After 8 weeks of A/C chemo, it was time to switch to 12 weeks of Taxol chemo. I was grateful, as the build up of A/C meant I kept feeling worse as time went on and I was told that Taxol wasn’t quite as harsh. I was ready for a bit of relief.
For Taxol, there is a high rate of allergic reaction to the solvent that the chemo is in. This means that they typically give IV Benadryl 30 minutes to an hour before your chemo. If you’ve ever had IV benadryl, there’s a very particular feeling that accompanies it and it becomes impossible to stay awake. Sometimes I’d try to stay up and chat with my chemo neighbor, if someone was in the room with me, and I’d hit a point where I’d have to tell them that I couldn’t keep talking. It started with heavy eyes and then felt like I was slowly losing control of my facial muscles to the point where I felt like I was slurring my words. Then I knew it was time to give in and sleep. Before I knew it, I’d wake up near the end of treatment and be done! I couldn’t complain and honestly enjoyed the deep sleep for a few hours.
Over the course of Taxol treatment, I’d say it gave me fewer side effects and was generally more tolerable. I felt the normal fatigue, aches and minor neuropathy. Toward the last few weeks though I got a weird rash on my hands, just from my wrist to my knuckles, that neither the doctors nor a dermatologist could figure out. But for most of the days in between treatments, I felt relatively normal. So much so, in fact, that I worked a part-time job as a food runner in a restaurant where my best friend worked.
I think maintaining a sense of normalcy was good for me. I spent the first two months of treatment mostly at home resting and this new chemo allowed me to get moving and be more social again! It felt good, despite me struggling with the idea of leaving my favorite place/’job’ in Rwanda to work a part-time, minimum wage job. Everyone else was moving forward in their careers, as we should be in our mid 20s, while I was stuck. My struggle was less about that specific job and more about how cancer made me feel stagnant. I just had to keep reminding myself that it was all temporary and my health was more important than my career.