Oral chemo – round 1


Here it bloody goes again.  My hair’s beginning to fall out.

I’ve been on Lastet (etoposide) for the full first cycle now – daily, for 3 weeks.  Hair loss is listed as one of the side effects but for some reason, I thought I might escape it.  Clearly, this drug is not as tame as I was lead to believe.  I spent the first week sussing out suspicions of nausea which soon, my body wasn’t able to contain.  I managed it with anti-nausea pills and Valoid suppositories after one particularly horrible Sunday afternoon.  Then the migraines.  The nausea seemed to settle.  Now it’s the fatigue.  I suppose I should be grateful that it’s not all happening at once but really, I’m just bored and tired of it all.

The fatigue is worst of all

I’d been waking up exhausted and one Friday afternoon, when I drove home after work, dangerously sleepy, I decided I had to use my trump card letter from the doctor explaining my need to leave early to rest.  The best way I can describe it is like this.  If you’ve had a long, stressful day at work followed by hosting a function in the evening and a disturbed sleep, you don’t function properly the next day.  Then you have a good night’s sleep and all’s well again.  I’m like that – except for the recovery part.  My brain doesn’t function so well.  Come to think of it, chemo brain might be a factor here again too because I’ve been losing words off the tip of my tongue for a week or so now which hasn’t happened since I was last on chemo.  On top of that, I’m physically exhausted – not like I’ve run a race but like I’ve got the flu aches in my bones.  Pretty crappy, right?

Lemons into lemonade

I nodded vehemently today to someone’s commentary about how sometimes the best things come from what appear to be poor/boring/bad situations.  Well, there’s good news.  My ongoing toxic relationship with my oncologist has kept me pushing to find alternatives.  While she sees me with my disease as a problem to solve, at least I take care of myself on a human level.  I went to an Integrative Oncology seminar last week and left re-inspired to push on.  There’s too much detail to go into it all here but there’s a (“highly ethical” is what I left with) South African company which has developed some natural products to support the immune system collaterally damaged during chemo & radiation.  They’re aiming to reach all oncologists in the country – obviously to sell their products but also – to help patients deal with the side effects of the deadly chemo.

Inspiring information

The CPD seminar’s audience was surgeons, GPs, oncologists, alternative health care providers and so I felt more comfortable accepting the presenter’s (a GP specialising in the care of cancer patients only) delivery.  It’s not as if one scientist can bullsh!t another so when she spoke of certain cells and DNA chains, I was quite happy that some of it went over my head.

The bottom line is there’s no golden bullet to fixing cancer.  Firstly, every person reacts differently.  Secondly, the cause of each person’s disease is subject to so many variables, there simply cannot be a magic formula.

Some things taking the blame:

  • drinking water (This includes tap water and bottled water). Use a water filter – always.
  • processed food (I understand this is an addiction for a lot of people so it’s easy for me to say, “get over it” because it holds no power over me. This includes everything from polony to syrup to fast food to Coke).  Don’t eat it.  The doc’s recommendation?  Grow your own garden if you can because some labels stating the produce is organic, lie.
  • dairy (not sure if I’m sold on this one or if I want to be. I love cheese and milk.)
  • toxic relationships (this type of stress goes unnoticed too often. I need to end mine with my oncologist!)

Cannabis oil didn’t come up because it’s illegal.  She didn’t say that the way it’s processed is just as dangerous to a chemo patient’s already poisoned body.  She didn’t explain the two types available and what each one does and she didn’t explain how the mix has to be correct to be any degree of effective.  She didn’t claim producers are ripping off desperate cancer patients as the reason for its exorbitant cost.  She didn’t reiterate that because it’s illegal, there’s no way to monitor the sources of the oil.  She did say it’s each individual’s choice whether to use it but recommended staying away from it.  But it didn’t come up, so she didn’t say any of that…

A few things recommended:

  • stress relief (whatever works for the individual be it acupuncture, meditation, reiki, massage, playing in the mud)
  • sunshine (the average healthy person in SA is deficient in Vit D and she recommends 20 mins of sunshine daily to upper body and legs. For cancer patients, supplements)
  • filtered water (the reason that SA has such clean water is because of the high levels of chlorine it contains. I got a few BPA-free bottles of reverse osmosis water by Halo Bottles and having finished the special water, I now carry my filtered water with me in them.)
  • cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts)
  • foods that promote an alkaline environment internally (eek, avoid red meat, among others!)

Adjunctive supplements

The company hosting the seminar offers a free consultation service to patients with their in-house pharmacologist.  I sent her a brief case history and spoke to her this week.  I’ll get a blood test for Vit D3 with my next batch of tests.  I picked up some litmus paper and tested this morning – perfect alkalinity!

www.oceanmilk.com (indicator of acid levels in the body)

I’ve started on B12 Boost – to improve my energy levels.  Great product – spray the (fake) apricot taste into your mouth daily so that it’s absorbed straight into the blood stream instead of via the digestive system.

B12 supplement Boost B12

I’m also on a daily natural iron supplement called Spatone.  A daily dose comes in a sachet of clear liquid.  It doesn’t taste disgusting and if you drink it with orange juice, the Vit C helps iron absorption.

iron supplement

The iron supplement that my oncologist had previously prescribed – Chelafer – hadn’t worked for me so I stopped it ages ago.  I’m somewhat p!ssed off with her for not recommending (or knowing to recommend) these products particularly since I’ve repeatedly asked her for nutritional support.  All three of these products are available from Dischem.  Happily, I’ve done something right and will continue on the Moringa powder.  I’m also on Salvestrol (Google it, there’re articles both for and against it) during my week off from chemo only.  They’re very careful not to interfere with the chemo.

No, I haven’t consulted my oncologist on this.  No, I’m not going to tell her.  I’m willing to bet she’d raise her voice over it which I couldn’t be bothered to face.  I’m exercising my free will and taking responsibility for my own state of health.  After all the research I’ve done over the past 2 years for my own situation, I feel comfortable enough in my knowledge to do so.  I’ll never know everything and that’s okay.  I’ve begun purging in my life.  Whatever feels stressful and wrong, I turf – information, people, books, opinions, situations.  I don’t owe anyone any reasons.  Some of the time, even I don’t understand it but it feels right and I’m going with my gut.

Oh well, 2 years down the line, at least it’s not as scary because I know what to do & what to expect.  Back to washing my hair in the basin for a few months.


4 thoughts on “Oral chemo – round 1

  1. Nina Basson

    Dear Claudine, top marks for your endurance and perseverance. You rate with the most magnificent beings I have ever known. Love, mom


  2. linda

    Darling Girl, you are indeed a courageous ,intelligent young woman. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. We all continue to pray for your strength and recovery every day. We expect a miracle for you every single day. We carry you in our hearts. We love you Claudine. We have faith in you and your ability to get through this difficult time. after all , you are Nina’s daughter.. and she is the best example of a strong Pereira woman. Always in our thoughts, no matter the distance.. Jose and Linda and all our Family.. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX a heaps of hugs


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