Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Six Paclitaxel Tips for Breast Cancer Gals

If you've already endured four cycles of epirubicin ("The red devil"--it turns your pee red, or rather neon-popsicle orange) and its sidekick, the equally devilish cyclophosphamide, you may feel teary and sleepless upon arriving for your first of twelve weekly doses of Paclitaxel (aka Taxol in the USA). But my experience has relieved me. Paclitaxel's no picnic, but does not cause the completely flattening effects of the first cycle of chemo. I felt sleepy, because of the stuff they add to prevent an allergic reaction, but had no other side effects besides a slightly flushed face. I'm not back to my usual energy levels, but can imagine returning to ballet and tap classes now.

Six tips for Paclitaxel:

(1)You won't feel that bad during the treatment, but toward the end you'll start to feel drowsy. A friend who had been through the whole 12 weeks of Paclitaxel called that phase of treatment "The sleepy time." Some women go comatose. Why? Apart from the obvious, that chemo wears you out? They give you an anti-allergenic whose side effect is . . .you guessed it . . .fatigue.

(2) Which is why every site dealing with Paclitaxel advises you "not to operate heavy machinery." I never do. Even when I don't have cancer.

(3) The facial flush and forgetfulness will still be there. But you're used to those by now, right?

(4) Seems like the worst side effects--the extreme fatigue, the body or bone aches, come a few days after the treatment. Just when you were feeling fine after the epi-and-cylo. But you still don't feel quite as bad.

(5) Some websites tell you not to drink coffee. But my doctor says coffee is okay. Since coffee would be much harder for me to give up than red wine, I'm drinking my morning coffee. With sugar, too. 

(6) Ice packs on your hands and feet help prevent neuropathy (numbness in the hands and feet). Bring along thick socks to wear on your feet. The nurses usually provide the cold packs. When your fingers start to burn with the cold, take them out for a few moments. If you can tolerate at least 20 minutes (I did 40, with a break in between) you may avoid the numbness.

P.S. Except around the brain, of course . . . .

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