When I first heard that I was going to have chemotherapy I pictured one drug, one very strong drug that was used to treat cancer. I envisioned myself bald and extremely sick with side effects. I was quick to learn that this was not the case for me. As I have come to understand it, chemotherapy is a broad term used to describe a variety of treatments and generally involves a combination of medications. (I’m certainly no doctor and a lot of the medical jargon confuses me, but I’m trying to learn as I go!)
The “cocktail” that I receive is known as CyborD. It consists of three medications, cyclophosamide(cy), Bortezomib(bor), and Dexamethasone(D). And I actually tolerate it quite well! Cyclophosamide is a drug which suppresses the immune system. It is used as a chemotherapy drug to slow or stop cell growth. Bortezomib(velcade) is a proteasome inhibitor. Proteasomes are cellular complexes that break down proteins. Sometimes, the proteins that normally kill bad cells are broken down too quickly. Velcade interrupts this process and lets the proteins get the bad guys. Dexamethasone is a steroid. It is an anti inflammatory drug, which minimizes side effects and helps the other medications to work more effectively.
My treatment is planned out in a 28 day schedule. Day 1, 8, 15, and 22. I receive chemotherapy once a week. Here’s what a chemo day looks like for me…..I take dexamethasone first thing in the morning after breakfast. I then spend a few hours in traffic to make the trip to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. On the way I take an anti nausea pill(ondansetron) an hour before my appointment.
Then come the big guns…..the bortezomib(velcade). This drug is administered to me as an injection in my stomach. It sounds much worse than it is; it burns a little as it goes in but it’s over quickly enough.
Then I’m back in traffic! When I get home I have a snack and take the cyclophosamide, which for me comes in the form of 5 pills. At this point I’m normally pretty worn out and like to cuddle up with my boys and binge watch cartoons.
THE SIDE EFFECTS
The list of side effects for each of these medications is long and scary! I have been fairly lucky that mine have been minimal. It seems to be one of those things that affects everyone differently, but here’s what I’ve dealt with so far.
When I first started I would feel like crap for a few days after treatment. Fatigued, nauseous and generally unwell. It’s not clear though how much of this was from the medication and how much was a result of my unhappy organs which where bogged down with amyloids.
As things started to progress the side effects seemed to be less. As long as I take my pre meds my nausea is kept at bay. The steroids keep me up the night I take them, and make me grumpy and short tempered. I usually have redness and a raised itchy rash at the injection site. Although I have not lost all my hair, I have lost some. It is thinning and has a much coarser texture. I very randomly get a small amount of neuropathy in my feet and hands, but I have been fairly lucky with this, as it is so far very limited for me.
I found out this week, after 76 Thursdays of receiving chemotherapy, that I will now be reduced to every other week! So happy to hear this news!
To anyone starting this treatment I wish you the best of luck! Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions, or if you would like to share your experience with CyborD.