Complain. Repeat.

Halfway should feel a little more triumphant. Instead it just feels like a lot more work yet to do. One thing  I’m trying less of is privacy. I want to try to help others who go through breast cancer treatment with this blog if I can, if for nothing else than an alternative to the endless forum discussions I haven’t found useful. Here it goes.

Heartburn has been threatening me in a merciless way. I’ve never had heartburn before so the sensation is new (as is the prevention and treatment). And this is no ordinary heartburn. The esophagus is literally burned by the chemotherapy drugs. So, simply avoiding flaming hot, delicious Indian curry isn’t going to help.

At first I felt pressure on my sternum that I interpreted as a side effect of Neulasta, the bone marrow stimulant injection I get about 27 hours after chemo to speed up white blood cell replacement. I had heard it could cause bone pain. Turns out, the sternum thing wasn’t bone pain. It was severe, no good, very bad heartburn that made even breathing effortful. They prescribed Protonix, an antacid, which helped during round 1 and 2. I could tell it was getting progressively worse though and by round 3 I was in serious trouble. I couldn’t eat solid food without choking. After many phone calls complaining of my symptoms, my oncology nurse has now prescribed Dexilant which worked overnight like a miracle. My advice is to always keep complaining if you feel uncomfortable. There is no harm in it. You don’t have to feel bad.

Also, don’t be afraid of Neulasta. I almost refused it initially, so terrified was I of bone pain described by others. I have had no bone pain and my blood counts equalize within just a few days of chemo treatment. My body heals. I feel better. It means faster bounce back so you’re in better shape for the following round.

My only complaint about Neulasta is that the injection machine they adhere to my belly keeps fucking up, blinking red or otherwise confusing everyone. The first one did, in fact, malfunction. But, when it works, it has helped me and beats the hell out of living life in a bubble, avoiding friends, pets, and public places for fear of a hospitalizing infection. Try it at least once to see if it works for you.

On that note (and perhaps most importantly), avoid assuming the side effects others experience will happen to you. I had plenty of people try to scare me with tales of their own terrible chemo side effects. It did not help me in any way. In fact, I needlessly delayed bringing up the pressure in my sternum because I had “heard” that sternum pain was expected with Nuelasta. I could have saved myself a few days of heartburn!

Everyone truly is different. I’ve had comparatively few side effects actually and none that I can’t handle so far. I find it better to go forward with less information on side effects and gather it only as needed. Remember, the people on those forums, bitching endlessly about their side effects, are only on there because they are in the worst shape. Those that aren’t in terrible shape are out living life because they feel fine. (Except those that write blog posts on Friday nights…those people are cool.)

In summary, assume you will have no side effects until you have them and then complain about them like mad to your nurses until they fix them. [Drops the mic.]

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