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.