Side effects

For the curious ones among you. I’ll make a list of side effects that I experienced. What’s nice (and what just occurred to me) about the blog format, I can update this whenever I like. And that way I can add to it all include the dates of new stuff.

Hair loss. It started the weekend before the second cycle. It took off after the second cycle. It was so gross. Trying to carry on a conversation when a casual scratch to the back of your head turns into a hairy nightmare. I remember holding a nest bunch in my hand and carefully examining the perfect little roots all removed simultaneously.

I had wondered if hair loss would be painful. It isn’t. When it just releases into your fingers, or straight into the wind, you don’t feel it at all. It reminded me of a dandelion puff. The fluffies the blow away when you pluck the stem don’t hurt it at all. Some are more stubborn, but they go readily enough when you tug gently. Same with my hair. (But imagine the mess of wearing a dandelion puff all day everyday and there’s millions of puffs. I traveled with Swiffer dusters!)

Now while it was not painful, I will note that my scalp was uncomfortable. I was very aware gravity pulling on every hair, and so every hair follicle was aching. People who wear their hair up in a tight updo for too long know the sensation. So what is your instinct? Rub the scalp, get a good scritch in, massage some blood flow, get in there and lean in to it. Except. Each time I did this, more and more hairs left me. And that was distressing.

There was one day I really indulged myself. I drive along the boulevard to and from work twice, and I ran my fingers through my hair as much as I wanted. Glorious. Because as soon as I finally a good head rub, I let it drift out the car window. No clean up. No wadding it up in my fist until I got to a trash can. Just waving it goodbye and massaging my scalp. I imagined I was grossing out dozens of commuters. And it felt to me as though one person recognized what was happening, because I swear I could feel them praying for me from another vehicle.

Other side effects.

Fatigue. You know it if you’ve been pregnant. If you’ve had COVID. If you’ve had chronic illness. Your stamina just isn’t what it used to be, so you make modifications, allowances, have patience. I sit when I need to, and I say it out loud so I don’t forget. I use a long grabby tool so I don’t have to bend down as much. I got one upstairs and one downstairs. I need one for work and a mini one for my car.

Confusion. I’m not sure how to explain this, or describe it’s onset, because, well, I get confused. Suddenly I don’t recognize a stimulus quickly, or I can’t quite interpret stimulus accurately. I was slow to recognize hunger, and very slow on understanding how to fix it. Phone ringing was starling and bewildering. Reading texts was out of the question. And doing anything other than sitting still was hard to understand.

Brain fog. Similar to confusion, oftentimes occurring simultaneously, but far more constant. Letters get jumbled as I read, or I say the wrong word out loud. Or my train of thought leaves the station without me. It’s very much like walking into a room and forgetting what you came in there for but all the time, and not just when your walk into a room.

Skeleton suit. This one’s tricky. I don’t know how other people may describe it, but it’s when fatigue, confusion, brain fog all clash for a perfect storm, and I feel like a skeleton in a meat suit. I can feel my eyelids stretch over my eyeballs, which feel cool, and the eyelids warm them. I feel my top eyelids make contact with my lower lids and then everything resets. This is the sensation of each and every blink. Meanwhile I can feel my muscles constrict on tendons, and I feel my bones obey the tension. Strange, slow, laborious movements make me think I move like a zombie. But the feeling of my skeleton is so palpable, so tangible. It’s not painful at all, but it is odd.

Headache or migraine. (Usually my migraines are only triggered by a flash of sunlight catching me off guard. And they put me down for a day.) After the first round of chemo, I had such a headache that lasted for days. That’s why I got prescribed home IV hydration. The dehydration and electrolyte imbalance had me messed up all week. Fixed that with electrolyte drinks.

Constipation. Just after the first cycle. Probably due to anxiety more than anything.

Loose Stool. Unpleasant, but not frequent, and pain free. That’s too be expected because a lot of gut bacteria are dead and it’s tough to get water and nutrients out of food when the team is all injured.

Insomnia. Duh. I’m on steroids and I’m pregnant. Nightly, 2am wake up call for pee, snack, and online browsing. Usually asleep again at 3 or 330.

>Edit 9/13/22: Dry Mouth. I only forgot to mention this one, because it is with me constantly. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to not to be hyper aware of my dry tongue pressing behind my teeth. At best, it feels sticky, never comfortable. At worst, its like a desert missing the sand.

<Edit 9/13/22: Acid reflux. One occurrence so far, last night, but this happened with George’s pregnancy a few times. The solution was to sleep inclined. Not the most comfortable solution, but you weigh the pros and cons. Last night I moved to the couch so I could reset my fear of vomiting with a change of scenery, and be closer to the toilet incase it turned into nausea.

>Edit 9/13/22 Bone pain. None yet. They said that Claritin will help with that. I’m already on that 24/7 for allergies. I’ve got it occasionally now. It is especially sharp when a toddler bounces on your ankles and whacks your jaw with the top of their head.

Surprising side effects that I’ve not experienced:

Nausea or vomiting. No sweaty mouth or chills that preceded puke. But every once in a while I’ll have a singular gag, which I also experienced in George’s pregnancy. It means it’s time to sip water, or there’s just a nasty odor.

Blood clot. I have 5 risk factors increasing my risk for clot. Double heritage, pregnancy, chemo, steroids. They warned that movement and changing positions help. Thankfully, midnight potty breaks make me comply, and so does having a toddler dragging you around the house. When George is begging to be in my arms, I get down on the floor to him. Because somehow moving all of my body down onto the ground and getting back up again is easier than picking him up.

2 responses to “Side effects”

  1. Thank you for sharing sending all the big hugs and good vibes and prayers. On the subject of clotting. Did the doctor recommend anything to help as a safety precaution?


    1. Keeping moving and being hyper-vigilant on pain and calling immediately. Aspirin while pregnant has risks, so there’s no drug recommendation for me yet. With so many other risky drugs pumping through me, it maybe seems small. But I’m thankful it’s not another thing.


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