‘Sequelae’ of Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy–Most Horrifying Part of Healing Journey
The radiation therapy was scheduled and it was one of the most haunting part of the treatment for us. She had to undergo 16 radiations in total—a good number by any measure.
Initially everything went normal. But just after a few radiations she developed a very painful throat pain and the concerned doctors were not able to figure out the remedy. It was so painful that she was unable to eat anything and almost felt like dying due to hunger and weakness. Her throat scan was done but there was no infection. Later after a lot of struggle, an experienced doctor gave her medicine, which relieved her. Eventually we figured it out: the intensive throat pain was due to the acidity caused by the heat generated from the radiation. The radiation therapy had to be stopped for a few days due to this.
Battling Side-Effects of Anticancer for Mother-in-Law the Next Surprise
Barely we had passed this test and assumed that everything was under our control, God had kept something different for us. After resumption of remaining radiations, after few days again, her entire skin near the breast area had got burnt due to the radiation and it was excruciatingly painful. Her skin was very sensitive and thin, which was the reason for such a severe side effect. Side effects of radiations and chemotherapies, usually called ‘chemos’, vary from person to person depending on size, nature, and type of cancer.
The burn took almost 45 days to heal—yeah, you read it right: 45 days. We used to apply cream everyday thrice a time and she was suggested to lie down under the fan to heal soon. I still remember one of the incidents during that time very vividly. Her burns were not healing and we had gone to doctor for that. He prescribed multivitamin injections. Injections in themselves are no more than mildly painful but just imagine the scenario the lacerating pain when the injections were given in those burnt wounds. She cried and screamed in pain. Tears rolled down my eyes and still it gives me goosebumps while penning this down.
Then the other major part of the treatment started: chemotherapy. The total number of chemos scheduled was 12—8 of small intensity and the remaining 4 of significant intensity. The small intensity radiations were completed in three months without any significant side effects. During that time, she was better than before. Thereafter the second phase started. Just after one chemotherapy, she developed intense cough. Initially, the doctor thought that it was just an allergic one and she should be fine after nebulization. But, the cough became much more intense and many nights were sleepless and days were tiring for all of us, especially for her. She had to be hospitalized, as the things were getting worse. We got her chest scan done and pulmonologist suspected that the radiation ray had passed through her lung area, though the oncologist never admitted it.
The pulmonologist came as a Godsend angel for all of us, and his medications proved to be life-saver, it seems. The cough was much better though not completely gone.
Now the second chemo was done. Her WBC count dropped drastically and she was hospitalized for almost a week. Unfortunately, the count was not increasing. Her condition was so critical that we thought we lost her, but then the God was kind to us: the doctor saved her. We are so grateful for that to this day. Eventually, the remaining two chemos had to be dropped as her body was very weak and was unable to cope with those medicines. It is wise to take decision keeping the present condition in mind than the distant future.
The complete treatment took almost 10 months and life changed entirely after that. Every 6 months the scans are to be done and the fear of developing another cancer lingers even today. It has taught us one basic point we usually forget in the daily grind of our life: no problem is bigger than being unhealthy. Any kind of disease or ailments take a toll not only on the physical, mental, financial, emotional health of the patient but can be disastrous for the complete family. Cancer is dreaded the most as its treatment is painful as well as very expensive. The survival rates also varies depending on number of factors like size of cancer, its location its stage, expansion to other organs, age of the person, health care facility and other biological factor.
Cancer has given us many useful life lessons. It has taught us to be strong and courageous to face any hardship whatsoever in life.
We learnt that utmost care of our health is of paramount importance. We need to listen to our body and take every health issue seriously. Exercising, diet & proper nutrition, periodic tests and screening, should never be overlooked
 Nurgali K, Jagoe RT, Abalo R. Editorial: Adverse Effects of Cancer Chemotherapy: Anything New to Improve Tolerance and Reduce Sequelae? Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:245. Published 2018 Mar 22. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00245