Column: Trying and failing at cryotherapy

On my second round of Taxol chemotherapy treatment, I tried out something the women in my breast cancer Facebook group recommended: cryotherapy, or extreme cold therapy.
Some of them wear frozen gloves and socks in an attempt to help prevent neuropathy, a common side effect of this chemotherapy drug. Neuropathy is generally pain, tingling and numbness brought on by damage to the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms can also include trouble with motor skills like writing and texting, problems gripping, clumsiness and weakness, according to an article on Healthline. The same article said that symptoms can be temporary or a lifelong problem.
Just another one of those fun chemotherapy side effects.
I don’t know much about finding medical research, but from some quick Google searching, it seems that studies of cryotherapy for chemo-induced neuropathy have had mixed results. So this column is not meant to be an endorsement.
According to breastcancer.org, a small medical study of 36 women published in 2017 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that wearing ice socks and gloves for 90 minutes during Taxol treatment helped control neuropathy symptoms.
My doctor hadn’t heard of it, but told me to try it if I’d like. One of the nurses at the Cancer Center told me that some patients do it, but the nurses don’t weigh in on whether it’s a good idea or a bad one, “because there are mixed results from studies.”
I figured it was worth a shot. One less side effect is one less side effect, and what could it hurt?
I meant to try it sooner, but my first week I wasn’t organized enough. I waited too long to order the gloves and socks. A delivery man brought them to my door an hour or so after my treatment. The gloves look like big blue mittens only instead of yarn they’re made of plastic with a liquid filling that freezes. The socks have inserts that you pop in the freezer.
The first treatment I held frozen ice packs in my hands and on my feet for lack of something better.
The second treatment, I packed the gloves and socks with some ice in a cooler and carted it to the CAMC Cancer Center. I hoped they wouldn’t thaw out too much while I had my blood test and waited for treatment to start.
When the nurse finally hung the bag of Taxol and started to administer it, I got out the gloves and socks from the cooler and put them on.
A little about me: I hate being cold so much. I complain about it all through the winter.
So I should have anticipated hating extreme cold therapy as much as I did.
I could not keep my hands in the gloves for too long before yanking them out and rubbing them together to warm up again.
My nurse noticed my discomfort. It might have been the cuss words I muttered under my breath.
“Yeah, I can’t stand being cold, either,” she said.
The socks weren’t so bad. Maybe that was because there was a cloth barrier between my feet and the ice.
The first two treatments of Taxol were administered really slow to make sure I didn’t have any negative reactions to the new drug. The ice was thawing in the socks and gloves before it ended.
So not a great first start at cryotherapy, but I’m going to try again.
I may end up having to get a second pair of both the socks and the gloves. I‘m not sure they’ll stay frozen long enough to use during the entire treatment. My next treatment promises to be shorter, though.
Because I frequently get reader emails from former and current breast cancer patients, here’s a question for you: did you use cryotherapy during Taxol treatment? Did you not and then get neuropathy? Feel free to email me at the address listed below.

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