My Chemo Reality

Most of you who know me, or who have read about my journey, know that I was diagnosed with cancer only 6 months after I moved from New York to Florida.  My family made the move because we wanted to live in a tropical climate and start living our dreams rather than watching other people live them on the travel channel every night while we were bundled up in bed trying to keep warm :)

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We had no family or friends in sunny Florida.  We knew no one.  I had gotten my daughters all situated in their schools and had established a Primary Care Dr. and Dentist for them.  I got them hooked up with all their music teachers, dance and swim coaches, and felt that we were all settling in pretty good.  The dog had a vet and groomer and I even got my husband set up with a Primary Dr. and sent him off for a physical (which he hadn’t had in years).  I wasn’t worried about myself getting to see a Dr., heck other than having kids, my tonsils out and wisdom teeth out, I was the picture of good health.

So, when the diagnosis of cancer came it was a shock and started a whirl wind of confusion and panic.  I didn’t know any Dr’s like I did in New York.  I didn’t have family or close friends to give me referrals.  I never had a serious illness so what was I suppose to do?

I ended up doing what I believe most people in a similar situation would do.  I went to one Dr. and then another and put my trust in them.  I listened to what they told me I “had” to do and I went along with it.  I wasn’t told what all the options were and I didn’t have a clue that there even were other options outside of traditional medicine.  I was just told that I needed to do this or that and then I would be “cured” (hopefully).

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In hindsight, I can only wish that everything had slowed down, that it wasn’t so urgent, and that I had learned about some of the options that no Dr.s like to, or are willing to, talk about.  Options like different natural, holistic remedies and alternative medicine.  Different modalities like; Gerson therapy, the Budwig diet, and the Cantin-Ketogenic diet would have been explored and possibly tried rather than poisoning and burning my body from the inside out.

The reality of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is that they may help kill the cancer (which may have already been removed by surgery), and they may help keep the cancer from coming back (for a little while), but they also may not help, may actual fuel the cancer, and may kill all your healthy cells and actually create cancer.

When the majority of people hear that someone has an illness and will undergo chemotherapy they know that person will likely loose their hair and not feel well for a while.  What they don’t know (and neither did I until I experienced it first hand) is that poisoning your body with chemotherapy does so much more.

As a new year is approaching and people are coming up with New Year’s resolutions and contemplating what the new year may bring, I am realizing that it will be two years since I first found the cancer and over those two years I have been to hell and back.  The worst part is that I know it is still not over.  I want to be very clear that I am not looking for pity and I’m not trying to feel sorry for myself.  I want other people to know the reality and be informed to make decisions (hopefully better ones) to help them stay healthy and to understand what the traditional methods of cancer treatment will do to you.

I had six doses of poison (Taxotere and Carboplantin) pumped through my veins.  My hair fell out (everywhere! even in your nose and ears) and I felt sick, just as expected.  What most people don’t realize is just how sick a person can get on chemotherapy (and some people have it much worse than I did).  I experienced severe stomach cramps and pain that lead to chronic diarrhea and significant weight lose and dehydration.  My body ached something fierce and all my joints felt stiff and painful.  I had such sever heart burn and chest pains that I felt as if I were having a heart attack and dying.  Strong smells made me feel nauseous and gave me headaches.  At times I couldn’t be near my own family members if they were wearing perfumes or be in my own kitchen when food was being cooked.  My weight went up and down, up and down.  At times I couldn’t eat and at other times all I wanted to do was eat.  I was tired and fatigued beyond what most people can comprehend.  At one point I could barely walk to the mailbox, then it was even an effort to walk from one room in my house to another room.

My blood counts were all over the place and my potassium/calcium/and magnesium were being drained right out of me.  I got sores in my mouth that I had to use ultraviolet lights on to try to make them heal and the metal taste in my mouth was driving me insane!  Nothing I ate would make it go away.  My nose ran and ran as did my eyes (for nearly a year).  With no nose hair and no eyelashes you start to realize that they are there for a reason.  My finger and toe nails turned green and black and started to fall off.  I began to get swelling in all four limbs and then severe edema in my legs and lymphodema in my arms.  I was thrown into menopause at the age of 43 and the benefit of no more periods was no match for the horrible hot flashes and sexual issues.  I suffered low-grade fevers and body twitches that would wake me in the middle of the night.  My shoulders started hurting and cracking.  I started feeling like my bones were actually disintegrating.    I won’t even talk about the side effects of radiation, my ruined skin, and the horrific experiences I went through with scans, tests, and six surgeries so far.

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These symptoms may sound horrible and you may think that the alternative of dying from the cancer is much worse (which is what I thought originally) but does it have to be this way?  I can’t help but feel that years from now my grandchildren or great-grandchildren are going to be in disbelief that we would poison our own bodies to try to get it to heal from disease.

The symptoms that I suffered were not short-lived.  They didn’t all go away when chemotherapy ended.  In fact many symptoms don’t even start to appear for weeks, months, even years after the chemo.  But the Dr’s don’t tell you that.  Four and a half months after chemo I woke up deaf on the right side with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss.  Talk about frightening!

Two years later, I have to still draw on eyebrows every morning.  I continue to wear hats most days in public because my hair is not growing back in.  My nails are improving but several of them continue to lift from the nail beds and they are thin and weak.  I experience groin, hip, shoulder, back and joint pain on a daily basis.  The hot flashes come and go and sleep is difficult most nights.  My skin has changed in the way it looks and feels.  My teeth are more sensitive and brittle.  Emotionally, I experience a great deal of anxiety, fear, and guilt on a regular basis.  The fatigue is still there.  I have neuropathy in my toes and my bones have been weakened, causing me to break three toes in the last seven months (and I had never broken a bone before).

While all of this sounds like a nightmare and some days I wish I would just wake up and have the last two years erased from memory, I do try hard to stay positive and do everything I can to cleanse my body down to the tiniest of cells and rid it of the damage and poison that was done to it.

I want my 2013 to be filled with exercise, healthy eating, smiles, love, travel, family and friends.  I will try my hardest to deal with ongoing side effects, damage from my past “slash, poison, and burn” treatments, and future surgery (March 27th, #6) with a positive attitude and faith that I can make things better.  And I will continue to do everything in my power to research and find answers and help others heal themselves through better means.  Our bodies are amazing and if treated right and given the right “medicine” they can heal themselves.

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-Kristen
Choosing healthy living over dying :)

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6 thoughts on “My Chemo Reality

  1. I watched my husband go through what you went through for four years. I actually felt blessed that I had cancer that wasn’t BRCA related and didn’t have to go through chemo because of clean nodes. I’m not sure I could have gone through what you and he went through. The horrible side affects were worse than the pain he suffered from the tumors. May God bless you in your journey! Bring on your Best 2013, we’re looking forward to the “Good Stuff”! :)

  2. Well said Kristen and thank you for making us considered doing the research before we need the data.

    It makes you wonder about the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. There will be new ways in the near future to address these types of diseases the way they attach us individually. We will have mapped and very personalized treatments. One of the benefits of Big Data, DNA sequencing and genomic mapping. I just wish YOU didn’t have to deal with this.
    I truly believe that the treatment is what killed my dad and not the cancer directly. Even more specifically, and you mentioned it, I think It was the dehydration side affect to the treatments.

    Here’s to you beating this and showing your girls how strong a mom really can be!

  3. I wrote you awhile back , I finally am getting the tests done and of course as I suspected is not looking good and most likely in a late stage. However I wanted you to know that as I prepare to start my battle, I gain so much inspiration from your blog. You have been added to my blog roll as I start blogging about my upcoming journey. I wish you a wonderful 2013 to be everything you desire and more! You are beautiful, wonderful and inspiring.

    • Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Fight hard and strong and continue to be your best advocate. I wish you better health, strength to face everything that comes your way, and healthy living to tame the beast. Thank you for your kind words. Keep me posted on your progress.

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