Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chemo Brain, Treatment Changes and EMS.

I had a post planned for today. It was going to be my "last chemo" post, and I was going to describe my relief that I got through this phase of the treatment. I was going to admit that I knew I still had a long way to go, with herceptin infusions continuing until December, and further surgeries and of course, tamoxofen for five years and MRIs and cancer checks forever.

But, my main description was going to be about the joy I felt that these toxic chemo sessions are done, and that I will be able to recover and soon feel better.

My bad.

You are going to have to wait for that post, as I still have two more treatments left.

Why didn't I know that, you ask? You certainly would know the exact date when your chemo was over, right? Of course you would, everybody would.

But me.

There's a constellation of excuses reasons for this miscalculation, but I'll pick out the three biggest stars: Chemo Brain, Treatment Changes and EMS.

Halfway through my six rounds of Carboplatin and Taxotere I started getting neuropathy. My oncologist thought it was too early in the treatment for the severity of the side effects I was feeling, and that I wouldn't recover after it was over. So, he switched me to weekly Taxol. Different drug, smaller doses, more often. I went from Taxotere/Carboplatin every three weeks to Carboplatin every three weeks and Taxol weekly.

During that time, the office went to an Electronic Medical Records system. So, while it has been entertaining hearing the colorful language coming out of the mouths of chemo nurses as they learned the system, those of us who started with paper and got put into the system later meant it was harder for them to look up our old treatment schedule.

The nurses thought my last day was today.

I believed them, sort of, but also thought something was amiss. So, I sat there over the course of days, literally, trying to figure it out. As many times as I sat there and counted up the dates I'd thought I'd been, I couldn't remember or make it come out right. Not with a calender in front of me, and not with my iPhone. That kind of high-level thinking (counting weeks) is way beyond me now. I relied on an older post where I said it all comes out the same in the end, which would be today's date, and hoped for the best. Chemotherapy causes short-term memory loss and processing problems in many people and sadly, I am one of them.

I lost my date.

(I might have been like that before and have finally found the perfect excuse for why I can't remember anything, but if so, I'll never tell.)

Oh, by the way, if I owe you an email or something, I'm sorry but I forgot. Chemo Brain. The check is in the mail too. Chemo Brain. Was I supposed to come to work today? I'm sorry, I forgot.

Chemo Brain.

The moral of this story is: don't count your chickens before they hatch if your brain is pickled with chemo drugs and the people you rely on to hatch said chickens switch from paper to electrons.

I'm really not feeling the joy at the moment. To continue with the lame metaphors (Chemo Brain) I thought I was crossing the finish line after a marathon, and I find out I'm only at the 20 mile marker.

Making that last six miles is going to be awfully hard.

My happiness post is now postponed.


  1. You can do this Ann, and you have been doing it. Continue putting your foot in front of the other and moving forward.

    Smile the sun is shining!

  2. I'm sorry that chemo is not over for you. But you are a strong individual and I know you can do the next two treatments. I look forward to reading your happy post soon!

  3. Ha, ha. One 'benefit' of cancer is now you can use chemo brain as an excuse for lots of things. I can't remember squat these days - but it is better than when I first finished chemo. I'm sorry to hear you aren't done when you thought but you are close. Then a big sigh of relief. Hang in there.

  4. i like the french cheer for this situation: "courage!"

    for neuropathy: make sure you are taking a lot of B vitamins. i used floradix (can be found at whole foods). it made a difference. the bigger deal was going to acupuncture 1-2 times a week. my neuropathy has faded from it's most uncomfortable, but i am still really klutzy with my hands. i'm only 3 weeks out of my last chemo tho.

    there will be a finish line, and you will get there. it sucks to have that false sense of hope though.

    love, peace, health -- and courage!

  5. I remember, Ann, when I started Adrimycin and Taxotere, and I heard the oncologist say to me "a total of a year for treatmens." She spoke in very broken English, so I struggled a bit just to comprehend. I'd assumed that I would be finished in March, which was a year after I startd treatments. It turned out that the Herceptin began in June, three months after the first series of treatments, so I didn't actually finish all the infusions until June, NOT March, as my chemo brain had been anticipating all along.

    I don't know if that makes sense, but all I know is how disappointed I was when I realized that I had my dates wrong, too. I think that our brains are wired to make this treatment period go away as fast as possible. We miss some of the specifics along the way.

    But keep strong; it will end! :)

  6. Hang in there! You are doing fine - just keep blogging. B6 us what my oncologist suggests for the neuropathy. I'll finish Herceptin at the end of July and am doing OK with it - except for the @#@$% drippy nose!

  7. When I got to my last chemo session I cried because I wasn't going to be getting anymore of it. I asked them to keep giving it to me because it made me feel protected and safe. They patted me on the head and said I was cookoo and to head on over to the radiation center for the next chapter of this journey. I sometimes show up at the oncologist's office pretending to arrive for chemo and telling them my chemo brain is sure I am due for another round of chemo. Then I smile and hand out my little silly presents for the nurses and patients there that day.

    Chemo brain stays with you for a while. I finished mid-December and I'm still struggling with it but I find it is getting better little by little which gives me hope.

    You're getting close to the finish line and it's great that you're happy about it rather than plotting new ways to convince them to give you more like I was haha. :)


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