Chemotherapy: What I wish I’d known

I recently finished my last chemotherapy treatment at MD Anderson in Sugar Land. It was a milestone that, at one point, I honestly thought I’d never reach. In November 2016, I was diagnosed with stage II, HER2+ breast cancer. When I found out that I needed chemotherapy, I did everything I could to prepare myself – or so I thought. Everybody’s chemotherapy experience is different As I learned during my chemotherapy treatments, many people may have similar experiences, but that doesn’t mean it will hold true for you. I was completely caught off guard by my body’s reaction to the Herceptin, Perjeta, Taxotere and Carboplatin chemotherapy cocktail I was prescribed. Most people told me I could expect side effects like nausea and diarrhea to last a couple of days after each infusion. But I developed both cholera (a dangerous infectious bacterial disease of the small intestine) and Clostridium difficile (or C. diff), another type of bacterial infection. The two caused unbearable diarrhea and nausea that left me severely dehydrated and hospitalized for a week. Even though Perjeta was eventually dropped from my chemotherapy cocktail, my side effects were still intense. I also suffered from extreme fatigue, weight loss and neuropathy. And to make matters worse, my C. diff infection kept redeveloping, and each time, the diarrhea and nausea returned sooner and with greater intensity. I was hospitalized four times. There are ways to alleviate your side effects After my fourth chemotherapy infusion, I was ready to give up. But my oncologist, Dr. Janet Tu, and a physician assistant at MD Anderson’s Emergency Center encouraged me to keep fighting. They...