Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CHEMO: How It Feels -by Heidi

First, Joe and I, through our experiences, have decided to call all the therapies that we have received "chemo".  It is just too hard to explain that "this is a targeted hormonal therapy, that is a monoclonal therapy, this is a viral therapy...."  People understand "chemo" and you can just say, "this one will make me lose my hair", or "this one doesn't usually make me throw up" and everyone gets it. There are so many ways that cancer is treated now-a-days and professionals would probably roll their eyes but we find it is so much easier to say that we are getting chemo and leave it at that.

Ironically the therapy that was the targeted and first-line drug for me was a hormone depresser.  And boy, was I depressed.  Funny all the things that I did not know that estrogen facilitated in my body.  I developed severe arthritis-like symptoms in my hands especially which really impacted my daily life.  I couldn't open a jar, had no hand strength, bad nerve pain and numbness.   My back and hips ached all the time.  I was pretty moody (but it is hard to separate out medicine effects from the fact that I had just received a horrible diagnosis with a really bad life expectancy).  When it failed to keep the cancer in check and I had to go to stronger chemo, I was scared stiff.  But in terms of side effects, it has been much better.  The only downside is that I have to come to the cancer center each week instead of once a month. 

I am fortunate because my side effects have not been totally debilitating.  When I first started treatment, I was NOT going to let side effects stop them from giving me these drugs that gave me a chance for a long life.  I was determined.  But now I more fully understand that side effects can  be so debilitating, so impact your quality of life, that it is a balancing act:  quality vs. quantity.  I dont know all the answers but I sure have learned to not be so judgemental or assume that I know the answers.

One thing that makes the chemo easier is how friendly and kind the people at the chemo center are.  You share your feelings, hopes and sadness with the staff and those you meet in the lounge and leave encouraged.  I am so fortunate that Joe is willing to come with me each time and we try to do something fun each week.  I am also so very grateful to God that this chemo is holding my cancer in check (for almost two years now).

Thanks again for all your support and feel free to communicate with us. We love hearing from you.



  1. I hope your "first-line drug" was not tomoxifen for that is my "new" chemo for second recurrence of ovca. One fellow patient tells me she has very few side-effects on this drug. Another quit the drug due to severe bone pain. I'll wait and see. Like you, I am grateful to God for all that He provides. Good or ill, I know He holds me safe in His hands.

  2. Hi WhiteStone! No, it was Femara..

  3. Amazing Heidi, Trachena & I have you and Joe in our prayers ALL the time. You are both amazing.

    Pastor Steve & Trachena Muchnick
    Surrender40 Ministries

  4. Thank you again Heidi for sharing this journey. It is good to know what you are experiencing because I love you. It is also helpful in a personal way to know what I could experience at some future date. You and Joe are doing a really good thing wiht this blog.

  5. I agree that the staff make a HUGE difference in coping and healing. They are very special and not everyone can do what they do. They are talented with patience and kindness, love and a strong desire to heal.

    God Bless you dear.

  6. Found out about your blog from one of your followers. I keep one about my husband's Colon Cancer. He has mets to both lungs. We live on Whidbey Island, so we are practically neigbors. Look forward to following your journey.Wishing you both all the best!

  7. Blu Dog's MomMay 28, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    I think medicine has gotten so complicated these days that simplifying your therapies in the general term of "chemo" not only facilitates a somewhat universal understanding of "cancer treated with chemotherapy" but also keeps it a little less scary. Bless you and Joe, your fellow patients, and the entire staff of the center.