Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chest Pains, Scary

While I was mopping the floor today, I felt a sudden, strong chest pain on the right side -- the side that had the cancer and radiation treatment. The pain was so strong I couldn’t breathe properly -- every time I inhaled, I’d get a shooting pain deep in the chest. I waited it out for about half an hour, taking small, shallow breaths, but it didn’t get any better so I called my oncologist. I could barely get the words out because I couldn’t breathe and she was a bit alarmed and wanted me to meet her in the hospital emergency room. But I told her I thought it was just nerve damage from the radiation therapy and maybe I’d take some pain medication at home and see what happened.

I took a double dose of Aleve, an over-the-counter pain reliever, which is unusual for me because I don’t believe in taking pain relievers. I usually just try to sleep off any headaches or body aches. But those pills did the trick and within a half hour, I was able to breathe a little better, as long as I took only shallow breaths. And by the evening, I felt back to normal.

I’m just glad the pain was on the right side and not the left. If it had been on the left, I would’ve thought I was having a heart attack. The chemotherapy-Herceptin combo I had damages the heart, so I’ll always have to worry about my heart giving out. Although I think what happens to people with this drug combo is the heart just suddenly stops beating. Is that what a heart attack is? Not sure.

This was the first big scare I’ve had since my cancer treatment ended. I guess I can look forward to more of these as the long-term side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation creep up on me. Apparently, these side effects can pop up years, decades down the road, so escaping from them for the first few years doesn’t mean I won’t get them later in life. Just one more way that cancer stays with you forever.

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