This Guest Blog has been written by the lovely Kristine Chadwick aka Chadders Cancer Club. Kris has been living with secondary breast cancer since 2018 and in this blog Kris tells us some of the side effects she has experienced as well as sharing some of the things that have helped to ease these side effects.
Thank you Kris!
Cancer, it just keeps on giving! I know cancer treatment varies and we all react differently to it but after speaking with friends, I’ve realised there are a few side effects we all seem to have in common. I’ve made a list of my most annoying side effects and added tips and tricks that have worked for me in case they can help others. Here goes:
1. Hoarseness or weak voice
Now this is a weird one as it's usually associated with thyroid, lung, oesophagus or head and neck cancer treatments. True to form I'm not conforming and my voice tends to crack or break as I'm speaking. It's not painful, just annoying.
2. Brittle, dry nails
I loved my nails. I’m on my laptop a lot and it made me feel happy to look down and see my nicely manicured fingers tapping away. Not anymore. I’ve battled with brittle, dry nails for the past two years. During chemo my nails were fine. I treated myself to a manicure prior to each chemo and had them painted in a dark colour as recommended by my breast care nurse. It was a couple months after chemo finished that my nails started ripping to the quick making it really painful and not at all glamorous. I tried all sorts of nail strengtheners, but none of them worked until Polybalm Rich Nail Remedy. It’s expensive but so worth it. I also keep my hands and cuticles moisturised and one of the best hand creams (thanks Mum) is Udderly Smooth Extra Care Cream.
3. Skin on your feet become sore and blister
I'm a Kiwi kid, I played barefoot most of my childhood. I wore heels day and night in my twenties and thirties and I ran a marathon without losing a toe nail. Put me on chemo and antibody treatment and my feet start acting like divas. The most irritating thing is the blisters. The skin on the top, bottom and sides of my feet is so delicate it even blisters when I'm wearing the most sensible shoes of all, Birkenstocks. I know! Tell me about it! I’ve started using these foot repair masks and they really soothe my poor old weary feet.
I pretty much lost my eyelashes during chemo. I had false lashes a couple of times which I loved but couldn’t afford to keep having them done. My eyelashes have grown back but they’re really short and stumpy. A friend recommended Dermaworks Spectaculash. I’ve been using it a couple weeks now. The positive is my sensitive eyes haven’t reacted to it. I’m not sure my eyelashes are thicker and healthier yet however they do say it takes 60 days.
5. Nose bleeds
Another joy of treatment is nose bleeds from the Trastuzumab. Previously I had permanent bleeding and scabbing inside my nose. I’d mention it to my oncologist but they didn’t offer any advice. On a visit to my GP I mentioned how irritating it was and they prescribed Naseptin which has cured it. Sharing the tip in case anyone else is suffering. You’re welcome!
Another fun one, the sudden need to dash to the toilet. Forgetting that treatment can have this effect I set off for my walk in the park. I suddenly felt a stomach cramp. The cold sweats started as I walked like a determined mad woman in a bee line home, making it just in time. I’ve since purchased a Radar Key so I can access toilets when I’m out and about and feel the urge.
7. Chemo brain
We all joke about baby brain and chemo brain but when you're trying to put in a good days work, it makes it really difficult. Some days it really does feel like there's a fog in my head that I have to wait for it to lift before I can concentrate on anything.
This is what I'm struggling with the most. I had a good talk with an occupational therapist about it during my last treatment appointment. We discussed the routine of my day, changing things up to see whether that would help maintain energy throughout the day and stop me crashing at lunch time. Now I plan my days and meals a week in advance so I don’t have to think about anything, I just do.
Kristine Chadwick was married to her husband, Matthew Chadwick, for 7 years. He passed away from a brain tumour in 2013. Kris was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2018. Following treatment, she is now living in London and is back at work full-time, living well with cancer and blogging about it at Cancer Club.