6 Rounds, Brutal and Ineffective

Cancer is defined by abnormal cells that divide and multiply without control. Chemotherapy drugs work by targeting rapidly dividing cells within the body and killing them off.  But they target ALL rapidly dividing cells, cancerous and non cancerous, causing many and often severe side effects. Hair follicles, blood cells, bone marrow, cells in the mouth and intestines, and even healthy brain cells are commonly affected. 

The nurse went over all the possible side-effects of chemotherapy with me before I started. And I read the handouts diligently.

But everyone’s body handles the drugs differently, (and there are a host of different chemo cocktails used for different types of cancer) so, as attentive as I was to the possibilities, I couldn't know what was in store for me over the coming 5 months.  

I certainly didn't realize at the time that my handout of possible side-effects would become a virtual check-list of what I was to undergo - those, and then some. Each “or” was to be replaced with “and.” 

You will not have constipation or diarrhea. You will have constipation that awakens in you cold-sweats and then you will have gut-wrenching diarrhea. When you've run through the gamut of nausea, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, heartburn and digestive issues and think you’re coming up for air, a mouth fungus will crop up, and then a skin rash. And if you still think you’re in control of the parade, the labor pains and frighteningly profuse menstrual bleeding surely have yet to commence. 

But I get ahead of myself. I’ve only just stepped into the storm. Months of getting worse and better in spells lies ahead.

And then one day, 6 months from now, when everything but the baldness is behind me, I’ll sit down with my surgical pathology report and read a bolded comment that states,

No evidence of neoadjuvant chemotherapy effect is seen on the invasive carcinoma and DCIS. Tumor cell viability is >95%...
In other words, the chemotherapy did not appear have any positive effect on the cancer cells. It didn’t work.

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