Let’s Talk About Chemo

Cancer.    Cell.    Killer.

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Information obtained in part from “Drugs.com”

My chemo drugs were Mitomycin and 5-Fluorouracil.

Mitomycin was pretty in the syringe.   It was lavender.  Kind of like a killer in a pretty dress.  Deceiving.

5-FU was in a take-home fanny pack that dispensed automatically in microdoses through my PICC line.  Every few seconds I was reminded of its presence.  It was my partner around-the-clock for four days.

 

MITOMYCIN

General information:

This drug is used with other cancer medications to treat a variety of cancers.  It treats only the symptoms of the cancer, but doesn’t treat the cancer itself.  It can (and did) lower my white blood cells (the blood cells that fight infections) and platelets (the cells that helps your blood to clot).   Serious side effects can include excessive bruising, pale skin, confusion, tiredness/irritability, stomach pain, bloody diarrhea, blood in urine, swelling, rapid weight gain (ugh), trouble breathing, trouble swallowing,  blisters in mouth, and/or problems urinating.  Sounds horrible, right?  The way I see it, if the risks of treatment outweighs the risk of the disease, then I should go ahead, and I did.  Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, drowsiness, headache, blurred vision, and/or temporary hair loss.

It is unknown whether mitomycin will harm an unborn child.  It CAN pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby.

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How it’s given:

It’s injected slowly through an IV.  It’s called a “push”.   My IV was a PICC line and I received anti nausea medications through the IV before the chemo started.  A nurse sat at my bedside and pushed a little at a time over a period of 20 minutes.

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5-Fluorouracil (5-FU)

General information:

Used primarily to treat cancer of colon, rectum, breast, stomach or pancreas.  Side effects include:  fever/flu-like symptoms, sores in mouth or lips, pale skin, easy bruising/bleeding, weakness, bloody stools, blood in vomit, watery diarrhea, pain/peeling skin on hands or feet, numbness or tingling anywhere in your body, loss of muscle control, sudden severe headache, slurred speech or problems with vision or balance.  Common side effects:  temporary hair loss (sounded to me like it was inevitable), mild to moderate nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, mild/itchy skin rash, dryness or watering of eyes, temporary loss of fingernails or toenails.

It is not safe for bone marrow cancer patients, patients with liver or kidney disease.   This drug is not used for pregnant women because it could harm the baby.  It’s not known whether it passes into breast milk (the opposite of the other drug).

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How it’s given:

It’s injected into a vein through an IV.  The first dose is given in a hospital setting.  You are carefully monitored  for serious side effects.  It is usually given 3 or 4 days in a row.  Mine was four days with my first four days of radiation and then I had another round over the last four days of my radiation treatments.

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What I experienced:

  • I developed little pimples on my face.
  • Nausea (although I never vomited)
  • Sore, raw throat
  • Skin discoloring (dark patches on my face)
  • Depressed immune system
  • Low platelet count
  • Small blisters on lips
  • Partial hair loss (it was very thin but I still had some hair)
  • Diarrhea
  • Episodes of slurred speech.  I described those episodes as “stroke-like” symptoms.  My tongue felt stiff and I couldn’t get the words out.  My mind knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t talk.  I felt stupid when I couldn’t get the words out.  It was extremely frustrating and a little scary.  My oncologist took my concerns seriously and sent me to an oncology neurologist as a precaution.  Thankfully, I only had a few of these episodes.  (Chemo-related.)

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Here are a few photos of some of the side effects that I experienced.

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Little red pimples was the first side effect

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Blisters

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20131002-220124.jpg                                                                    RAW  Throat

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My chemotherapy …..

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Chemo in a take-home fanny pack (5-Fluorouracil)

20131002-220249.jpg

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20131002-220310.jpg
   Mitomycin, the “pretty” chemo

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If you have any questions or comments about chemo, please contact me using the form below:

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“Don’t be afraid; Just believe” — Mark 5:36b

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