Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

4 x FEC + 4 x taxotere Chemotherapy

By h

My tumour was a 2cm Grade2 triple negative IDC with no node involvement or vascular invasion. This was at the end of 2006 and before taxotere was licensed for primary bc. However,because I had some private health insurance and because of the tn status my oncologist prescribed 4xFEC and 4XTaxotere.

Before starting I had a meeting with my bcn who gave me some useful advice.She suggested sipping iced water or sucking ice lollies while chemo was going in.The theory is that this reduces the risk of oral thrush or mouth ulcers and I certainly experienced neither of these problems.I bought fruit juice lollies[Tesc Finest]and uused a wide necked flas whick I kept open in the freezer the night before.I drank lots of water too.

The 3 drugs had slightly different effects as they went in.One[f?] made my nose tingle and gave me a strange feeling in the genital area. Another[c?] made me feel light headed for a few seconds. The Epirubicin made me pee red immediately and this gradually faded over 48 hours.

The evening/night after FEC I vomited-just once each time-despite the anti sickness drugs.I found the steroids made me very hungry at odd times of the day or night but my tastes changed dramatically.I could not tolerate any dairy products,not even milk in tea.I craved very savoury foods but many tasted odd to me.I couldnt drink water as it tasted 'heavy' and 'metallic'.I found chilled sparkling water was good as was adding lime juice to ordinary water with ice cubes.I also enjoyed lemon and ginger tea.

I became increasingly 'weary' after each chemo with heavy legs and sleepiness at odd times.My concentration lapsed and I coulnt be bothered to read much.I lay in front of daytime tv for hours.

My hair came out after 2 weeks from first fec.It began with quite a painful tingling in my scalp then more amd more hair went until,one day,most of it went at once in the shower.

Despite all this I found FEC quite tolerable and got through the 4 with the help of Neulasta [given by district nurse day after chemo] to boost white cell count.

Remember to check your temperature morning and evening and contact doc if it goes over 37.5.

Taxotere was very hard for me[not everyone].It is important to be closely monitored during the first and second infusion of taxotere as some people have an allergic reaction to it and it is important that this is spotted and treated immediately.

The good thing was that I had no nausea or vomiting at all with this chemo.

I was advised to paint my nails a dark colour and keep them painted as tax often causes nails[fingers and toes]to lift or even come off.I did lose one big toe nail but all the others were fine.

The following side effects were cumulative for me.
Exhaustion/lethargy I was barely able to move from bed/sofa by the end.

  • Breathlessness-even walking a few yards to the bathroom had me gasping for breath.
  • Diarrhoea which made me very, very sore.
  • Sore watery eyes and some blurred vision.
  • Severe joint pain[worse after 1st tax]
  • Depression.

After my 4th and final tax I developed neutropenia despite the Neulasta injections and was in hospital on introvenous antibx for a couple of days. This delayed the start of rads while I recovered.By this time I could only manage a few yards walking and had to use a wheelchair just to get up corridors in hospital.

BUT! By the 5th week post chemo-by which time I had also finished rads I began to slowly improve. My hair began to grow back and I could walk a little further each week. My taste returned to normal fairly quickly though some things took longer. I finished tax in May and by August I had a full head of short hair. My eyelashes came next but I still[3 years later] have no eyebrows.

I am very grateful to have been given fec/tax despite the side effects I felt it was 'doable'.

I hope this may help others but do remember that we are all different in our reactions to chemo.

Good Luck