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  • Emily Macpherson

Five Down One to Go

It is almost three months since I last write a blog about my health and a few people have mentioned that they were worried not to have heard anything.

While I don’t want to force the gory details about my treatment on anyone reading this, I also don’t want anyone to worry about me due to lack of information so I thought it was about time for an update.

Yesterday I celebrated valentines day at the chemotherapy day unit being infused with my 5th cycle of chemo. There are many different chemotherapy regimens with different drugs and cycle lengths, but for me each cycle lasts three weeks and I will have 6 cycles in total.

I have been receiving a combination treatment called FEC-T, named after the initials of the drugs used. There are four drugs used in total, the first three (Flurouracial, Epirubicin and Cyclohosphamide) are the FEC part, and I was treated with these three drugs during my first 3 cycles in November, December and January.

The final 3 cycles are the T part, a single drug called Docetaxel (Trade Name Taxotre® hence the T). I had my first dose of T at the end of January, and my second yesterday.

Overall, I think I have been doing okay. I really wasn’t sure what to expect before embarking on the treatment, but I have found that during each three week cycle I have been able to function fairly reasonably for at least two of those weeks.

I have been able to continue to work which has given me a welcome positive focus, and during my first three cycles I was out running within a week or so of treatment, challenging myself to build up my distances (albeit very slowly) before the next ‘hit’ of drugs.

The best way I can describe the feeling I had with FEC is like a terrible hangover that didn’t let up for a week. The first cycle was definitely the worst, possibly because I didn’t know what to expect and I was scared that I was going to feel as rough as I did during the first week for the next 5 months. But after I realised I would have some period of normality it all seemed more doable.

Fasting Before Chemo

Before starting treatment I was advised by my chiropractor to look in to fasting before chemo, which I did. A google search convinced me that fasting for 48 hours before, and 24 hours after chemo would lessen the side effects of the drugs as well as increasing the effectiveness of the treatment. Most of the studies looking at the effect of fasting for chemo have been on mice (Valter Longo et al) and, although there have been some human trials, there isn’t enough evidence for the NHS to recommend it as a course of action. In fact, I was laughed at when I asked about it prior to my first treatment and told not to turn up in fasted state, so I ate normally.

With a bit more time to research before my second treatment, I decided to give the fasting a go for treatment 2. Not easting for 72hrs was much easier than I had expected it to be and after the treatment I felt much better. My blood counts were also greatly improved compared with those taken after my first non-fasted treatment, so I have fasted for each treatment since.

I think the theory behind the fasting is that your normal cells go in to a maintenance state while fasted, and they are therefore protected from chemotherapy's toxic effects. Cancer cells do not enter the self-repair state and so become sensitised to the treatment.

My little experiment is far from scientific and I am sure fasting wouldn’t be right for everyone, but I would definitely do it again.

What Next

After my first dose of T I initially felt much better than I had on the FEC, I had no nausea and even questioned whether they had switched the chemo with saline. On day 4 the side effects hit but they were different this time. I am holding on to the hope that it wasn’t just the chemo – my whole family was ill and I experienced many of the same symptoms as them (shivers, aches, headache etc) as well as the usual tiredness, dry skin and stomach complaints. I ended up at the hospital twice for a thorough work over because of the way I was feeling. I think the worst side effect of the T was the sore mouth – it even made drinking water impossible. But after just over two weeks I started to recover again (with the assistance of a carrier bag full of mouth wash on prescription) and by the time I had my pre-assessment before cycle 5, my bloods were as good as they had been since I started treatment.

We will have to see what the rest of cycle 5 brings, I am hopeful that it will be better than cycle 4, but even if not I know I have only got one more cycle to go so I am almost there!

As I have said before, my breast cancer experience has made me reflect on what its truly important in life and it has made me all the more determined to make a difference in other people’s lives by supporting them to structure their personal finances to deliver the lifestyle they desire. Please contact us if you would like to know more about what we do and how we can help.

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