When Martha Met Taxol

This is the first moment I’ve had all day to sit and reflect with my thoughts – we’ve been busy because today is treatment day. I genuinely look forward to this day every week because of a few reasons:

  1. It means more medicine going in to aid the fight of this horrible disease
  2. One step closer to a cure
  3. Precious and oh so important time with family and friends who accompany me to my appointment
  4. Reassurance from the medical staff about not only my progress but the reasons for my  attitude to remain positive!
  5. My weekly cancer countdown picture – I love taking these… they feel like the biggest checkmark and since my to-do list lately is pretty small, my “need to cross something off” urge is satisfied.

Since I’m a full week into my new treatment, I thought I’d explain a little bit about the new drug I’m taking and how it’s different from my first portion of treatment. I’m currently 2 doses into a 12 week regimen with treatments every Wednesday. Piclitaxel or Taxol as we call it is a chemotherapy drug that is used to treat breast cancer and actually a bunch of other cancers too. Taxol interferes with the growth of cancer cells in the body by slowing their growth and eventually killing them. The biggest difference with this drug versus the two I was on initially is that Taxol does not as greatly impact my “good cells” – so my white, red and platelet counts don’t get beat up quite as much. Meaning…. less fatigue, less side effects, and overall a happier Martha.

To see the difference, my P.A. and I walked through my counts during the appointment today and she showed me that all of my levels are essentially normal – just 6 days after my first infusion. (Normally it would be a full week, but the 4th of July kind of messed with our timing.) Whereas with A/C, my counts would have been completely diminished and I would have been really dragging my feet. During my last round of A/C I ended up receiving fluids twice to help me get back in the game and to be honest, I was still a hot mess even with those added in.

The actual process of the infusion on treatment day is a little different to start with Taxol, as some people actually have pretty crazy allergic reactions to it. My wonderful nurse Jackie pulled out quite the “crash cart” of anti-drugs last week which luckily, I didn’t end up needing. Because of these potential reactions, everything moves verrrry slowly to see how my body tolerates the drugs. Luckily after two infusions, the process should get a little speedier.

Some of the common side effects of Taxol are pretty similar to A/C: fatigue, nausea and vomiting, GI issues, mouth sores, trouble breathing, hair loss etc. The new and fun side effects to “look forward” to with Taxol include all of the above plus bone aches, joint pain and the biggest and scariest: peripheral neuropathy.

Neuropathy is damage caused to the peripheral nerves – typically fingers and toes. People with peripheral neuropathy generally describe the pain as stabbing, burning or tingling. Luckily, I have my age working for me here with my good circulation and a young healthy-ish body – my doctor doesn’t think this should affect me very much but just to be sure, we are taking precautions, because unfortunately, sometimes damage to the nerves can be permanent. The thought of not being able to type this blog out because of loss of feeling in my fingers make me sick to my stomach so fingers and toes crossed I can prevent it. (Bad joke, I know) 😉

My strategies for preventing neuropathy:

  • Ice therapy – this means I wear ice packs on my toes and fingers before and during treatment, which lasts about 3 hours. My feet feel like I’m at a Packer game at Lambeau in January (best possible thought I can compare it to, am I right?) and my fingers end up turning purple, but the thought behind ice therapy is this: if the Taxol can’t get to those nerve endings because there is no circulation going there… perhaps it can’t harm them as much?
  • L-Glutamine – I got this suggestion from my wonderful dietitian Alison – I know she’ll read this post so I have to give her a big shoutout. She’s pretty amazing and has a great story to tell so if you’re at all interested in a vegan lifestyle or just being a healthier human, check her out here: Wholesome LLC. Anyway, L-Glutamine is an amino acid that has been shown to have a protective affect on nerves. It basically forms a cover over your nerves that can help to deflect any damage caused by the chemotherapy. It comes in powder form and I can easily add it to drinks, my morning smoothie or anything liquid.
  • Essential oils. I’ve done a ton of research about oils that can help with neuropathy and fixed myself up a roller of goodies including Frankincense, Geranium, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Tea Tree and a few others, which I apply on my fingers and toes at bedtime. I also slather on lots of tea tree oil directly to my nail beds,which contains anti-inflammatory properties. Yay oils!
IMG_1754 2
Sexy kinda… I wear these glamorous socks to keep my feet from actually freezing off.

So far, my side effects have been minimal – praise! Out of 6 days my first cycle, only one of them was a day I felt “off” and experienced noticeable fatigue and what I’ve come to call as “down”. Go figure it would be over the weekend of all days… but I should just shut it and be thankful the other days were all really good. My brain fog has seemed to subside (biggest complaint about A/C for sure), and I feel like a human again. Some of my breasties who are blessed to be ahead of me in this journey had told me that Taxol was like a walk in the park compared to A/C, and while I’m starting to believe them I’m still going to proceed with caution.

I’m thankful that my body is embracing chemotherapy well and reacting to it, I’m thankful I have not had a single side effect related to food, my appetite or anything inhibiting my ability to eat and enjoy food – which would be absolutely devastating. I’m thankful that I can interact with Dane pretty much as normally as I use to with the exception of being out in the hot sun – but luckily the kiddo likes Disney movies and snuggling. I’m super thankful my eyebrows and eyelashes are warrior queens and are still hanging on for dear life (although thinning a bit.) I’m also thankful that as of today, I am 10 weeks through this chemo journey – and only have 10 to go… halfway feels damn good.

I think next week I’ll do a little post on a typical “treatment day” – what do you guys think? Just something to look forward to. Thanks as always for joining on this ride, I appreciate you more than you even know. xo

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Wisconsin wife and mama to Dane (4) and expecting baby girl in May. Navigating life post-cancer. Lover of food, red wine and laughs. Forever grateful for my wonderful life.

One thought on “When Martha Met Taxol

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