A Mother and her Two Daughters

06 June 2011

Treatment Side Effects • More Treatment • More Side Effects

The cancer is cured, but the physical and mental burden of treatment side effects continues.  And that’s the reality for a cancer survivor. 

The long-term side effects of chemotherapy can be many, including, heart & kidney failure, infertility, liver problems, lung disease and cataracts.  For me, chemo’s side effects have mainly been continued fatigue, chemo brain and osteoporosis.  Dealing with fatigue is simple – more sleep.  Adjusting to chemo brain – well, it’s the hope that it will disappear in time.  But the loss of bone density has been uncomfortable, sometimes even painful.  And in my case, I’ve also broken a few bones in my feet.  It’s not been pleasant. Bone density loss is not only caused by the chemotherapy but also by the hormone inhibitor that I take daily – Arimidex.

But today I’ll begin a new treatment that should improve my bone density levels, where my legs, hips and lower back have experienced porous and brittle bones.  I call them my paper bones, very fragile and not so strong.  Hopefully this will be another new wonder drug in my life.. 

Reclast is an intravenous infusion that I’ll take annually – yes, once a year.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could take our drugs only once a year?  The Reclast will hopefully strengthen by bones and protect them from broken bones and fracture for an entire year – and then I’ll receive another infusion of Reclast next year, and the year after, and the year after.  It’s that simple. 

And there’s good news about Reclast. In fact, the news is so good that I’m almost happy that the various drugs have given me arthritis.  For women with aggressive breast cancers who’ve received aggressive chemotherapy treatment, who have then developed osteoarthritis and received Reclast as a treatment drug, researchers are recording a reduction in cancer recurrence.

Did you say a reduction in recurrence?  I’m all over that!  Another notch in my belt to hopefully never see this cancer again!

Researchers are not certain as to what it is about Reclast that is attributing to a reduction in cancer recurrence.  That’s why I’ll also join a research study at UAMS to hopefully discover the connection.

Oh yes – there are side effects of Reclast.  Short-term side effects at the time of infusion include flu-like symptoms including fever, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.  Long-term side effects can include atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) and increased risk of stroke. 

Oh well, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.  I’m ready to get these bones back to where they were, strong again, no pain.  And when the bones are repaired, I have a beautiful new bike waiting for me in the garage, a gift from dear friends, and I’m anxious to get these legs back to work, get back on my bike and ride! 

Here’s to Reclast!  

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