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Hollye Harrington Jacobs

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Coping With the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Posted: 01/04/2013 1:43 pm

After my fourth round of chemotherapy, I went into what I now refer to as "The Funk Zone." Right after that fourth dose, I bought myself a two-and-a-half-day stay in the hospital thanks to an infection with which my nearly-nonexistent immune system couldn't contend. I remember feeling so beleaguered (not to mention haggard) that I could barely pull myself together to put two words together.

It was at this point that I entered isolation island with Chemo Sobby as my constant companion. There was something about that fourth round of chemo (combined with a hospital stay and returning home with a near 24-7 continuous drip of IV fluids) that made me feel as though I had finally hit the bottom of the cancer treatment barrel.

The scope and intensity of the these feelings of isolation and subsequent emotional pain fluctuated from day to day. What worried (frightened?) me was that I felt sadder and more distraught than I had ever felt in my life. I was majorly grumpy, easily irritated, and moody. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't sleep despite feeling more exhausted than I had ever felt in my life.

I began to wonder whether the treatment(s) were worse than the disease itself. I literally couldn't bear the thought of another chemo. I was sick and tired of being bald. And I didn't want to leave the house because I was so worried about my persistent nausea and vomiting.

What helped me the most was my ability to put on my nurse's cap (being a nurse was definitely a Silver Lining during my treatment) and assign myself some healthy coping mechanisms, including:

  1. Normalize feelings. The normalization of feelings goes a long, long way. Truly. Just the acknowledgment that feeling moody, irritable, unfocused and exhausted was normal (and to be expected during treatment) helped relieve my anxiety immensely.
  2. Articulate feelings. Even though I felt hesitant to share my "Funk Zone" feelings, the reality was that talking (with both friends and professionals) about what was going on inside made me feel a little less looney tunes.
  3. Exercise. Even the teeniest walk perked my body, mind and spirit.
  4. Guided meditation and restorative yoga were two of the complementary therapies that I used to help me rest, relax and rejuvenate.

An unexpected and more-than-welcome Silver Lining was the realization that being in the "Funk Zone" enabled me to recognize and engage inner resources that I never knew that I had. I hope that it can do the same for you.

To read more about Hollye's holistic and humorous journey over, around, above and below breast cancer, please visit her blog, The Silver Pen (http://www.thesilverpen.com/). You may email her at hollye@TheSilverPen.com or follow her on Twitter @hollyejacobs.

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