Are you looking for information and first hand experiences of weekly Taxol chemo and its side effects?
When I finished my twelve weeks of Taxol, I was so relieved to have finally completed a total of six months of chemo treatment!
This photo is of me on my last day! Woohoo!
Prior to my Taxol treatments, I had four chemo sessions of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. These were really aggressive drugs, and they came with some harsh side effects.
Because I had such a hard time with AC Chemo, I was actually looking forward to Taxol. Even though I had a few minor hiccups with the treatment, I found Taxol to be MUCH easier than AC chemo.
This post details what you can expect from Taxol, including the side effects you may experience.
*As always, please remember that I am in no way a doctor of any sort. These are merely my personal experiences with chemotherapy. Please speak with your doctor before making any decisions.
(Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Where did Taxol come from?
As I mentioned above, I was really looking forward to starting my 12 weeks of Taxol because it meant I was FINALLY finished with The Red Devil (Adriamycin).
I met with my medical oncologist the day I started this new treatment, and he went over the possible side effects. During my appointment, my doctor explained that Taxol actually comes from a plant. He explained that some people have an allergic reaction to this, though.
My oncologist told me that there is a possible, RARE side effect soon after the Taxol is injected into your body that can cause you to go into shock.
I was really paranoid after he mentioned this, but my doctor said that if it were to occur, it would happen almost immediately and the nurses would handle it. He also emphasized that it is a very rare reaction.
On another note, does anyone else feel like laughing when their doctor tells them something is rare and probably won’t happen?? I mean, I was 36 years old with breast cancer. There is no history of any cancer in my family, and I eat right and exercise.
I think it is “rare” for someone like me to get breast cancer; yet I have it! So I’m really not comforted by the term “rare” anymore. Maybe I’m just paranoid though!
Anyway, after meeting with my oncologist, my husband and I headed down to the infusion center to get started. So the whole way down to infusion, I gave myself a pep talk about this rare possible side effect and tried to convince myself that it probably never happens to anyone.
Well right after I check in, I hear “Code Blue, Code Blue” over the infusion center intercom…Seriously???It turned out to be a false alarm on an elderly gentleman, but it did NOT help my nerves!
The infusion nurses got my port hooked up to the IV machine, and they explained my pre-meds. I was going to be getting an anti-nausea medicine, Pepcid, a steroid, and Benadryl all before Taxol. My body did fine with all the pre-meds EXCEPT the Benadryl. It was awful!
So, I’m going to preface this by saying that I have always been sensitive to Benadryl. I can take half of a pill and fall right to sleep. For some reason the nurses had to push the Benadryl into my IV rather than letting it drip from an IV bag.
I’m pretty sure they explained why, but I honestly can’t remember. Anyway, right when the nurse pushed the Benadryl into my IV, I felt incredible hot. I mentioned it to my nurse, but she thought it may just be nerves.
Shortly after she finished giving me the Benadryl, my head felt like the room was spinning and I couldn’t focus my eyes. So, I told my husband and the nurse that something wasn’t right. The nurse said that the Benadryl basically made me “high”.
Well then I started vomiting! Luckily there were bags in the drawer beside me that I could get sick in. After a while, the room stopped spinning and my eyes could focus again.
From that day forward I received the Benadryl in an IV bag. The nurses diluted it with saline and put it on a SLOW drip. This worked perfectly, and I never had another issue for the following eleven weeks!
Is Taxol easier than AC Chemo?
I had no reaction to the Taxol during my first infusion, which was a huge relief! I was really sleepy after this treatment and every other Taxol treatment due to the Benadryl. Because of this, I don’t recommend driving yourself if at all possible.
After my second Taxol treatment went super smoothly (especially compared to the first one), I started going to chemo alone. This was a huge difference from AC Chemo.
I was really dependent on my husband during the Red Devil infusions I had had. With Taxol, I felt alert and comfortable. My side effects were a lot less severe with Taxol as well. When I had AC Chemo, I needed help caring for my two small kids for at least a week after treatment. With Taxol, I was fully able to care for my kids when I was home, which was a huge relief.
This saved my husband and I from having to get a babysitter or having to get family to drive in from out of town to watch the kids.
We even got to the point where my husband would just drop me off and pick me up at chemo. I think the nurses initially felt sorry for me that I was there alone. I (half) jokingly told them it was the most peaceful three hours of my week!
At home I had a one year old and a five year old to tend to. At chemo, I got to sit in a chair, read magazines, talk to friends on the phone, and even watch TV (that wasn’t the Disney Channel).
You have to look for the positives in this breast cancer journey, so I decided to treat chemo as my weekly mom getaway!
Weekly Side Effects
I’m going to list any side effect or weird thing that happened to me while on Taxol. The things I list may or may not be related to chemo; however, if it started with Taxol and ended with Taxol, I’m going to blame….you guessed it TAXOL!
While on Adriamycin and Cytoxan, I had pretty standard side effects like hair loss, nausea, and fatigue.
Taxol came with a whole other slew of side effects though! Thankfully they weren’t debilitating side effects like with the AC chemo. I could still function on Taxol. I was really tired the day of treatment due to the Benadryl and nausea medicine; but, I could push through it and still care for my kids.
Besides feeling sleepy the first day, these were the side effects I experienced:
One of my pre-meds with Taxol was a steroid. This steroid caused me to have a TON of energy the day after each Taxol treatment.
I actually looked forward to going to treatment because I knew the next day I would be super productive.
The day after treatment, I couldn’t sit still. I needed to be up doing something constantly. So, I started using this day as my house cleaning day!
My house has never looked so good!
Although I completely welcomed the extra energy, the insomnia that came with it got old fast.
I would wake up after only a few hours of sleep and not be able to fall asleep again for HOURS.
This would last for the first 3-4 nights after treatment.
If this is something that happens with you, you can talk to your doctor about taking a sleep aid. I ended up taking a sleep aid the night of Taxol and for the next 2-3 nights following each treatment.
This helped tremendously!
Taxol put me into CHEMOpause at 36 years old. My main symptom of this was hot flashes- particularly at night.
I was always that girl who is constantly freezing even when other people are comfortable. After Taxol, I started getting hot flashes and terrible night sweats.
Since I started taking Tamoxifen once I finished my other treatments, my body is still in menopause. These hot flashes and night sweats do get worse, but I’m hoping they eventually calm down.
If you’ve been through this, let me know if there is any end in sight!!!
**Update: I am a year and a half out from Taxol, and I STILL have hot flashes multiple times a day. My oncology nurse said that they won’t go away as long as I’m on Tamoxifen. Ugh! Despite the fact that they are REALLY annoying, I have chosen to accept them because they are better than the alternative!
One of the side effects I feared the most with Taxol was losing my nails.
I had heard/read that your toenails and finger nails turn a dark color and then start to fall off. Gross!
I met a fellow survivor through my plastic surgeon, and she recommended this OPI Nail Envy nail polish (“Original” with GREEN label). (Amazon Affiliate Link)
I’m going to tell you ahead of time that it is way more than I usually spend on nail polish; however, I really wanted my nails to stay intact. I also used it often and still have a ton left so it does last.
It comes with really specific instructions on how often to apply the polish. I followed these directions to a tee.
And it worked! I didn’t lose any of my nails. They didn’t even change colors!
The last few weeks of treatment, I did notice that my toenails seemed tender and sore in spots; but, they stayed on, which was all I cared about!
A few weeks into Taxol, I noticed I was getting really sharp, shooting pains in certain parts of my body, especially in my abdomen.
These really concerned me at first, but I eventually just started to accept and ignore the pains. They seemed to focus on one area for a day, and then the pain would be in a completely different area the next day.
In addition to these shooting pains, I had horrible rib pain throughout Taxol. This was probably the worst side effect for me because it was constant and uncomfortable.
The pain was so severe that my oncologist ordered an X-ray to determine if I had a broken bone, inflammation, or more cancer in my ribs.
Thankfully the X-ray came back clear. I had a dry cough throughout all of Taxol so the coughing may have also triggered the rib pain.
This is really random, but I couldn’t handle wearing earrings during my twelve weeks of Taxol.
I tried to wear just some small stud earrings numerous times throughout treatment. They always made the hole in my ear feel infected though.
Once I completed Taxol, I was able to wear earrings again without any problems.
My skin (particularly on my arms and legs) was super rough after finishing chemo as well. This lasted for over a month after treatment was over.
My daughter has keratosis pilaris (aka chicken skin), and my skin looked and felt just like hers.
This ended up going away on its own eventually.
I had never had a nosebleed in my life, but my oncologist told me they are common with Taxol.
Mine never bled to the point where it was dripping out of my nose or anything. I just noticed that whenever I blew my nose or wiped it with a tissue, blood came out too.
If you have ever had pregnancy brain or baby brain, chemo brain is basically the same.
I would forget really simple words or thoughts at random times.
For example, an acquaintance asked me the name of a school where I worked in the past. I literally could not tell her the name of this school where I taught for four years!
I just tried to make a joke out of it because it can be embarrassing!
So, in this particular instance I just said chemo brain is real!! I know I should know the name of this school, but I honestly can’t even tell you what letter of the alphabet it starts with.
Another example, one day I needed a trash bag out of a closet in my house. I thought about the trash bag the whole way to the closet.
Right when I opened the closet door, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking for.
I just stood there for a full minute looking in the closet because I knew it would eventually come to me, and it did!
Chemo brain got better for me once chemo was over. Try not to beat yourself up over it too much.
I had moments when I thought it was comical, but I also had moments when it was frustrating and even emotional.
Just remember: This too shall pass!
My same friend who suggested the special nail polish to keep my nails strong also gave me pointers to prevent neuropathy.
The trick was to hold freezing cold items on your hands and place them on your feet to keep the blood flow from going into your hands and feet.
I initially used bags of frozen peas, but the peas ended up thawing toward the end of each treatment and smelled terrible!
So, another woman who sat in the chemo chair next to me suggested that I buy these ice bags. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
This worked so much better because I could shove them in my purse until I needed them. This way I didn’t have to lug a cooler with ice and frozen peas to chemo each week.
These bags were really soft and much easier to hold as well. And they didn’t smell bad!
I bought two: one for my hands and one to lay across my feet. Now I keep them in my first aid kit at home so I can get additional use out of them!
Final Thoughts on Taxol
Although I had a lot of side effects during my twelve weeks of Taxol, it really was a MUCH EASIER treatment than Adriamycin/Cytoxan.
I also started feeling more like my self during this time. I was able to eat normally, and I wasn’t nauseous or super tired anymore.
Also, my hair started growing in during Taxol, which felt amazing!
What were your weekly Taxol side effects?
Comment below and let me know!
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