Friday, September 12, 2008

Chemo, Radiation Side-Effects

I haven't felt any serious side-effects from the whole-brain radiation I had earlier this month or the new chemo I've just started on. But there have been a few minor things I've been feeling since August 17, when I had seizures caused by the growing tumors in my brain. Some of these side-effects may be due to the medications I'm on, rather than the radiation or chemo.

1) Short-term memory loss. My radiation oncologist warned me that this was likely to happen. I didn't think it was happening to me, though, until yesterday. A friend told me that a mutual friend of ours was expecting a baby. I was so excited for our friend; the news made my day. Later during the day, I told Tony the exciting news. He told me that I had already heard that news when we went over to our friend's house for dinner a few weeks ago and she announced it to us herself. I was just as excited then as I was yesterday. So I guess I have indeed lost some of my short-term memory. The upside of this is that I can hear the same thing over and over again and be just as excited each time.

2) Insomnia. This is due to the anti-seizure medications and steroids I'm on, I think. Since my seizures, I think I've had an average of 3-4 hours of sleep a night. I had resisted taking sleeping pills because I already have so many drugs swirling around in my body, I was worried there might be some interaction and I could die in my sleep. But my sleeplessness was affecting my behavior with the kids so I finally gave in a few nights ago and took a sleeping pill. It didn't work. I slept for two hours straight then woke up and couldn't get back to sleep for another three hours.

3) Fuzzy buzz. I believe this is due to the anti-seizure medications I'm on. Since my seizures, I've been on a nice little drug-induced high. It feels a bit like I'm tipsy or on drugs - a nice, mellow state of mind. I'm usually an anal retentive, tightly-coiled, short-tempered control freak. But lately, I'm a relaxed, slow-moving, Big Lebowski. Petty little things that used to bother me don't seem to upset me anymore. I like this new me.

4) Dumb and dumber. I'm not sure if this is due to the radiation or the drugs I'm on, but I'm hoping it's only temporary. My mind is not as lucid or sharp as it used to be. I can actually feel myself struggling to follow a train of thought or figure something out logically. I can feel myself being dumber than I used to be. It's a bit scary to sense that your intellectual capacity is slipping away, especially when you think your brain is your best feature, as I always have. So now I've lost my breasts and my brain. Hmmm... which body part will go next?

5) Hair loss. My hair has fallen out again. This could be due to the radiation or the chemo or a combination of both.

Luckily, none of these side-effects are serious or debilitating, and for that, I'm grateful.


danchessari said...

Dear Shin,

My heart goes out to you. Please keep your strength up and continue to fight. I will pray for you and keep in touch with you. A lady who lives across the road from my mum and dad, her name is linda, is going through the same thing and she is the strongest women I have met !!! Stay strong

I hope you don't mind me contributing


Shin said...


Thanks for your encouraging words and your prayers.

And of course I don't mind your contributing to my blog. I'm thankful.

I'd be interested in learning more about your parents' neighbor, Linda, and her condition.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin!
I just completed 7 of 10 today. Wow, do I feel exhausted and sick to my stomach! I can't eat cooked food (meaning only cold cuts, chips, fruit, cereal bars - pre-packaged foods) No cooked meats, milk, creamy sauces (Puke!) My hair is still thick and healthy looking but my scalp is tender and crying to be cut. It's a matter of time. We can get through this together! We are warriors.... God is able, stephanie

Shin said...


I'm sorry to hear the radiation is effecting you badly. I just don't get it. Why do you have these side-effects and I have none?

How is it that I've had every nasty chemo, radiation, and surgery possible these past few years and have felt almost zero side-effects?

But you're right. We will both get through this.

Stephanie is able. ; )

Karin said...

Dear Shin,
My son Matthew used to be in the same Kindermusik class as Josie. Amy gave me your blog to read when I bumped into her a few weeks back. We were talking about the 3 of us having 2 children of the same age, having been pregnant at the same time with the second one in Kindermusik class.

I am glad to see you so positive and strong.

I know of this lady who does foot reflexology who claims she has helped people who have had cancer or other illnesses. Would you be interested in trying her out?

Shin said...


Foot reflexology for cancer? Sounds intriguing but I'm skeptical.

Many people have recommended reflexology, acupuncture and other therapies like that to me. I will probably try them when the pain gets to be too much.

For now, the medications I'm on seem to be doing the trick.

Thanks for your concern.

I'm trying to remember Matthew... Kindermusik was such a long time ago! Life before cancer...

danchessari said...

Hi Shin,

It has taken me a while to get something meaningful for you.Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago - in 4 lymph also. Six months after initial diagnosis the cancer was traced to her skull, left lung, cerical spine and liver. She was not given a favourable prognosis but has defied the odds and is still alive and well today. I am yet to find out the chemo drug she is on. It has shrunk the tumor in her spine by 60% and is also shrinking the one in her liver. The ones in her lungs have not grown. She is really positive and I believe she will beat this as you will. I pray for the both of you every night - I belive the holy father has lead me to you and I will continue to pray. Take care shin and god bless

Shin said...


Thanks for that update on Linda. I'm so glad the chemo is working for her. Those are great results. I hope she continues to do well. Please let her know that there is somebody in Singapore rooting for her. I'm guessing you're in the U.K.?

danchessari said...

Hi Shin,

Not the UK - actually 24 hours in a plane from there - AUSTRALIA - not too far from you guys. I'm guessing your not orginally from Singapore OR you have studied english as you speak it really well !

I hope you are feeling OK today :-)


Shin said...


You're right. I'm not from Singapore. I was born in Korea but grew up in the U.S.

As for my well-spoken English... I should hope so, because I've had two careers in my life, both of which demand excellent English: an English teacher and a journalist.

By the way, Australia is very near and dear to my heart because I have some good friends and family who live there - in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Bellingen, and a few tiny towns whose names I can't remember or pronounce.

So consider me a kindred spirit, mate!