The Chemo Legacy – lingering effects after 3 years

While rehashing my FLOT leaflet in an earlier post, it got me thinking about medium to long-term side effects so here are a few reflective points at three years post-chemo.

Nervous system

The nerve agents have definitely affected my hands and feet. I can only handle or carry very cold items for a few minutes before my fingertips start to feel uncomfortable. The same happens if my hands get cold so I usually carry a pair of gloves and need two pairs in the depths of winter.  Walking barefoot on very cold floors is uncomfortable and I often wear socks or sandals around the house.

Migraine

I do not know whether it was the chemo or the cocktail of drugs I had during and after surgery but I no longer get migraines. The only time I get headaches now, is if I do not drink enough water and I usually wake up with one.

Hair

I noticed my hair starting to grow back 12 weeks after the last cycle. It grew back thicker, curly, course and grey. My husband said I resembled a fox terrier. I’ve lost count of the number of haircuts I had once it got more established and my hair is as long now as it was when I was diagnosed. My hair is also in pretty good condition and has gone back to its original texture ie no longer curly. I waited 12 months since the last cycle before I started to colour it again. Hair grew back elsewhere too. I noticed my nose ran for months after chemo probably due to hair loss in the nasal cavity. Although a kind of rhinitis persisted for months, I can not remember when this stopped being a problem.

Hormones

My ovaries put up a fight at the time but chemotherapy definitely signalled the start of menopause for me. Whether it would have happened anyway, who knows?

Hygiene behaviour

I was careful about touching surfaces when out and kept my nose and mouth covered with a scarf all through treatment. This has been great training for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as I easily slipped back into these prelearned behaviours. The sterile gloves I bought at the time have also come in very useful.

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