Chemo, Steroids, Mood Swings and Bitchiness

My poor sister is in the worst of Adriamycin Cytoxan (AC) right now.  When the bottom falls out of her cell count, she feels like dying, she knows she is being poisoned, feels the death of her body, can’t get off the La-Z-Boy, and is so miserable there aren’t words to describe it.  If you have been there, you know.  It is so painful for me to watch.  I rarely cried during my own chemo nightmare because it made me feel worse.  Watching and empathizing with Diann, I cry.  I feel what she is feeling, and I’ve been there.  It is worse watching and listening to her than it was for me going through it.  But, on the other side, I laugh a lot too, at Diann’s expense.

Steroid Bitchiness – there really isn’t anything more pleasant you can call it. “Mood swings” may be a little more gentle, but the mood is always swinging in one direction.  And no medical person really tells you to expect a different person to emerge.   My mild-mannered, kind hearted, rather soft spoken sister has become a truck driver swearing, outspoken, raving maniac!!  The other night I took her for a drive so she could get out of her house.  As the drive began, I heard more swear words coming out of her mouth beginning with a “B” and an “F” than I had heard from her during her lifetime.   I can’t help but laugh at her because her personality is so opposite her usual pre-chemo self.  Yesterday I told her, “Diann, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m a little afraid of you!”   Then we both burst out into laughter!

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I did warn her this personality change would occur.  Now I was leaning toward the menopausal side of bitchy before chemo, but it still really reared its ugly head to the extreme.  Some examples stay with me and cause me to laugh even now!  My insurance agent dropped me and gave me to a new agent because during chemo when my insurance carrier wouldn’t cover severe storm damage and every other house in my neighborhood had coverage, words came out of my mouth I didn’t even think I knew!  I created a scene in Walmart when a woman ahead of me had about 84 items in a 20 item or less line. You understand the frustration of that one, but this time I could not hold it in.   It was such a scene that the entire line of people behind me and this filled-to-the-top cart person erupted into applause when I got done with my tirade!

My family members and a few understanding friends laughed at me as they thought I was funny.  Now I understand as I listen to Diann!  People who don’t know you that well or don’t understand about steroids, chemo and the impact they have on your mouth and moods really don’t know what to do with you!

If your loved one is going through chemo, they really cannot help or stop their behavior!  Chemo and drugs took the filters away.  The filters do come back, but it just takes awhile. And in the meantime, the anger helps them deal with the suffering they are experiencing.   Laugh with them, cry with them, and understand their moods and behavior.  It is not easy, but do it anyway!

Please check out my online store http://www.hellocourage.com by clicking on the hats! Many great summer sun and swim hats for everyone, not just cancer patients!

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Adriamycin Cytoxan AC Chemo – Understood Less Than Five Percent

My only sibling, my sister, Diann just had her first Adriamycin Cytoxan (AC Chemo) Infusion this past week for Stage 3 Breast Cancer.  This drug is so hard it is called “Red Devil” and “Red Death.”  It was beyond challenging for me to watch her get the tubes of Adriamycin Cytoxan pushed into her veins in the same chemo chairs that I was sitting.  Five days into her first infusion, Diann called me with deep emotion in her voice.  “Denise, I owe you an apology.  I’ve been thinking about this.  I had less than a FIVE PERCENT understanding of what you were going through during chemotherapy.”  Lessthan5%graph

Looking at that graph put things into perspective for me.  Now, Diann was with me often during my own chemo struggles – she was there for Mastectomy surgery, for port placement, several times to infusion, to Oncology checkups, she cleaned my house, she drove me places when I was too weak to do so, and she called me several times a day every day for the duration of my treatment.  And after all that, the fact that she understood what chemo was like less than 5% amazed me and brought much clarity.

If you are going through Adriamycin Cytoxan Chemotherapy or any chemotherapy right now — be encouraged when family, friends, and strangers say what seems like stupid stuff to you, don’t offer to do anything to help you, or ignore you out of their fears. Remember my sister’s words:  “I had less than a FIVE PERCENT understanding of what you were going through during chemotherapy.”  Perhaps it is your husband, your child, your mother or your best friend who has abandoned you.  Try to give them the benefit of the doubt, because they absolutely have no idea what you are going through.  Chemotherapy is one lonely road.

My words to women going through Adriamycin Cytoxan Chemotherapy always include this:  “No one can understand what you are going through no matter how kind or compassionate they are unless they have been through it.”  My trusted sister’s words to me made this even more clear.  I hope it helps you as well.

Diann has amazed me thus far exhibiting a determination and strength that make me wonder if I had half of what she has.   I was always been a medical sissy up until cancer, so her stamina has shocked me!  Diann has what it takes to get through Chemo. But it is just so damn hard.  Diann is more than strong.  She has been going into work for 5 hours per day on weekdays, has already learned you have to store up what little energy you have, and have to rest or you will just pass out in a heap.  She told me she felt like a little child today when she either had to lay her head on her desk and sleep or go home. She went home.  Diann has learned that you have to save up all your energy for the day to just stop for milk since going to a grocery store seems almost impossible.  This morning she told me she thought about a small grocery store in her neighboring town that is about one-fourth the size of the mega grocery stores.  Diann was excited to see if she could pick up orange juice and bread and felt that store might come in very handy.

If you are going through chemo, you definitely understand about how daunting grocery stores seem!  You will make it through!  You and Diann can do this.  You can get to the other side.  If you feel like giving up today, keep going.  Tomorrow will be better.

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Diann will be shaving her head after her next infusion since on average the hair starts to go 14 to 17 days after chemo begins. Thankfully, she has a good selection of caps and scarves from my online store  http://www.hellocourage.com to get her through her bald days. I told her being bald will be better than she imagines. Thinking about it is the most difficult part.