Chemo has many side effects, so many, that they don’t tell you about them. What happens is, when you have a symptom, you contact your oncologist (or the oncologist on call) to see whether or not it is something you should worry about. There are so many side effects, many of which are rare or not that common, that listing them all to every patient would be impossible. But, from the patient perspective, I find myself constantly running into these odd side effects. I’m happy to be part of several support networks (both face-to-face and virtual). The virtual networks in particular are useful for finding out whether something is “call the doctor immediately” or “pretty common, mention next time your are talking to your oncologist”. For the most part, my oncologist has not been concerned about the side effects I’ve experienced. It seems to be though, that ever day something new pops up.
Yesterday’s new side effect was loss of voice. Not a total loss, but I notice that suddenly my voice is horse and it is more difficult to speak. This of course posses and interesting challenge, as I also have blisters on my hands from toxic erythema of chemo, which I also experienced last cycle. When the blisters are at their worst, typing can be painful, so I use voice-to-text on my computer. The horse voice makes that a little more challenging. I actually don’t know for certain yet if this is a chemo side effect or if there is something else going on, but my social networks tell me it is not uncommon. I just haven’t yet had that confirmation from my oncologist.
I’m also loosing my hair. Now, this is something that was expected, and it was why I shaved my head in advance of cycle 2. However, when people say that hair loss usually occurs on days 3-4 of cycle 2, I expected it to be a single day event. That isn’t really what is happening. My hair is getting thinner on various parts of my body. From the front, you don’t really notice the hair loss on my head (which made me think it wasn’t happening), but from the back it is pretty clear. It is also interesting to compare mine to Scott’s, since we had them shaved at the same time. His is growing, mine clearly is not. It is actually the towels where I notice it most. I’ve taken to using two towels after a shower, one for my head and one for my body – otherwise, I end up with the little hairs from my head all over my body!
Once the hand sores finish up, I prepare myself for the mouth sores. I’m now at a stage where food is tasting funny and my mouth feels fuzzy, like a layer of skin is shedding in my mouth. Last cycle I had a sore on my tongue which was rather annoying and painful. Food was finally tasting good, but it hurt to eat (ugh). I’m hoping that by using the magic mouthwash in advance I manage to avoid the worse of the mouth sores this cycle.
Today was also my last swim until after my chemo nadir (blood count low). I have three days (8-10) where I cannot swim as my risk of infection is too high. I’ll miss swimming, especially if my hand sores aren’t healed as biking isn’t an option when I have blisters on my hands. This actually also coincides with fatigue, so last time on day 10 all I did was sleep all day.
All that being said, so far cycle two has not been as bad as cycle 1. I think because I have a better idea of what to expect, I can be more proactive about managing what is happening. I can also plan my weeks out better. I now know not to commit to things on specific days, but on other days I can be more flexible. That helps. The control freak in me is feeling more in control of what is happening.