Round 2: My BEP Experience

I would like to preface this post with a note that this is my experience with BEP so other women with GCT have another resource other than those of the men, which is more common, that have been treated with this regimen. So, I am trying to be truthful about all my side effects, which includes constipation, so if that word bothers you, please do not read this post or skip that paragraph, unless you are about to undergo this treatment. 

After re-reading my last post about Bleomycin, Etoposide and Cisplatin (BEP), I realized I spoke about the nausea and hair loss, but did not touch on some of the other effects that were present. I guess I was more focused on my hair and how people would react when they saw me, so I thought I would be a little more detailed about the nausea and talk about the acid reflux, ringing in the ears, constipation and sleeplessness.

I started my second round of chemo April 16th and finished April 20th. The nausea I spoke of in the first post was still present.  The Cisplatin causes nausea so they gave me Zofran as a preventative. However, I still tended to have some breakthrough nausea which they treated with Compazine.  Another trigger for my nausea was some breathing treatments. They were giving me breathing treatments twice a day due to the Bleomycin. Bleo can affect your lung function. During the first round I tolerated the treatment fine until the very last day, so we skipped the last treatment. However during the second round I noticed after each treatment I began to dry heave. Since Bleo is only administered the first three days and I was not having any shortness of breath they let me skip final two days.

During both rounds of BEP the acid reflux stayed with me non stop. They did treat me with an acid reducer twice I day, which helped but did not resolve the problem.  I found myself snacking on saltines and ginger ale daily to try to combat the feelings. If I was hungrier,  I ate toast with peanut butter. It’s my go to snack at home when I don’t feel well. I like the toast because I figured the bread would help absorb some of the acid and the peanut butter gave me some protein. If I felt like I could eat more of a meal, I tried to order something bland from the kitchen. I am fortunate, MD Anderson brings you a menu and you get to order what you want to eat when you are ready to eat.  Some hospitals feed everyone the same thing at the same time. If you are not ready eat when they bring it to you, you are out of luck. Unless your family sneaks something in for you.

Another side effect of BEP is ringing in the ears. I didn’t mention it the first time because it only happened a couple of times the first two days after round one and then went away. However, after round two the ringing seemed to be louder and occurred more often and longer. It lasted throughout the first week but then seemed to taper off. The second week I was home noticed a couple of times but not as intense as the first week. I called my doctor and she scheduled an audiology appoint to see where I was at hearing wise.

The other issue I experienced was constipation. During the first round I was constipated. Half way through the week they began administering a docusate twice a day and I was able to relieve myself before my release. I went from one extreme to the next but all resolved itself within 24 hours.  During round two they prescribed the docusate from day one, twice a day. I found myself struggling on the last day of my hospitalization without much success. The problem continued at home and made it a difficult to pass anything. I continued to take Colace at home, and was finally able to relieve myself but not without difficulty. I spoke with my doctor about it and found out that Zofran could be the problem, so they are switching me to Senakot during round 3.

The only new side effect that I experienced was sleeplessness. Typically, even after sleeping through the night, I have to take an afternoon nap for approximately two to three hours. Sometimes I sleep a little longer depending what I did that day. However, this was different. I could not sleep through the night or the following day. I wouldn’t classify it as insomnia because I was able to nap for short periods of a half hour to an hour, but then I would wake up. This sleep pattern made me feel more tired than usual. That is when I learned I was being administered a steroid as a pre-medicine and that it could be the source of my sleeplessness. Finally, my body was so exhausted I did manage to sleep longer than an hour, I actually slept three to four hours. However, the next night I found myself restless again. The doctors wrote a p.r.n., which means as needed,  order for Ambien and I was able to finally sleep.

Now with all that said, at my doctors appointment yesterday I found out that my Inhibin levels went down after the first round which means the tumors are shrinking. It takes a week or so to get the results back, so the results from my second round won’t be available for another week. Fingers crossed they shrank some more and the numbers are even lower. I don’t know how much because they are not going to scan me until after my 4th round is complete, but here’s hoping for good results are good.