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I start chemotherapy and learn another lesson


See these people?

I don't know anything about them other than they are the faces of people who had chemotherapy.

I found them by searching Web pages because about six days after starting my own chemotherapy on February 26, I began to realize how foolish my greatest aversion to the treatment had been.

Back in September, when I was about to start my ketoconazole treatment and learned that there could be hair loss, I blatantly recorded my concerns. I even went and got a short haircut, in some overly-dramatic act of macho bravado that made me feel that I was prepared for the worst.


Nothing happened. I had no hair loss on the keto treatment and so, of course, it just continued to grow.

When it was apparent that the keto wasn't going to bite and my PSA climbed from 800 to 1400 and then 1700, we stopped the keto and I accepted that chemo was next. It was not an easy decision. I had tried the keto in the hopes of forestalling chemo because admitting to chemo was like admitting that I had run out of options.

So, on February 26, I got my first Taxotere chemo treatment. The pharmacy screwed up on my Calcitriol prescription so I wasn't able to take it the day before. (I guess they couldn't believe that anyone would take that much.) But I did have the steroids to take and they loaded me up on anti-nausea medications and some Benadryl (for skin irritation) and then I got the Taxotere.

I won't go into the specifics. I've started a Chemo Journal that will seek to record all of those details each week. (I'm due for six treatments and then a week or two break, before possibly getting more.) A link to it is at the bottom of this page. What I want to record here is my new view of chemotherapy. Do remember that no two chemos are the same, nor are the reactions of individuals. But I think what I learned is important enough to relay, in case there is anyone else who might have similar predisposed aversions.


Let's start by admitting the obvious: chemo is not fun. Depending on the drug (and the person), there are a wide variety of side effects that can happen. My view was that I would wake up bald and spend the rest of my time upchucking (vomiting). Neither happened. That doesn't mean it won't but about six days after my first treatment (I had another on March 6), I began to realize how foolish and -- dare I say "immature" -- I had been wasting so much time worrying about hair loss. I have advancing prostate cancer and my worry about my next treatment is my coif. Hello?

It was about six days out that it began to sink in and I remembered seeing (usually women in some TV documentary) the faces of people who went through their treatments, lost their hair and smiled, including pre-teen kids. And it began to dawn on me that if women and kids managed this treatment, what in the hell was I doing by spending my time whining and worrying that I am going to have a chrome dome?

It was actually embarrassing to realize it.

I also have to remind myself that (other than the keto which, although it is not really a hormone therapy can be viewed in a similar light), the chemo is my first real change of treatment since I was diagnosed back in November, 1999, and I approached it like a complete newbie with fears and prejudices, rather than solid information. I let it play to strange values (hair?) and disregarded what SHOULD be important in my life and I failed to draw on the experiences of others who had the treatment.


In that sense of the word (and some may take this as an insult), I realized that I was like some guy who is so worried about his sexual performance that he lets it determine his choice of treatment. To those of us who have gone through and to the other side of that issue, it is can be a foolish attitude and I wrote extensively about that. But I failed to carry it forward into my new treatment and THAT is my lesson, a very important lesson.

That is why those faces on this page are important. I don't know what happened to each of them and I am sure there were times when they weren't smiling as much but we can learn from the examples set by others who go before us. The choice is which examples to use: the ones that play to our fears or the ones that tell us that we can meet a challenge and perhaps even gain by it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not in good shape. As I write this, I'm fighting some serious pain flare and coming off the steroid flush. But by ridding myself of stupid, illogical fears, I am better able to deal with the real issues that I have to face. I can think in terms of actual side effects and how to handle them or work around them, rather than wringing my hands over fears that do nothing but waste my time and energy and screw up my thinking and I can't afford that. Cancer gives one enough to think about without needless cluttering.

It's sort of like Life, isn't it? (smile)


References cited:
My Chemotherapy Journal
My September worries about hair loss are here and here
I even brought it up on 2/19, as I prepared for chemo
Click on individual photos to go to the Web site.

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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.