Cancer, With a Twist (One Cancer Survivor’s Story of Humor, Hope and a Hint of Sarcasm) Chapter 3: Fun With Chemo Side Effects!

My treatment regimen consisted of six months of chemotherapy. I’ll go into more detail in another chapter but for now, a little sarcastic look at some of the side effects that I dealt with. I saw this next part in play form so that’s why it’s written the way it is:


I’m thankful for traditional medicine but I’m also a believer in alternative medicine if the situation calls for it. If you can treat something without the use of a harsh drug I would rather go that route if it’s safe, and frankly the thought of going through chemotherapy scared the shit out of me, but I had a family at home that I wanted to live for and the prognosis for me was good if I went through chemotherapy, so chemo won the coin toss!

NARRATOR: Let’s see, chemotherapy… here are some chemo side effects: nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, indigestion, acid reflux, possible lung damage, possible heart damage, skin changes, possible sterility, mind numbing fatigue a general feeling of crappiness…

JENN: Wow, where do I sign up? Everyone’s chemotherapy is different and I’m certainly no authority on anything but what I went through. For my treatment my “cocktail” was called ABVD which stood for the four different medications being pumped into my veins twice a month for six months. Adriamycin (which turns your urine red…Thankfully they tell you that ahead of time so that you don’t think that you’re hemorrhaging the next time you go to the bathroom and it usually only lasted for a little bit that day), Bleomycin, Vinblastine (which when injected into my IV gave me such a gross taste in my mouth. I tried to eat different types of mints when it was being injected so that I wouldn’t taste it. The only ones that worked for me were Altoids. I would literally put at least three in my mouth as it was being injected and they would mask the taste of the medicine which to me tasted like moth balls. Yuck, I know. God bless those curiously strong little mints!) And last but not least Dacarbazine which burned while it was being infused. They would run saline at the same time to minimize the disintegration of my veins who now hide whenever I need any bloodwork.

NARRATOR: Wait I have some more possible side effects: Emotional instability.

JENN: Like I needed more of that.

NARRATOR: Hair loss.

JENN: You say hair loss I say I don’t have to shave my legs for six months, I’m a glass half full kind of gal, and since most of my chemo took place during the spring and summer, it was a little chemo perk not to have to shave.

NARRATOR: Oh wait here’s a good one, apparently chemo can either give you diarrhea or make you constipated.

JENN:  Yeah, I don’t know what’s worse, shitting your brains out or being full of shit, that one’s a toss-up.

NARRATOR: Mouth sores.

JENN: They’re as fun as they sound.

NARRATOR: Weight gain from anti-nausea meds which are also steroids.

JENN: I was happy to gain weight rather than lose it during chemo and possibly be more immune compromised but most of my weight went right to my middle. Let me tell you, looking three months pregnant when you are is really cute, looking three months pregnant when you’re not, not so cute and in the irony of it all one of the side effects from my anti-nausea medication was that it may cause nausea. Wait a minute this is an anti-nausea medication that may cause nausea, am I missing something here? But I took it anyway and it worked.

NARRATOR: Chemo brain. What the hell is chemo brain, did you make that up?

JENN: Ah, good ‘ol chemo brain. Let me explain. In very simplified terms chemo brain is a general sense of mental fogginess, cognitive and memory issues that can occur during and after treatment. For example, one time I went to the grocery store to recycle my plastic bags and I was carrying my canvas reusable bag on my arm. As the cashier finished bagging my groceries into three plastic bags, I looked down, saw my reusable bag still on my arm and laughed to myself. That’s chemo brain. It’s the madness we all feel normally, what day is it? Where did I put my keys? What did I do last weekend? Now magnify that times one hundred and you have chemo brain. Okay maybe my formula isn’t scientifically valid but that’s what it feels like.

NARRATOR: Chemo can throw your body into early menopause.

JENN: Now prior to my cancer diagnosis I had already been wondering where my libido had gone. I even put up signs, “If you see my libido can you tell it to call home?” I told my doctor that I thought my libido may be backpacking through Europe, she laughed. Maybe it was a pity laugh but I’m not above taking a cheap laugh. Then my period starting getting weird around July. I would get it and then it would go away after a couple of days. Then it would come back again the next week. My period did that again in August and then in September I didn’t get my period at all. My uterus didn’t know whether to shit or wind its watch.

– Jenn G.D.


To My Pasty Peeps

Welcome to summer! Okay, I know it’s been summer for awhile now, but for the sake of this blog just humor me. So…welcome to summer! Also known as, that time of year when other white people like to point out just how pale I really am. If you tan well, you may not be aware of this phenomenon or maybe you’re one of the perpetrators, hmm???

Dear fellow Caucasians…

First of all, I’m white? WHAT? Now that’s a brilliant observation. Please point out something else blatantly obvious while you’re at it.

Some white people, not all of us, but some white people get a little weird about other white people’s skin color as soon as the summer comes along. As if those of us who don’t tan well or choose not to tan are somehow offending their delicate sensibilities. It’s not like my skin color is going to miraculously change when the rest of the year I’m as pasty as Elmer’s. I mean, come on.

Some of us are melanin challenged and I apologize if my paleness offends you.

Yes, I’ve heard it all before; I’m so white, I’m pale. Let’s face it, I’m practically translucent.

Let me answer one of the questions that I usually get asked; Why yes, I go out into the sunlight everyday, but with SPF 700 it’s kind of hard to get a tan. And before you say anything about my SPF level, know that if I don’t use it I’ll get as red as a boiled lobster and that’s just not the look I’m going for. Not to mention that little thing called skin cancer, but I digress. All four of my great-grandparents came from Italy, but apparently my DNA either didn’t get the memo or just doesn’t give a shit.

So white people who tan easily, it’s going to be OKAY. You can’t catch it. Your savage tan will not disappear in my pale presence. And to all of my pasty peeps I say…stay pasty my friends.

I Think My Husband Might Be Superman (don’t be jealous)

Disclaimer: I love my husband very much. The reason we get along so well is that we’re both wise-asses and can take a joke. When my husband sees this, he’ll laugh. I’m sure that I do plenty of things to annoy him but I have a blog and he doesn’t so here we go!

I think I may be married to Superman. Don’t be jealous just hear me out. My husband has the ability to watch our children while lying on the couch with his eyes closed! Can you believe it? I can’t either but when I call him on it he insists that he’s watching them so it must be true! If seeing through closed eyelids and hearing over your own snoring aren’t two awesome super powers then I don’t know what is!

Need even further proof? My husband has the ability to walk past a full, stinky garbage pail that’s making my eyes water and not shed a single tear. Why don’t I take out the garbage you say? I do take out the garbage but every once in a while I leave it just to see how long it takes before he’ll do it and how much more he can shove into the already full bag. Yet again, the ability to not smell the nasty garbage, superpowers I tell you. His nostrils of steel don’t detect the slightest hint of stench. Nostrils of steel, Man of Steel…see the connection?

If I weren’t worried about my children contracting rickets or scurvy from a dirty toilet I’d love to see exactly how dirty the toilet would have to get before he would clean it. (I know you can’t get rickets or scurvy from a dirty toilet, they just sound funny). I fear that it would take a lot though and I would never do that to my children.

Apparently dirt is not my husband’s kryptonite…cleaning is. Love you honey!

(Find me on Twitter @JennGDonohue)

I Have a Confession…

I have a confession to make. I’m not perfect. There I said it. I know you’re shocked. I have some gray hair (yes I dye it thank you very much!), I’m horrible at math, some days I drink more coffee than water, some days I let my son have a cookie before breakfast and oh by the way I like to sniff the coffee in the coffee bag before I actually make my coffee. Ah, it smells so good! I know what you’re thinking big whoop Jenn, not so shocking (except for the sniffing the coffee thing, you’re a little strange). Oh there’s my ego again, she’s so judgmental! So what’s my point? My point is this, we need to be kinder to ourselves and each other. Especially at this time of New Year’s resolutions, we all need to put the big changes that we want to make in perspective. There is no perfect. Perfect is so subjective. We all have different tastes and preferences so why do we think there’s one perfect ideal for anything? Let’s give ourselves a break! You have one life to live, stop stressing yourself out over the stupid crap! Ask six people what kind of ice cream sundae is the most perfect ice cream sundae and you’ll get six different answers. So why do we care so much about other people’s opinions and beat ourselves up for the really important things in life like following our dreams and our passions? Things that make you go hmm… (thank you very much Arsenio Hall).

If you made any New Year’s resolutions good for you, but don’t beat yourself up when you don’t exercise everyday for 45 minutes, drink the recommended amount of water every day and eat all five servings of fruits and vegetables that you’re supposed to (or whatever habit that you’ve had for years that you plan to change in a week). Exercising for any amount of time, one glass of water and a fruit or vegetable (if you haven’t been doing any of these things) is a step in the right direction. And yes, you should give yourself a pat on the back for those little changes. If you vowed to exercise more cut yourself some slack on the days that you don’t end up doing it. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t follow through on positive changes, absolutely you should, but they rarely happen overnight and when you go full speed sometimes you can burn out. Then you go back to being a non-exercising, no veggie eating, non-water drinking mess and it all goes to hell! Remember, small changes add up to big things! So celebrate that one day of exercise, that one cup of water and that one serving of broccoli! Truth is when you or anyone else makes you feel bad for not going all out 100% does it really make you want to do it more? Maybe for some people but most of us thrive on positive reinforcement. We all fall off the wagon now and then. Each day is a new day to start over. And if you’re having a particularly hard time with something, each minute can be a new start. If you get mad at someone and realize you were wrong then just apologize and give yourself some credit for the growth you made in recognizing you were wrong.

In closing, don’t let anyone tell you who you are…no one else knows what’s in your heart but you. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, go for yours! One of my favorite quotes from Oscar Wilde is: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” So don’t judge anyone for what’s going on in their life and don’t judge yourself either! Another favorite quote, “When you know better, you do better.” – Maya Angelou.

Ok one more confession…I tend to babble…a lot…those who know me well are all nodding their heads and possibly laughing right now. Hey stop laughing! So I’ll stop now because I have to go and rinse the dye out of my hair. What grays? Not according to the box of hair dye I have in my hand!

(Find me on Twitter @JennGDonohue)

“The Real Middle Class of Long Island – Yo!”

Couple sitting at dining room table going over bills…

Wife: Ok, so the electric company is going to shut us off by the 18th if we don’t send them $100.00.

Husband: Ok, send them $100.00.

Wife: Then each of us has to cut off an arm or a leg to pay for our health insurance…do you want to keep both of your arms or both of your legs?

Husband: Hmm…that’s a tough one I’ll have to get back to you on that…hopefully we get paid before that check clears.

Wife: Ok next, we need to put some money aside for our vacation fund.

Husband and wife look at each other and crack up..

Husband: Ok, be serious now.

Wife: A girl’s gotta dream, ok, ok back to reality…who do we owe next?

(Find me on Twitter @JennGDonohue)

Random Hair

(This is an excerpt from a book I’m writing called “Cancer, With a Twist”)

Random Hair. You ladies know what I’m talking about. You don’t have to admit that you get them, it will be our secret, but you know what I’m talking about. Men have them too, but for them it’s another hair they’re proud to have. For us ladies the random hair is slightly traumatic. You know the one, where you look in the mirror and the light hits it just right. It catches your eye and all of a sudden you see a hair that has to be at least half an inch long sticking out of your neck! (or pick another embarrassing point on your face that people can see). You do the double take in the mirror and as you look closer to inspect the offending hair your first thought is “Holy crap, where did that thing come from? It’s huge!” Then you think “Holy crap, how do these things grow so fast overnight?” and finally you think “Holy crap, who else saw it before I did???” Now here’s how I know that God (or whatever you believe in or don’t believe in for that matter) has a sense of humor. When I went through chemotherapy and my left eyebrow was half gone (or half there in keeping with the glass half full theory), my eyelashes were falling out and the hair on my head was jumping ship, that friggin random hair would still rear its ugly little head! No joke. I was like “really God, seriously???” All I have left to say is…I love my tweezers.

(Find me on Twitter @JennGDonohue)