Personal Chemotherapy Experiences

And she's telling me, she says, "Dolores, you can lose your hair." And I'm going, but "I don't worry about that. You know, that's what wigs are for." She said, "You could lose your eyebrows." I said, "That's what Maybelline is for, you know." But I think at this point that she did not understand that what I knew what was going to happen I was comfortable and I thoroughly accepted.

When you talk about chemotherapy, they're very quick to tell you about all of the anti-nausea medicine that will help control the adverse effects. In my situation, they didn't work all the time. I experienced nausea and diarrhea. The positive part is that I lost twenty some pounds, and that despite the fact that I lost my hair I didn't have to shave my legs, so that we decided was a positive. High dose chemotherapy, its an invasion on your body. Its meant to kill cells. It makes you sick. Would I go through chemotherapy again if it was determined that I needed it? I wouldn't look forward to it, but yeah, I would do it again.

The first session I thought, oh, this is a piece of cake, but it's the second one that will really put the whammy on you. A friend told me, "Be sure you take some mints with you when you go into the room because you can taste medication." They do an IV drip, but it was so very potent. I remember I could smell it, I could taste it, and when I went to the bathroom I could smell it in my urine. It was just that strong.

So I was on this research team for two years. They monitored me very closely. And then I went back to work. I have a particular client to service and they'd say "Geneva, it's time for your shot. You make sure you get in here, now." And several times I said "No way. My people come first." So one day they said, "Geneva, it's your time to come in again." And I thought, but I'm beginning to feel so good. But I did go in and I told them "I'm getting better, I don't need this anymore." I said "This is my last time," and my doctor just looked at me. He didn't even say okay or anything, he just walked off. Probably thought I was going to die or something. I got better.

But as far as chemotherapy, I went to see a psychiatrist before I had chemotherapy, and I went through imagery, and I went through hypnosis to help me during the treatment. The treatment took four hours and it was an IV drip. What I would do would be to focus on the chemotherapy going through me getting rid of all the cancer, or healing my body instead of the fact that I was going to be sick afterwards.

Chemotherapy you have every other week. You take chemotherapy for six months. So that's twelve treatments. I usually get them on Friday so I can rest Saturday, Sunday, and go back to work on Monday. So first week, Friday get shot and they give me a break, and then third week go back to the clinic and get a second shot, and then every month like that. Now sometimes when my white blood cells go down too low, they turn me down. They say, "Lily, come back next week. You have to have strong enough white blood cells to take that medicine." But I was turned away just once and I said "What can I do to boost up my white blood cells?" Nothing you can do, it just builds by itself.

That leads to another very common side effect that isn't talked about a lot, and that is that my brain was fuzzy. Something happens and you are not thinking clearly. And that was another hard thing. So I was very careful on the job to make sure that anything that was questionable I had a colleague also look at.

 © 1999 Michigan State University
Communication Technology Laboratory