The lesser known side effects of chemotherapy

April 30, 2017

There are many side effects of chemotherapy which are commonly known and medically acknowledged.


Of course, hair loss is the most distressing. You may be surprised to learn that not every chemo drug causes hair loss. Also, wearing a cold cap during treatment may reduce this side effect. I was very fortunate in round one to retain my hair thanks to scalp cooling.

Nausea is another one that springs to mind, whether it is just feeling sick or physically vomiting. I am relieved that so far, I have only experienced the constant and unrelenting waves of nausea and it hasn't manifested itself into heaving my guts up. Long may that continue...

Fatigue is another well known side effect which I know only too well. It is a tiredness like I have never known before where my mind is willing but the body is weak. I am completely devoid of energy, my limbs refuse to move and my body feels like a lead weight. Every step is an achievement, talking is even an effort, sleep is the only option. Unless you are so pumped full of steroids that sleep evades you, compounding the tiredness.

 


Other side effects include joint pain, skin rashes and tingling fingers and toes, all of which I have experienced mildly.

However, there are some side effects which they don't tell you about and these are what I would like to share with you:

Shopping

 

I have always loved shopping, whether it was for clothing, homeware, even food. It gives me immense pleasure browsing shops and purchasing what takes my fancy. I'm an impulse shopper - I will shop even when I don't actually NEED anything and buy when I see an article of clothing I like or which suits me, just in case.


Of course, if I have a particular occasion, I will shop specifically for that but I find I rarely find what I am looking for in these circumstances, so can then turn to my stockpile of "just in case" items.

With food shopping, I have items which I buy on a regular basis and of which I ensure I have good stocks in my cupboards. Then there are the impulse purchases, foodstuffs I buy because they look nice, are in season or I just plain fancy them.

Whilst I have been having chemo, my shopping activity has increased quite considerably. Every time I go out, I manage to find a boutique and in it, something I like. I justify the rising number of purchases by telling myself (and my partner) that I "deserve" them, because buying nice things takes my mind off how shitty I'm feeling.

Of course, I also NEED certain items to replace those which no longer fit me due to my increased size, larger waist, bigger boobs and bum. Although my feet haven't changed, the justification for new shoes is that they are essential to accessorise with the new tops, trousers and dresses, of course.

On days when I just haven't got the energy to step foot out of the house, there's always online shopping. Amazon and ASOS often deliver THE SAME DAY if I order early enough in the day, giving almost instant gratification.

Then there are the deliveries which come a week or two after they have been ordered and I revel in the element of surprise as I open the parcel, having forgotten what I have purchased due to chemo brain!

Whether online or bricks and mortar, shopping and its consequent expenditure is certainly one of the more pleasurable side effects (except for when the credit card bill arrives!)

Cake consumption
 

Pre-cancer, I had pretty much eliminated cake from my diet along with most other refined carbs (bread, pasta, biscuits, pizza) and found that the pounds shed quickly, alongside regular exercise.
 


Post-cancer, the chemo seems to tell me that what it wants more than anything, to quell the unending nausea, is cake - soft, sweet and effortless to eat, requiring minimal chewing thus not requiring much energy to eat but rewarding me with additional energy boosts.

I keep being told to listen to my body and if I listen really hard, I'm sure I can hear it telling me to eat carrot cake, banana loaf, madeira cake, lemon drizzle cake...

Yes, those are its current favourites and who am I to deprive my body of what it NEEDS during this time?

Farting
 

Yup, they didn't warn me about the unrelenting flatulence. It doesn't matter what or how much I eat or drink, pretty soon afterwards, I will be trumping merrily away.

 

Usually it is in the comfort of my own home, often in bed at night, much to my partner's chagrin! Luckily our amazing new mattress absorbs the vibrations but there's not much that can be done about the odour!

It makes sense that after your body is pumped full of toxins, they have to escape somehow. It would appear mine have a preference for escaping via my bottom!!

Sex
 

OK so they do tell you that chemo may have an adverse effect on your libido and you may not feel like sex much whilst going through treatment.


They don't tell you that at times, you may become like a raging bull on heat, with the urge taking you at the most inopportune moments, causing you to have to bolt into the nearest public convenience to "sort yourself out".

However I don't think I would hear many partners of chemo patients having a problem with this side effect and most would be quite willing to assist on relieving the symptoms.

Booking events and experiences

 

Beware, having chemo and the prospect of cancer shortening your life expectancy can result in you booking experiences left, right and centre.

 

Case in point, I have booked to go to Ascot Ladies Day, Henley Regatta and Wimbledon so far this year.

I am not a sporting fan but these events - and so many others - are so much more than just sport. They are an opportunity to glam up (see Shopping, new frocks required) and drink in the whole atmosphere of the event and maybe even pay some attention to the sport around which they revolve.

I have always wanted to go to these three events in the social/sporting calendar and with everything that has happened in the past year, what am I waiting for?

Also on the list: an F1 Grand Prix, a major golf tournament, international rugby at Twickenham and a one day cricket test at Lords.

 

So those are the events, watch this space for experiences, although I don't think even cancer will get me doing a skydive or bungee jump!

 


"Fuck It"

 

Warning, many of the above side effects will be accompanied by the words "fuck it".

You will be filled with a sense of "why not", "life is too short" and "I deserve it", always qualified with a definite "fuck it".

Life is uncertain at the best of times but with a cancer diagnosis comes additional uncertainty. So, to bastardise the strap line from Nike

"Just (fucking) do it"

Writing a blog

 

You may find you need an outlet during treatment.  Some people may paint, others take up a musical instrument. And then there are the bloggers...

 

 
I have always loved writing; since I was a little girl, I enjoyed sourcing different words and phrases to describe what I wanted to say.

I have, l admit, always wondered why so may people with conditions, not just cancer, took to writing. And I promised myself that if I was ever faced with a disease, I wouldn't bore anyone with my inane musings.

I restrained myself during the first round of chemo, a gruelling 6 months when I simply concentrated on getting through the once a week sessions. I indulged myself by putting work on hold and succumbing to and managing the usual side effects.

Then I discovered I was embarking on a second round and I realised that this is how my life now is...I have to work around the treatment and the condition.

I needed an outlet.

I hope you are enjoying it so far!  

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