Today I want to give you an update on my first three-week round of chemo. I'll talk mostly about the treatment I'm doing and it's physical effects.
I am on a program consisting of two drugs:
The first drug is Oxaliplatin, which is administered intravenously through the port below my left clavicle. The infusion process lasts about 3 hours and I am doing that at John Stoddard in Des Moines.
The other drug is Capecitabine (trade name Xeloda). It is a pill administered orally, which is nice as I can take them at home or wherever I happen to be. The dosage is 1800mg twice a day, which amounts to 10 pills a day - plus a probiotic, multivitamin, baby aspirin, and occasionally up to 3 pills to keep nausea at bay. So yes thats a lot of pills for a guy who's not used to taking daily pills at all!
There are many possible side effects, but in today's world you could watch a Viagra commercial and get scared out of your mind - so while its easy to get scared you have to realize these lists are exhaustive to say the least.
The first few days after the Oxaliplatin infusion were the toughest. They warned about sensitivity to cold - I guess I figured it would be like an ice cream brain freeze. As soon as I was done with the infusion, I took a swig of the water I had been sipping on. Instantly, my throat began to close up and it felt like an explosion of tiny needles in the back of my throat. Really weird. Mostly, very surprising.
Throughout that first day or two I had many instances of this cold sensitivity, while eating, drinking, even exposure to cool air. Of course going into the winter isn't going to be ideal but I will now know what to expect and be able to adjust accordingly. Let me tell you, it really gets old having to drink warm or hot water for a week or more!
The other phenomenon was also neural - every time I would eat, and this only happened on the first bite - the inside of my cheeks felt like I licked a square battery and put and electric fence inside my mouth at the same time. Extremely painful, but it would only last a few seconds, then I could go on and eat the rest of my meal. The strange this was that this happened whether the food was cold, warm, or even hot. Interestingly, the nurses had never really heard of this effect.
The good news is, after a week or ten days these effects wore off and I'm back to normal. It will be something I will experience every three weeks until late March, but I am glad that it only lasts a few days.
One of the other more common side effects is extreme fatigue. This can come from both drugs, and tends to be most prevalent around days 10-14. In talking to healthcare professionals and even other cancer fighters, it can be very severe - where you physically cannot walk across the room or perhaps you sleep for hours upon end. I kept waiting to hit this proverbial wall, unsure of what I would feel like when I woke up the next morning. I am very happy to tell you that I have not experienced this side effect yet!
Why did I not get this side effect? Was the chemo not working? One thing I've learned is that every person handles treatment differently. I think my age, health and outlook coming into this have helped tremendously so far. I was able to spend most days on the farm during harvest, and while I wished I could be there all day every day, I didn't want to run myself down - so I kept the hours reasonable. Having a purpose each day kept my mind off of what I was going through.
What does this mean going forward? Well, I really don't know yet. I do understand that there are often cumulative effects of the chemo - our systems become weaker as the fight moves along. But I do know that I am grateful for my current emotional and physical health.
In looking out at the calendar I decided to start Round 2 on November 9th instead of this week - with permission from the doc of course. So if you are wondering what my schedule will look like, plan on my getting the infusion Monday 11/9 and then every three weeks from that date.
Thanks for the prayers and love!