I am in full chemo brain space cadet mode, so this post will most likely be on the disjointed side. As of my last chronicle, I have been struggling with the cumulative effects of chemo. My 6th cycle was pushed back by a week, and I went in for IV fluids four times before that cycle. I cannot even begin to say just how much that helped. It upped my energy and my appetite, and I need all the help I can get with the latter. On Saturday (the 5th this month), I went for a very short walk. As short as it was, I could feel that I was pushing things too much. I ended up going into full collapse all of Sunday.
One of the more terrifying effects of chemo is getting hit with this overwhelming weakness. You find yourself unable to walk all the way across your dwelling without having to stop and rest. The idea of walking two blocks without resting several times is impossible. It’s difficult to describe just how bad it is. Normal movements are taxing to the point you can’t finish simple tasks like folding clothes or washing some dishes without taking breaks. The worst of that hit me back when I did the Neulasta, but its been lying in wait, and hit again after the short walk. All of which brings me back to hydration. After I had the four pushes of IV fluid, I felt close to normal. What used to be normal. Rick emails me every day while he’s off at work, to check in and see how I’m doing. One of his emails included this line: You seemed way more alive last night than you have in a long time! I sat for a long time, staring at that, overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. It drove home just how close to dead I’ve been, how…faded. It hurt like hell too, because it was a very sharp reminder of just how fucking rotten this has been for Rick, how difficult it is for him to see me mostly gone, and wondering if I’m still there, buried under all the side effects. You can’t help feeling like you’re letting everyone down, including yourself. It’s very difficult to engage mentally and emotionally when you can barely bring yourself to move physically.
I’ve been steadily downhill since the walk, so Rick called infusion yesterday to set up fluids for Wednesday, but they said they could fit me in that afternoon, so off we went on Monday for another IV push. I could easily tell I was once again very dehydrated, because I didn’t have to pee. If my fluids are good, I have to race to the nearest lav as soon as I’m unhooked, and there have been times I’m off with IV pole, couldn’t wait. After the fluids today, we ran a few errands, and Rick once again remarked that the difference after I get fluids is night to day. For the last two cycles, I’m going to set up appointments for fluids on the Monday and Wednesday after my pump comes off. If you find yourself dealing with the terrifying weakness, you might want to holler for getting a series of IV fluids after a cycle.
We were sitting in the car in the market parking lot, having a sticky chocolate break before doing the market stuff, and I was telling Rick about how I had been feeling, that it wasn’t just the physical shakiness, which is still with me, but this loud, internal shakiness, all fizzy and overwhelming. Right away, he nailed what it was like – a really bad hangover. I haven’t had a hangover of any kind for a very long time, but the recognition was instant, it is just like that, the same dehydration and imbalance you get from drinking too much, when all you’re really capable of is sleeping it off. Chemo is mostly all “trying to sleep it off”, but that doesn’t work for chemo like it does for a hangover. This is not a matter of not having enough fluid intake, either. The chemo and the side effects dehydrate you to a point you could not drink enough of anything to bring you to proper hydration. I’m drinking something or other pretty much all the time, and still ended up like a walking piece of brittle kindling. Being dehydrated can also make your blood pressure plummet, so if you are getting consistently low reading like I was, look to get yourself properly hydrated, and your blood pressure will normalize quickly.
Dehydration also makes some of the side effects worse, like the skin peeling. It’s bad enough when you’re plump with fluid, and a nightmare when you’re all dried out. Scratching an itch will end up with your skin splitting open. I think that’s about it for now, my brain is jumping ship, and I need sleep. As always, if I have more to add, I’ll edit sometime today.
On a food related note, if you work in a hospital cafeteria, making the food and all, for the love of humanity, do not put effing cardamom in pumpkin pie! Also, if you grind the seed pod along with the seed, don’t ever touch the spice again. This comes up because last cycle, I was hungry, and Rick wandered off to the cafeteria to find something for us to snack on. We ended up with pumpkin pie that tasted like Vicks. Cardamom is a lovely spice, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s a disaster. Chemo messes with your taste enough, getting a slice of Vicks pie doesn’t help. :D Speaking of, check out this Vicks ad, my my. (I did make sure it was that pie, not me. Afterwards, at the market, we bought a pumpkin pie, and it was just fine. I brought home another one yesterday. Turns out that it’s an easy thing to eat during chemo, and it’s cooling without triggering the oxali cold sensitivity.)
Water is life, and if you’re undergoing chemo, it doesn’t do to overlook the importance of it.
ETA: I’m actually cleaning today! And doing some laundry! Never thought I’d be so effing happy about that. Another ETA: If you’re in treatment or a caregiver who makes appointments, you do not need to go through any hoops to get fluids – just call infusion directly, and your grand and wonderful nurses will set you all up.