Today was my second Taxol chemo treatment. I was apprehensive about it because of the side-effects I experienced at the first treatment when the Benadryl they gave me to reduce the risk of a reaction caused me to be absolutely loopy (and not in a good way). It also caused my feet to have horrible creepy, tingly feelings, like electricity shooting through them. It was seriously not a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
But today’s treatment wasn’t nearly as bad. Since I didn’t have a reaction to my first Taxol infusion, they (“they” being a lovely nurse named Diane who always has a smile on her face) gave me only half the dosage of Benadryl this time. It still made me somewhat drowsy and strange-feeling (and as my brother would say, I am strange), but I felt as though I could still function. And I didn’t fall asleep. I also (thank heavens!) didn’t notice much creepiness going on in my feet. Yea! A small victory, but important considering I have ten more of these treatments ahead of me.
The after-effects of the Taxol drug itself seem to be much less severe than those of the Adriamycin/Cytoxan regimen that I was initially on. The only real side effect I noticed last week was that my nail beds were sore. Evidently Taxol can do a number on your nails and digits, causing the nails to split or fall off, and causing numbness and tingling in your fingers and toes.
I did a little research online and found a product designed to counter these effects in a chemo patient’s hands and feet. It’s called Elasto-Gel and it’s available in both hypothermia mitts and slippers that you wear during your treatment and for 15 minutes before and after. These mitts and slippers are frozen beforehand and keep your extremities cold so that they (in theory, anyway) don’t absorb as much of the chemo drug you’re receiving.
These mitts and slippers aren’t cheap, but my boyfriend convinced me that I should get them, so he ordered me two of each from Amazon. I needed two of each because they only stay cold for 45 minutes, and then you swap them out for a fresh pair from your cooler. So at roughly $100 apiece, we spent $400 on this experiment. But, as my boyfriend says, it’s money well spent if it works.
They arrived yesterday, just in time to pop them in the freezer for a good overnight cooling. This morning, we packed them in my new cooler and placed ice around them before heading off to the hospital where my infusion center is.
So yes, I had a cooler on wheels today to go along with all my other bags, so I really looked like I was heading to the beach instead of a medical appointment. Or maybe I looked like I was wheeling organs through the hospital.
At the appointment, my friend Joy helped me get into my new apparatus. First you place a liner on your hand or foot; these are thin papery liners that are supposed to protect your skin from direct contact with the frozen parts. The foot liners look like those blue surgical booties that doctors slip over their shoes. The mitt liners are white paper “oven mitts.” Both are large, and since my feet are small (5 1/2), the liners are huge on me. But then the Elasto-Gel slipper goes on, and it doesn’t matter that the liner is huge. The slippers are adjustable and once tightened around the back of my foot, they fit pretty snug. The mitts are also adjustable, but don’t feel as snug on my hands as the slippers do on my feet. They kinda looked like boxing gloves; I was ready to step into the ring.
They weren’t as uncomfortable as you would imagine. I thought having frozen hands and feet might be unbearable, but the sensation of cold was different than I’ve experienced before. Normally when my hands and feet are cold, my whole body feels cold, and I’m miserable until I can get them warmed up. But I didn’t notice much discomfort today. I did have a heated throw over the rest of my body, so I’m sure that helped. But even though I could feel the cold on my hands and feet, it didn’t make me feel cold. I was thankful. Being cold is one of the things I really dislike.
The only thing I don’t like about wearing the mitts and slippers during treatment is that they hinder you from doing other things such as eating, drinking, and reading. I also didn’t feel comfortable going to the restroom while wearing them, so I desperately needed to pee when it was all over.
But if they work, I think these inconveniences can be withstood for another ten weeks. I think I can deny myself snacking for an hour or so a week. And as long as I drink before and after, I think I’ll be getting enough liquids. I guess I won’t know if they work for at least a few days. I’m hoping that they’ll at least help keep the side effects to a minimum.
Whether or not the mitts and slippers work, it does appear that my chemo treatments are working. I saw my surgeon Monday at Georgia Breast Care. She did an ultrasound of my tumor, and seems to think that it’s breaking apart and dying off. She said she doesn’t see a “mass” as she once could; it’s quite possible that all that remains is scar tissue and dead tumor. Of course, an MRI will be needed to confirm this at the end of my treatments in ten weeks. If this is shown to be the case on the MRI, I’ll likely be a candidate for lumpectomy. This is the best news I’ve had in quite a while.
To celebrate, I made one of our favorite recipes for dinner tonight: Onion Gravy Cubed Steak and mashed potatoes. This is one of my go-to comfort dishes for fall and winter. It takes an hour and a half to cook in the oven, but as long as you’re not pressed for time, it’s simple and rewarding. As far as I’m concerned, this is the perfect warm-me-up dinner after a day of cold hands and feet, and a much-needed moment of celebration.