Cheeemo! Cheee-eee-ee mo!
My rounds done and me wan' go home (Apologies to Harry Belafonte.)
I had neoadjuvant chemotherapy before I had my cystectomy and prostatectomy.
What is neoadjuvant chemotherapy?
Neoadjuvant therapy means I had chemo administered before my primary cancer treatment – the surgery. The idea is the chemo before the surgery will kill any free-range cancer and then the surgery gets what’s left. When the chemo reduces the tumor, they call it “downstaging”. According to my doctors, the neoadjuvant chemo worked great and downstaged my cancer.
Even though it was really a failure.
Chemo covers a lot of ground
Let me be really clear. Each person’s experience with cancer is their own. There is no “average,” and how I react to something and how you react to something can (and will) vary by a wide margin. However, there are similarities that we can use as guideposts along all our individual journeys.
Some of my side effects from chemotherapy
I can tell you about the burning sensation the chemo chemical Gemzar has on the inside of your veins as it enters your body.
I can tell you how the chemo can reduce your red and white blood cell count, and the drug they give you to stimulate your bone marrow to increase red cell production makes you ache every single place you have bones in your body (psst – that means everywhere.)
I can also tell you that chemo brain is real.
And in my case, chemo made sherbet about the only thing I could taste for three months.
Each of those weird side effects is a story in its own right. But the one I want to tell now involves orange pee and unbelievable pain.
Pain like no other
For me – the first couple of rounds of chemo were pretty standard. I did have a bout of low red cells and had to do the drug that makes your bones hurt. But then I started getting bladder spasms. I didn’t know they were one of the side effects of chemo. When I got the spasms, I was shocked at how painful they were. I read that some women with severe bladder spasms compared the muscle contractions to severe menstrual cramps and even labor pains experienced during childbirth. Hat tip to all you mothers out there. It HURT.
To ease the pain, they gave me Phenazopyridine.
Fun fact. It makes your urine orange.
And I’m not talking about a couple shades darker than normal urine color orange. I’m talking Jersey Shore tan orange or Carrot Top hair orange. This isn’t orange juice orange. It’s traffic cone orange.
Sure – they mention it may turn your urine orange – but when it comes out you cannot believe your eyes!
IT IS ORANGE!
Change in direction
Unfortunately, the pill didn’t work. The bladder spasms weren’t going away. The cancer in my bladder was shrinking somewhat, but it was pulling on the bladder walls because I guess cancer isn’t very pliable. Because of that, they moved my surgery up by about 2 months.
Talk about having no time to react.
But – because of all that, I’m still here. And for now...
My pee is now yellow.
My bladder is woman-made (one of my doctors was female).
I never have to worry about bladders spasms again.
And you, my friend, are a survivor.
How are you raising bladder cancer awareness this month?