Cancer Journal

Side Effects of FOLFOX
(Oxaliplatin, 5-Fluorouracil [5-FU], Leucovorin)

This is a list of all the side effects I experienced while on FOLFOX:

  • Severe fatigue. I was unable to recuperate between treatments by the time I hit my 8th treatment / cycle

  • Bouts of insomnia after each chemo cycle

  • Low red cell blood count - Procrit shots brought up my counts. Procrit really stings, especially since it has to be a full 2 minutes to give.

  • Low white blood cell count - Neulasta shots brought up my counts. This too stings, but not nearly as bad as Procrit

  • Runny, drippy nose. Have tissue handy at store checkout counters!

  • Dry cough

  • Weight gain (due to steroids in pre-meds)

  • Jumbled speech

  • Clumsiness -- frequent falls

  • Memory lapse

  • Headaches

  • Thinning hair; then balding. Yep, balding. Not very common with Folfox, but of course, I got to endure balding. I fixed this by getting my head shaved and wearing wigs in public. I'd rather not wear a wig (irritated my scalp, even with a net!), but I wore one so as not to embarass my husband and children or bring attention to myself. When I'm at home, the wig is the first thing to go -- then the shoes! You can see photos of my balding head and wigs. My hairstylist and other chemo patients recommend trying Nioxin. It's to be rubbed on the bald or thinning spots and voila! Hairs magically sprout where there was none.

  • Nausea. Alleviated by taking Phenergan pill at the earliest onset of nausea.

  • Vomiting. This only happened during the first cycle. I was given more anti-nausea pre-meds from then on.

  • Lack of appetite. This only happened during each cycle (3 days every other week for me). And most of the time, I could only stomach carbohydrates.

  • Body aches and pains. I noticed more flu-like symptoms with joint and bone pains soon after I got a Neulasta shot every other week.

  • Osteoarthritis. My right hip and lower back hurt when I stood or walked for a length of time. This only started after my 10th cycle of chemo. After undergoing x-rays, I soon learned the pain was due to arthritis -- bone-to-bone contact -- from the steroids as part of the pre-meds I received prior to each chemo treatment.

  • Severe cold sensitivity. I had to wear gloves to touch cool silverware, soda cans, clothes from the washer; to get anything out of the refrigerator or freezer. When cutting up meat directly from the fridge or freezer, I had to constantly run my hands in warm to hot water to alleviate the pain caused by the cold temperature of the meat. Hurt to swallow cold water -- even at room temperature! Felt like my throat was closing up on me when I attempted to swallow anything cool. Also, cool water while on chemo tasted disgustingly like metal. Hot decaffeinated green tea was my favorite drink on chemo.

  • Hand cramps

  • Numb fingers, hands, toes, feet, legs, tongue and gums

  • Sharp pain in jaws at the first bite of anything

  • Face cramps. Sounds odd, but my face would scrunch up in weird contortions in the cold winter air. I would have to blast hot air on my face before stepping out of my car. No snow-skiing this winter season!

  • Severe eye pain when watery -- this started when I was on my 9th treatment. It felt like ice cubes pressing on my eyeballs, not that I've ever done that to myself!

List of drugs administered to alleviate cramps, nausea / vomiting, neuropathy, and cold sensitivity:

  • Quinine -- alleviated leg and foot cramps.
  • Phenergan -- anti-nausea pills.
  • Calcium/Magnesium IV drip (part of pre-meds) -- supposedly hindered neuropathy and cold sensitivity
  • Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin C -- daily supplements. I really don't know if the supplements helped or not. However, I can't imagine the neuropathy and cold sensitivity to be any worse!