Chemo Chronicles

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So now I am in the thick of my chemotherapy treatment. How is it going? It is gross but I think I am getting off lucky. Many people have asked me about how chemotherapy works and why you get all these yuck side effects. Being of a scientific inclination I have also needed to understand the science behind the drugs.

The main function of chemotherapy is to attack fast dividing cells i.e. zoning in on cancer cells which are fast dividing cells which have lost their command essentially. The problem comes in that there are other fast dividing cells in your body and these also get affected by the chemo hence the side effects that you get.

Due to my type of cancer which I mentioned in my previous blog I am having a rather hectic chemo regime made up of three different drugs namely Docetaxel, Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide. I was quite interested to read that Doxotaxel is made from plant alkaloids and affects the microtubules in a cell. These are critical for a cell to divide so it makes sense to attack these. For my varsity buddies – revise mitosis LOL

Doxorubicin is the so-called red devil chemo and is the strong one apparently. Interestingly it is derived from soil fungus (Streptomyces), perhaps I should have paid more attention to my mycology prof at varsity…. Cyclophosphamide is not nearly as interesting LOL

So long story short these three cause more or less the same side effects and there is a long list but if you think about it, which cells in your body are replaced regularly, your mouth, hair follicles, your tummy, your gut etc so this is where the side effects zone in. Luckily my side effects have really been quite manageable. In fact I wait each time for it to get worse and am pleasantly surprised. I did lose my hair and am now beautifully bald LOL. I hardly have nausea and I feel maybe a bit tired. The worst has been my mouth. I get some sores in my throat and my taste buds have taken a sabbatical. You would think that if food doesn’t taste good that I wouldn’t want to eat it and maybe lose some weight! But noooo my brain knows what it tastes like so we eat it anyway. Sigh…

But enough about the yucky stuff. At my second chemo my oncologist examined me to see how the tumour is responding. I had felt a slight difference but to be honest I was ignoring it cause I didn’t need a reminder. So when she examined me and couldn’t really find the thing I was so excited as was she! I had responded so well to the yuck mentioned above. It was a good day and it made the chemo session all the more easier to handle.

Chemo no. 3 would have been a mission, I wasn’t in the mood. The three days after chemo are crap (selfishly so cause I know it should be worse) and I wasn’t in the mood for it. But I had decided on a whim to join my running buddies in Sabie to cheer them on at the Mac Mac Ultra and would be leaving the day after chemo. My awesome Ingy offered to drive me as she was going alone and to top it off my fabulous running buddy Helen decided that she was going to come too to second team Mindful Runner. I decided to surprise the runners and not tell anyone. This anticipation and fun really helped take my mind off the chemo. I was so looking forward to seeing their faces and get to cheer them across the finish line.

So off we went to Sabie and the weekend did not disappoint. The vibe at a race is infectious (no not in a CoVID way). It was the energy I needed and it certainly took my mind off the death taste in my mouth and the general yuck feel. I got to chill in my camp chair in the beautiful fresh air and scream like a women possessed when my friends came running in. Luckily my lungs still work well. It was such fun. I did have Dr Helen looking after me the whole time as well as everyone else being so awesome. I was put down for a nap at various times. Thank you my precious friend.

PS: I was very strict with my mask and social distancing.

It was an epic weekend and I am so proud of team Mindful Runner for their awesome achievements. I can’t wait to get back into the mountains.

May be an image of 15 people, people standing and outdoors
Team Mindful Runner – these are amazing runners and people
May be an image of 3 people, including Liesl Koch and Debbie van der Linde, people standing and outdoors
Fabulous support crew ( I still have eyebrows by some miracle)

And to end this blog with a bang, I went for my sonar yesterday to check the size of my tumour and the radiologist was unable to pick it up. So it has shrunk completely and we are now on the home stretch. I still have to go for the last three chemo treatments (yes I tried to get out of them) but is ok I just need to find something to motivate me through each session. hint hint nudge nudge

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