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Cancer Chronicles 7: (The Ten Plagues of Chemo Treatment)

Not to gross you all out, but for those who are curious about what chemo can do to your system, below are some of the symptoms that I am suffering from:

1. An intermittent cough accompanied by phlegm

2. Fungal infection of nails, both hands and feet

3. Tingling, numbness and pain on finger tips and ends of toes. At times, the pain was so sever it was difficult to walk.

4. Infections including yeast, mouth stores and eye infection and running a low grade temperature

5. Stomach problems including diarrhea, constipation, passing out while trying to move my bowels (resulting in waking up on the floor with my head on the bathtub and a black and blue eye), indigestion, stomach aches, burping from both ends

6. Eye tearing, sometimes very severe and nose dripping. I frequently wake up with my eyes glued shut.

7. Losing all my hair (I was lucky that I kept my eyebrows and eyelashes

8. All types of pains including in the hip joint that was replaced causing me to limp

9. Metallic taste in mouth causing food to taste like metal or cardboard

10. Feeling weak, dizzy and rubbery-legged. After the first chemo, I had three good days and then five days in bed. By the fourth chemo, I had three good days followed by two weeks in bed. Two more chemo treatments to go and I expect that I will be too weak to get out of bed for most of the time. Some days just getting up and taking a shower is all I can manage.

The pluses: (If you have minuses there must be pluses, right ? :))

1. Lots of offers for help from expected and unexpected places, especially people praying for me.

2. A charitable organization gives me a free house cleaning once a month for three months. They sent three ladies to do whatever I wanted in the house for two hours on each visit.

3. I don’t have to cut my hair or shave my legs

4. I have read more books in the past few months than I did the entire last year, and I love to read and I especially love to read without feeling guilty.

5. My husband, who generally lives in Israel, pledged to stay with me throughout the treatments. Last year I visited him twice for a total of 15 weeks and he visited me twice for a total of 13 weeks. This year we will be together for approximately 50 weeks.

6. Said husband does the laundry and grocery shopping as well as supplying me with a cup of lemon grass tea every day (Israeli doctors tout this as cancer curing) and planted a vegetable and herb garden in the back yard.

7. Friends bring me home cooked food and books to read

8. Before chemo, I always drove to NJ to visit my children and grandchildren, but this month my son came with two of his children to Cincinnati and we had a wonderful visit. Next, I am expecting my daughter to visit with her son.

9. I have never felt closer or more loved by my Maker.

10. I feel closer to, and appreciate more, my wonderful friends.

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Cancer Chronicles 6

During all the testing and doctor visits, emails were coming in fast and furious asking when I would be returning to Israel. I had met so many interesting people on the last trip, people that I felt very connected to and wanted to build relationships with. I could not answer them. Nor could I answer anyone in Cincinnati, or New Jersey, or elsewhere about our plans until I told my children about my breast cancer. And I was determined to tell them in person.

We arranged to visit my children in New Jersey immediately after Passover. I had received my first chemo treatment on a Wednesday and Thursday afternoon I had to come back for a shot to prevent nausea. That meant driving to N.J. on Friday, something I hated to do because there was always a risk of not getting there before Shabbat started.

We got up about 4:30am and were on the road at 5:30am. I am used to doing this 11-12 hour trip with very few stops and arriving fairly full of energy. Not this time. I was bone tired and so was Mick.

The next morning I was too tired to walk to shul. I stayed with my daughter-in-law and my newest grandson, Charlie, until it was time to go to my daughter-in-law’s cousin’s house for lunch. After two hours at the table, Mick and I begged off and went back to my son’s house and both passed out.

The tension was building up. Finally Shabbat was over, the children were put to bed, my son and daughter-in-law looked at us expectantly, knowing that something was definitely up.

Since my entire life I have been exceedingly healthy (thank G-d), and full of energy, it was a shock to them, but they were calm, asked pertinent questions and asked what they could do to be supportive.

The next morning, Mick and I drove to my daughter’s house to share the news with her.

For a moment I want to regress and share a story about my children that occurred when they were about twelve years old. It was the Christmas season and I had to work from early in the morning to late at night, as my store was in a mall. I had made a tuna casserole early in the morning and left directions for them put it in the oven.
I got a frantic call from my daughter, saying that the oven was on fire and that she wanted to call the fire department but that her brother would not let her. Knowing the Chicken Little and Mr. Cool dynamic, I calmly asked if she had shut the oven door and asked to speak to David.

I remembered that I had asked one of them the night before to put the chicken away that I had made in the broiler. I guessed that the chicken had been refrigerated but that the greasy pan had been left in the stove. It had.
My son came to the phone and within seconds said, “Oh wait a minute, mom, the other phone is ringing.” I hung up and dialed again. He assured me everything was fine.
Of course, the real story was in the middle. Grease was all over the kitchen and embedded in the ceiling fan. No amount of scrubbing was ever able to remove that grease.

So Saturday night all was calm. Sunday morning all was emotional. Both were with lots of love and support.
We were now headed back. Suddenly I had aches and pains everywhere. Shooting, throbbing, aching, twitching, debilitating and nerve wracking. It was a long drive home and my bed never looked so good as it did late that night when we finally reached Cincinnati.

On the next visit to the chemo center, when I told the nurse about it, she asked what possessed me to make a trip like that after chemo. I felt like asking her, what possessed her not to warn me about some of the symptoms. I had been hearing about people who sailed through chemo and were able to work the entire time. Surprise, surprise.