numbness to the affected area. some people report nausea with radiation depending on rads.

that is basically my experience. i've never posted before, and i hope that i help you in some way.

the first three years out of treatment were the most stressful, because my cancer has a high rate of recurrance. the fear eventually gave way to overwhelming GRATEFULNESS and DEEP JOY, and awareness, and basic acceptance of my mortality. the anger i experienced drove me to get back in shape, physically, although i struggled with depression still, and misunderstanding from others- pity, attention, patronizing. i did not want to be a victim!!!

my feelings about my body changed as well. how i felt about myself, as a sexual person changed (should i say asexual person- haha), as a woman, i resented by body for taking over and for betraying me. every choice that i could make in regards to my body made a difference. after treatments, i needed a lot of verbal affirmation, affection, and privacy. i needed a sense of control and purpose.

three things helped me:

1. prayer (God, family were most significant)
2. laughter (i couldn't have survived w/o it)
3. nature (i CRAVED each moment in the real air)

i've been there. it's a hard road. it's a long road. but, there IS the end of the road. it leads you, if you let it, to a new perspective that you can eventually own. don't give up.

prayerfully,
jess

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