Chemotherapy is Not as Bad as I Expected

“You’re really looking good,” Billy raved as we huffed and puffed uphill on Heather Street after a walk through the Olympic Village and along the seawall. Beneath my puffer jacket and fleece vest, I carried my baby bottle infuser now half full of chemo drugs as it fed into the porta-catheter in my chest. My ninth chemotherapy treatment was just yesterday, but I felt a sunny afternoon in Vancouver was too good to let pass without a long walk. Bill is quite attentive and offers to help me up the hill. I smile. “Thanks honey, I’m fine.”

And I do feel fine overall. At this point I feel like I’ve mastered this chemo thing with all the anti-nausea meds, symptoms, blood testing that goes on. However, on three different occasions I barfed while sitting in the chair, but I think that’s because I didn’t take the pre-session meds at the correct times. After the first session my intestines roiled excruciatingly and laid me up for a day and a half. Later that week, I got quite nauseous, but I recovered quickly after my grandson showed up. 

mari in chair
Greetings from BC Cancer Agency!

Other than that, my symptoms include what I call tingle fingers, toes, and nose known as peripheral neuropathy, which is worse in the cold weather. My digestion used to be quite lumpy, but has improved lately. I used to have diarrhea starting about 5 days post-treatment, but have been using Imodium to plug me up. I was told this drug cocktail would not make my hair fall out, but lately I’ve been pull it out in handfuls. I’ve had a few mouth sores. Every time, my palate is shot for the first week after treatment. And forget icy cold drinks and ice cream. They make my tongue sizzle. Sometimes my balance is thrown off and I get twinges of electricity from my feet. And my nose, oy! It’s running all the time. Sometimes it bleeds a little. On the upside, instead of the dry skin symptom, I think the chemo drugs are making my skin more supple and soft. I sleep for 10-12 hours a night, so no problem with fatigue. Chemo brain, yeah, got that.

What I do have is a fantastic appetite, the loss of which is a famous symptom of chemo. I would have thought the trauma of being starved in the hospital for a week would have worn off by now, but no. I can’t stop thinking about eating. My only problem is overeating and getting it digested. But I’ve gained about 5 pounds in the last month, so yay me! 

Ironically, I think chemotherapy rather becomes me.

My overall feeling of well-being I think is attributed to two things: The first is the advance in medical technology. I think the anti-nausea meds are better than, say 20 years ago, which was when my sister was fighting leukemia. And I believe the drug cocktails are milder and better able to target the tumors. And as my daughter Tara reminds me, I’m lucky to have a super common cancer that doctors know all about now and I believe it being how colon is second to lung in the top ten of cancers. I don’t know when they started with these baby bottle infusers, which I carry in a jaunty shoulder bag for two days after treatment, but it’s like a beer back to a tequila shot. Slower to consume, less strength. I’m spending three and half hours in the chair, twice a month. I remember Cynthia being in the hospital for at least a month, doing her treatments in 1998. So I think this is not your mama’s chemotherapy anymore.

The second thing I think is helping me is all the cannabis I’m consuming. Not smoke so much as dropping cannabis oil isolates of THC/CBD and CBG under my tongue. Coming from the cannabis/hemp industry I quickly got advice from old movement friends, Ruth Shamai and Mikki Norris, who inundated me with new information about cannabinoids (I’d never heard of CBG!) and they recommended bunches of resources.

I made an appointment with Dr. Jeffery Hergenrather in good ole Sebastopol, California, down the road from Forestville. His recommendation was for 150 mg of oil per day – 50mg CBG, 50 mg THC, and 50 mg CBD. He advised taking 50 mg 3 times per day, as in morning, afternoon and night, but I’m sorry. I don’t do mornings. Mornings are for sleep. So instead I do 75 mg twice per day and I have my bottles on my desk behind my computer so I can remember to take them.

my cannabis oils
I’m only working on the front two bottles right now, but for extra sleep I’ll have a bit of the Snake Oil THC.

When I followed up with Dr. Jeff about how good I felt, he said that was likely due to the effects of the cannabis. My sleeping well, good appetite, lack of nausea he said was all boosted by cannabis. But, what I wonder is what it’s doing to kill the tumors. Empirical evidence points to cannabis as a cancer curative, so there’s that possibility. My most recent CT scan showed my tumors are not growing and the cancer is “behaving itself.” My oncologist is exploring whether a little laparoscopy might scrape those well-behaving tumors off my perenium.

So, what’s helping me? Is it the chemo or the cannabis, or both? Who knows?

Again, I’m doing fine. Back to work on WordPress. Getting back to a new novel. Working with Petra on my ghost story. Trying to sell the house in Oliver. Those are all perfect distractions from the cloud on my horizon, and keeping busy helps me pass my days with a sense of hope.

Thanks again to all my friends and family who are rooting for me and helping me get through this. And especially Bill, who has been my warm, fuzzy rock. I wouldn’t feel as good as I do with out you all!

Still, my mom knows nothing about my cancer.

Leave a Reply