• Nathira Salim

Side effects in stages

I have memory issues. There are certain things I chose to forget over my course of short life. And one of them is about pain. I used to have debilitating stomach pain decades ago - which was so painful and trust me when I say its painful its so painful I had to check into the ER to get it sorted. I have a good pain threshold which means I can handle pain a bit. So to me when I say its really painful - for normal people it is comparable to living hell.

After those ER days, I have come to change my diet in a way that doesn't make me bend over in pain and so treating my gut with respect had been my mantra for many years. I managed to have the pain treated till I forgot how it actually hurts. Until Chemo that is.

One of the first side effects of chemo was nausea. The feeling where you want to puke out all the contests in the rumbling tummy but also afraid to do it cos you know how painful its going to hurt the empty tummy later on as well as your head? Yes - that's nausea. As stupid as it may sound - I really didn't think too much of it since I only puked once in my 10 months of pregnancy, I thought I was somehow immune to this. Why I thought my big fat frame would prevent me from puking is a mystery which I would shelve it as part of my stupid thought process. Thanks to many years of chemo treatments, anti nausea pills have made appearance as part of my cancer recovery arsenal. I was given three sets of anti nausea pills. They were labelled as L1, L2 and L3 by the pharmacist. And L3 is the pill you should take when you are about to puke, something like a stand by of sorts. L1 and L2 - should be taken for the next three days just after chemo after meals. Thanks to those L1 and L2 pills, I did not puke.

The first night after chemo - I lost sleep. I mean - I wasn't insomniac or something. I really really wanted to sleep. My eyes were tired and all - but I couldn't get the mind to shut the fuck up. It was wandering here and there along with the contents of my tummy. I lived through with nausea that night and the following day.

In came the 2nd side effect on my 3rd and 4th day after chemo. Bloating. I swear - nothing can kill a person than a bad gut I tell you. I was so careful in what I ate. Because of nausea - I limited the amount of hard food I can take. If I was eating half cup of brown rice with veggies before - I now ate one quarter cup brown rice with few sips of soup and I am done. On my 3rd night, being confident about my now not nauseous tummy, I asked my hubby to feed me his portion of thosai and coconut chutney. I only ate like 5 small pieces. That night was one of the most horrible nights I ever had.

My tummy bloated immediately. I couldn't release gas in anyway I could. I couldn't fart, I couldn't burp. Nothing was coming out and my whole body was in pain. I realised I was also constipated. I couldn't sleep in any particular position. I had to turn and roll to find a comfortable position to sleep. It was so bad - for the first time I cried. I didn't even cry when my nipple was taken. This was bad. Hubby was so upset I was sure he was shedding tears in the dark so I wouldn't see - but I couldn't handle the pain. After a while I think somewhere around 2 am plus I managed to sleep.

When I woke up on Day 4 - I asked my helper to get me the ginger ale I stocked deep in the recess of the fridge. I drank it in soju style bit by bit. I asked hubby to massage my back from bottom all the way up so I could at least burp out the gas. I limited my food intake - instead only eating fruits to encourage bowel movements. By afternoon - my bowel returned, gas escaped and bloating reduced to somewhat normal levels. Because I had somewhat limited sleep, I was able to sleep day and night due to fatigue.

Fatigue. Another side effects that crept up to me. Because of my limited quality of sleep for the past few nights after chemo - I was able to sleep soundly in the day as well as night. I also realised that continuous fatigue could mean that my red blood count or white blood count was dropping. I was not able to walk long or sit for long. I had to stay put in one place. I cannot even think of writing or updating my blog. Whatever I had been doing pre chemo - all took backstage because I couldn't do anything. I didn't even step foot into my home office for 6 days. All I could do was sit or lie down in one place and thankfully watch k drama or insta posts.

It is one week past my chemo now. My tummy is now well adjusted and I am eating well. But honestly speaking, though I was very much prepared for the side effects, I didn't expect my physical as well as mental faculties to be in a bad shape after one chemo session. While I was rolling in pain in the bed, and crying all at the same time I asked God to relieve me of my pain and that I will give up now. But even as I was asking and crying, I was chiding myself. What? You are giving up over a tummy pain?

Just last night I spoke to hubby. I said I felt like a cripple already. My breasts are deformed. I am infertile, I will no longer have another kid. My life has come to standstill. Hubby told me to keep my perspective straight. He asked if I was God. I said no. Then we still have a chance of having another child. There are many people who have come out of a worst adversity than you are, get yourself a goal and a vision and work towards that. Unless God himself says we are done, you and me are not done. Wow.

And then today, I saw a video about a young guy who hurt his C3 and C4 who became a quadriplegic becoming a music director. Seeing these kids made me realise what a fool I was. I was giving up over a tummy pain. I guess my pain threshold is not as high as I thought it was.

My plan now till my next chemo is to ensure I am rested well, and my immunity is up. I need to amp up my faith as well. I need to find my compass and hopefully find the light out from this mental fog. Please pray for me.

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