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.


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 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.



  1. First of all, let me say how sorry I am that your sister is having to go through this, too. 😦 What a great reminder this article is. A reminder for us to be patient with the “outsiders” because they have no idea. My dad, especially, would say things to me that would just infuriate me. Yet I knew he was so worried and only wanted to help. In fact, here we are 2 years after my diagnosis and without fail, he is washing, peeling, and cutting up vegetables every single day for my juicing. But boy did he frustrate me! I appreciate the reminder. And I didn’t go through AC. They didn’t deem it necessary since I was on palliative care, only. But I had Taxol. And, boy, the thought of walking through a parking lot to just get into a store was overwhelming. There was a time that I couldn’t walk at all. So I’m glad your sister found a smaller store. 🙂 She sounds like an amazing person. She will be in my prayers.

    P.S. I was unpacking some boxes yesterday and came across all my old chemo caps! Your inventory has sure exploded since then! Congratulations! If you send me some business cards I’ll hand them out when I go in for port flushes! 🙂

  2. Hi Denise,

    I read your blog all the time because I subscribe to your feed, and I try to leave comments but for some reason my password doesn’t work and I’m afraid to change it for fear I won’t get back into my own blog if I change it…..BUT……..I wanted to let you know how much your posts resonate with me.

    I too had Adriamycin/Cytoxan and can so relate to everything in this post. I’m sure you’re a great support to your sister and I wish her all the best. I’m 5 years out from my diagnosis and feel so strong but I can remember those days when it was a task just to empty out the dishwasher or the washing machine.

    Give all my best to your sister, she’ll be in my thoughts.


    Claudia ( )

    Claudia Schmidt


    21 Fieldstone Drive / Clinton, NJ 08809


    O: 908-735-7455

  3. Dianne, one word: Turmeric root. Ok that’s two words. I found out after I got my nutri-bullet RX that turmeric is a strong are pineapple, sour red cherries and mango. Turmeric root can be found at most health food, coops and whole food stores. Chop off about half a pinkies worth, no need to peel, add some ginger root, blueberries, mango, pineapple, maybe an orange and/or some banana. Then add water, a heaping teaspoon each of cocoa powder and coconut oil, some cinnamon, a little turmeric powder and honey then blend. I swear this got me through the ” red devil” and now on taxol, only 2 doses left. Experiment with the different fruits and amount. Add nuts, or kale…whatever. But definitely the turmeric root, as that is also good for your liver, which chemo is not. My liver enzymes, specifically my ALT has come down dramatically, and that is the only thing I have changed. I actually found the Taxol more problematic than adriamycin-cytoxsin as I have had severe joint and muscle pains. I believe the smoothie I make every morning has helped that, cause I switched from turmeric powder to the root, and that is also when my ALT started coming down, and is now around 21 from 29 with a late spike after my fourth AC dose to 41!
    I wish you and your siste the best. She had it right. No one really understands what the surgery, port and chemo really do to a girl. I have a friend who seems more concerned about my hair loss-which is growing back anyway. Less maintainence in the AM before work! What could be wrong with that?
    The whole grocery store thing is a drag, but going to the produce and frozen fruits section, planning different combos of ingredients is fun. I wake up every morning, with as much sleep as I can get, and go to work on my smoothie, and feel pretty good the rest of the day. Have not missed work except for treatments, mow my lawn, garden etc. I credit the power of turmeric root. I really do. Best wishes, Sarah

  4. That’s so true……. I absolutely no idea about chemo and it’s effects. All this has opened up a brand new world and I’m much more empathetic. I hate that I feel resentful about my friends and family dropping off and being forgotten. I’m sorry about your sister but it’s awesome that she has you on her side. I have one A/C left (and have already finished Taxol.) My fingers keep missing the keys as I type and it’s incredibly painful (thank you neuropathy!) Thank you for your post…

  5. Thank you for putting this helpless feeling into words for all of us going thru AC chemo then on to Taxol… Perfection and exactly my experience.

  6. Bless you both…
    My mom will be starting that very regimen in the 28th of this month…

    I’m trying to read as much up on this so I can know what to expect and learn how I can help her…

    May God be your strength…and keep fighting that fight!

  7. I will start my A/C chemo for IDC Triple Negative in 2 weeks, and I just devoured every word you wrote. Thank you, thank you for your honesty and for giving me a good guide for what to expect. I am definitely terrified of my side effects, but information is power!!

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