Chemo brain is real. It’s a term often used by cancer patients, like me, to describe thinking and memory problems during and after treatment. I need you to know that I’ve wanted and tried to put my thoughts into a new blog for weeks now, but my mind had other plans. So did the body. I’ll get to the physical setbacks in a moment, but first, let’s talk about the brain. I’ve always prided myself on having a pretty good memory, creative thoughts, solid focus and being super organized. Unfortunately, those characteristics have dulled through chemo. It pains me when I can’t remember the most obvious things. I often find myself struggling to focus & listen when someone is talking. So many of you have gifted me wonderful books, but I simply lack the concentration to read even a single page. Oh, and if I had a dime for every time I broke down in tears, for no reason whatsoever, I’d be a millionaire. ‘They’ say that chemo brain does eventually diminish, so I’m allowing myself patience and grace in the meantime.
Aside from the brain fog, the body has done more battle since we last connected. I moved on to a new chemo drug for treatments 4 through 6, known as Docetaxel. Unlike the first 3 treatments that set me back with nausea, reflux, shortness of breath...the ‘knock me down’ symptom this time was bone pain. Thanks to a combination of pharmaceuticals and medical marijuana, I got through the darkest of days. I was also hospitalized briefly about a week after my first Docetaxel treatment with what’s known as neutropenia. That’s when your white blood cell count is so low; you run the risk of a life-threatening infection. Fun stuff, hey? To help bolster my WBC count, I had to give myself injections (for 8 days after each chemo session) of Grastofil. It’s a medicine that essentially helps your bone marrow bulk up your white blood cells. It’s super expensive (thank goodness for a great insurance plan), yet incredibly effective! By the way, for those who don’t have coverage, there is an amazing patient support program called “Answers”.
I am thrilled to say my 6th chemo treatment was my final one!! Halle-frickin-lujah!! Now don’t get me wrong. I truly appreciate what chemotherapy has done in helping ensure those dang cancer cells are wiped from my body, but I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. It’s been 4 weeks since my final chemo and I am starting to feel like the old me. My hair is even growing back! Andy now affectionately refers to me as “Stubbler”, instead of “Baldy Balderson”. Ha ha ha!
Radiation is next. I will have 16 treatments (every weekday, except holidays) starting July 15th. In preparation, I had a planning CT scan this week, so they could map out the area that’ll be radiated. I also had the ‘port-a-cath’ in my left collar bone area removed, which was a significant and symbolic step forward. You see, the port had been used to administer the chemo drugs, but thankfully I don’t need it any longer. How do I feel about radiation? Aside from the job it can do on your skin and the fatigue it brings on, I hear it’s much less challenging than chemotherapy, so I am buoyed by that.
It goes without saying that cancer sucks. It has taken a lot from me; physically, psychologically and emotionally. However, it has given a lot too. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I cherish every single one of my relationships that much more. I see things differently; whether it’s the trees in the hills or the unmade bed that can actually stay that way for a day or two. I even find that food is tastier. Mind you, chemo alters taste buds and maybe mine are finally returning to normal. LOL! Bottom line, the journey is far from over but I truly feel the worst of it is behind me and for that, I am immensely grateful.
PS: Andy and I just returned from a 10-day road trip to visit family and friends in the Christian Valley, up the coast and on the island. It was a blast! The pic featured in this blog Andy took of me at a beautiful Lavender Farm in Sechelt. My smile shows how much better I am feeling 😊
©️This blog courtesy of Tamara Lindsay’s personal journal. If you have health concerns/questions, please consult your family doctor. Learn more about breast cancer awareness and prevention at www.cancer.ca Thank you for supporting #TeamTj