I am in the middle of a one-year cancerversary from going through Chemotherapy which for me was Adriamycin Cytoxan and Taxol over a 5 month period. Just writing about this makes me feel nauseated. So I had to look up “Chemo Flashbacks”. Many people suffer from Chemo flashbacks. I am not alone!
I had pancakes at a restaurant a few days ago. It popped into my brain that I had not had pancakes since going through Chemo. Pancakes were one of the foods I could eat in the beginning of Chemo. Just eating that pancake made me sick. I had to stop. I still cannot look at juice bars as I ate so many juice bars to stay hydrated. I have to hurry past them in the grocery store. I lived on cottage cheese to keep my protein levels up. No way can I eat cottage cheese now. I paid attention to the warnings people gave me about being careful not to eat your favorite foods on Chemo as you won’t like them when you are done. There certainly is truth to that statement!
One of my Chemo Nurses told me about a favorite patient she had in the days when anti-nausea meds were almost non-existent. She ran into him at a local mall and was thrilled to see him thriving after his near death. He was overjoyed to see her as well, but took one look at her and immediately vomited in the middle of the mall. His body just spontaneously reacted 10 years later!
My former brother-in-law is a 35 year cancer survivor. The medical staff gave him Watermelon Jolly Ranchers to help the nausea. To this day, he will throw up if he even sees that hard candy.
The Journal of Clinical Oncology did a study of over 600 cancer patients that received chemotherapy. Over one-third of the former cancer patients had flashbacks and other symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Megan, a volunteer with SHARE, wrote about her Chemotherapy Flashbacks years after she finished Chemo:
For me, specific odors, flavors, songs, books and movies recall in a flash my experience of breast cancer:
- Whether I’m cleaning my computer keyboard or removing the gummy residue of a price tag, the smell of rubbing alcohol conjures up the chill of my port being swabbed for an infusion, and I feel again the fear of the poisons about to be poured into my veins.
- There’s a wonderful peanut-butter-and-chicken soup in Jane Brody’s “Good Food Cookbook.” I used to love it. Now not so much. My husband used to make it for me after chemotherapy to stimulate my appetite and make sure I got enough fluids. Now the taste of it calls to mind mouth sores and the dreadful, deep lethargy of post-chemo malaise.
- Daniel Powter’s song “Bad Day” seemed to be on the air 24/7 the year I was chemo bald. Most people I know hated the song, but I liked it. “You had a bad day” — simple words, but they hit the nail on the head for me. I was having a bad day every day. Once in a while, I hear the refrain again and remember the misery of seeing my pasty face and hairless scalp in the mirror, the effort it took to face the world exposed like that, the comfort of singing under my breath, “You had a bad day/ You’re taking one down/ You sing a sad song just to turn it around …”
If you are a former Chemo patient, please post and let us know if you have had these flashbacks.