It’s only appropriate that today I have a war metaphor for you. No more playing nice on either side right now in my cancer battle. I had wished that the taxol section of treatment would be all kisses and roses. Or at least just dry skin and funky toenails. But, my expectations have not been met. And, after this third treatment I have had all kinds of side effects and realized that although this is not war in the traditional sense, my body is at war – with itself and with cancer.
So here’s my big analysis – the AC portion of the treatment was more of the traditional battle in early WWII – blitzkrieg, giant bomb runs, then a moment to recover. For me, it totally sucked but it was up and down and the ups were almost normal for me when I wasn’t battling a sinus infection. As the war has raged on, my body is no longer given time to respond – the Pacific theater: battle over battle for one square inch. I thought the fatigue would be less, but instead I sleep as much if not more. I thought that the nausea would be gone, but instead I feel slightly off all the time.
And the last three nights it has been a paradox – I am exhausted but can’t get to sleep. The frustration has been building. And then, the coupe de gras – restless leg syndrome. For those of you who didn’t enjoy this side effect during pregnancy, here is the web md definition: People with restless legs syndrome have uncomfortable sensations in their legs (and sometimes arms or other parts of the body) and an irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve the sensations. The sensations are difficult to describe: they are an uncomfortable, “itchy,” “pins and needles,” or “creepy crawly” feeling in the legs.
Yup, super fun. And, I swore. Most of you know me, I don’t swear. But there were four letter words flying. Really? Now?
I am learning that there are no rules here. The best I can do is hunker down and ride it out. The good news is that there is an end already determined so that makes it unlike a real war. The good news is that I will not be struck dead for those times that I do try to get out of the trench (like an Anniversary dinner on Friday), But I must ride it out and because of my small battle I have a greater empathy for everyone who has gone before – in battle and in chemo.
I also was curious about the specifics of my battle – what was happening on a molecular level that was making me so tired, nauseous, dry, and shaky. I thought I would share.
Paclitaxel is a type of chemotherapy drug known as a taxane (derived from plants). It is thought to work by interfering with microtubules, which are part of the internal scaffolding needed by cells when they are dividing into 2 cells. Over time, this leads to cell death. Because cancer cells divide more quickly than normal cells, they are more likely than normal cells to be affected by this drug.
So there you have it. I cannot build cells to replace those that die – good and bad. I know how amazingly complex the body is and how amazingly complex this war is, I now know more about why my body is tired all the time. Understanding is one step closer to acceptance.