One of the most frustrating side effects of chemo has been the loss of sensation in the bottom of the feet, an instance of the peripheral neuropathy often accompanying the heavy duty poisons used to burn out malignancies.
In addition to the neuropathy, we’ve also contracted a case of edma in the lower right leg, with the foot appended thereto sometimes swelling to the point our battered old sandal doesn’t fit.
So it was with interest we read this in a piece at science 2.0:
Some of the most disturbing findings of recent studies of cancer survivors is the apparent prevalence of chemotherapy-associated adverse neurological effects, including vascular complications, seizures, mood disorders, cognitive dysfunctions, and peripheral neuropathies.
In addition, chemotherapy triggers changes in ion channels on dorsal root ganglia and dorsal horn neurons that generate secondary changes resulting in neuropathic pains.
Although a number of protective agents have been developed, their effects are not quite satisfactory. Chemotherapy drugs are also implicated in changes in hippocampal neurogenesis and plasticity.
Our neuropathy isn’t the painful sort, beyond that peculiar tingling characteristic of that transitional phase when a limb fallen asleep is tingling back to life. But feeling in the soles is critical to balance, so we’re moving a bit more carefully and awkwardly of late.
The research shows one potential benefit of chemo beyond cancer treatment. Patients who’ve been chemoed for some forms of cancer have significantly lower rates of Alzheimer’s. Sadly, micropapillary carcinoma of the bladder and adenoma of the prostate weren’t on the list. On the other hand, no ancestors were afflicted with the devastating ailment.
But the CT scan and chest Xrays were clear, and so we’ll cruise along until we lie down for the next scam and thrust our chest against the plate of the Xray machine down the hall, undergoing burst of carcinogenic to see if any tumors have sprouted up since the last round.
We do harbor questions: Does chemo affect other parts of the brain than the hippocampus? And, if so, what are the effects?
The hippocampus itself plays a central role in long-term memory, which also raises questions about the reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s. We’ve noticed a somewhat diminished ability to concentrate, which is the main reason we’ve not done the longer posts we did prior to chemo.
Acutely aware of our mortality — being reminded of it every time we have to drain the rine from the bag adhered to our thorax — we stumble along.
Hamlet had the choices right: 2B or
2B. We’ve chosen the former, knowing full well the latter looms larger by the day.