I had my first dose of paclitaxol (Taxol) on October 2nd. Besides my hands turning a lovely shade of jaundice for a few minutes, I felt this all-encompassing wave of calm contentment. All I could think was, “How long will this last?”
Chemo drugs aren’t suppose to make you feel good, and certainly there are numerous irritations, and downright onslaughts I could dwell on. Yet it was, is, this state of peace I find remarkable.
Because of the serious risks associated with Taxol there are serious pre-meds. I took a high oral dose of the steroid dexamethasone, the night before and again in the morning before I got an additional IV dose of the same drug. I was flying high on the hyper-energy when I arrived for my infusion, and it was not unpleasant. I was singing and dancing!
I also got the IV pre-medication of Benadryl, which also tends to excite my system, again, quite pleasant and invigorating. Drugs should always be so wonderful, but this was surprising coming from an intense cancer treatment.
Day 2 I had not just a good day, I had a GREAT day. The energy flow was fantastic. My mood was ebullient. My creativity seemed boundless. But still, I had just had a high dosage of Taxol, a drug that besides killing my cancer promised to cause me peripheral neuropathy, which could be quite painful. It is a drug that risks, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, loss of sense of taste, fatigue, muscle and joint pain. Yet here I was flying high, yes high, in every sense of the word.
I decided it was the steroid, and since I was feeling no pain, I also decided not to take the additional doses of the steroid on Day 2 and Day 3. My energy crashed predictably on Day 3 and I slept 12+ hours on each of the following 3 days. The naps were joyous and the sleeps were an elixir. Right through this Day 6 I continued to feel mellow.
On Day 3 it felt like a 1970s acid trip, and not at all unpleasant, kinda dreamy and relaxed. Calm is not my normal state, which is always infused with bursts of energy unless I am sick. But the chemo not withstanding, I did not feel sick. Unlike the cycles of AC the past two months, I did not feel otherworldly in a physical sense. The T took me on a trip, an intellectual, emotional, mind journey. Yes, this is a drug trip.
The mellow I am enjoying reminds me of the euphoria of cannabis, another plant often recommended for the treatment of cancer, and cancer treatment side effects. Andrew Weil devotes a whole chapter to Cannabinoids and Cancer in, “Integrative Oncology”. I recommend reading this to understand the science. Maybe all those years as a hippie are finally paying off. I can enjoy these sensations rather than fighting the mellow, rather than insisting that life be normal, when there is nothing normal about cancer or cancer treatments.
Sometimes when we are taken on a trip we’d best just hang on and enjoy the ride!