Ringing, Ringing, Ringing…

I’m glad I belong to the Macmillan Cancer online support group. I knew what I was experiencing were the cumulative side effects of six rounds of chemo but it was nice to read messages from other people who went through the same thing.

My most pronounced side effect right now has to do with changing position. Standing up is an adventure––my ears begin to ring. When I start to walk, the ringing gets louder and my balance becomes uncertain. It’s not true dizziness––more like I’m on the threshold of being dizzy. I’m about to be dizzy. Then the ringing drowns everything out. Sounds are far away, with a tanky quality, as if I’m in a large metal container, or maybe how things sound if you were all by yourself in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

If it’s intense enough, I sit down on the stairs. I never feel like I’m going to fall down exactly but I don’t feel secure standing up, even though my body says it’s quite stable. I can’t sit there for long, however; I got up because I had to, and I have to keep going. Getting up again makes my ears ring even louder.

Then the hissing starts, like water running or gas escaping; always in my right ear. The hissing means the episode is about to start winding down and I just have to wait. At this point in a typical day, I am usually in the loo and Gentleman Jynx, coolest black cat in London, is sitting in front of me with an alert expression on his cool kitty face.

Business taken care of, I head back to the living room, which sets off my ears again. I make my way to the living room with the Gent in the lead. I pause in the doorway of the living room to steady myself before going the last few feet to the sofa and collapsing. Once the Gent is sure I’m settled, he’ll climb onto my lap, either to resume resting on his special lap pillow or he’ll move over to his favourite non-lap pillow near my feet.

There is no exercise with free weights right now––squats would probably make my inner ear explode. All the little inner-ear hairs are gone so my proprioception is off. At least, I think it’s my proprioception. 

The sensation that comes with the ears ringing is so weird. If you can imagine the intensity of a long drop on a roller coaster, but without the sensation of falling––only the intensity of it.

But it’s all good. I’m impatient to bounce back, to get active again but I can deal. It’s not nausea; it’s not painful. At worst, it’s inconvenient, and that won’t kill me. 


7 thoughts on “Ringing, Ringing, Ringing…

  1. Holy whatever, Pat. I never thought about hair loss with chemo being anything other than cosmetic. What a revelation.

    I wish we could knit you something to stuff in your ear.


  2. The main problem with finishing a course of chemo, is you WANT IT TO BE OVER NOW! But it ain’t. Your body will be processing the effects of the chemo for quite awhile. Do remember that what it is doing is runny through your veins and arteries and zapping any cancer cells it can find. This plays silly buggers with your inner ear and balancing mechanisms – OK?

    Take it slow. Give your body time to rest while the chemo-nanobots do their work. And let’s all give a round of applause to Gentleman Jinks. How would any of us survive without our cats?

    Finally: Patience Grasshopper!

  3. As you told me-hang in there, Pat. The inner-ear sounds may be a blood-pressure phenomenon. Sounds like it.
    Don’t stop there…that’s bat country. 🙂
    Good luck.

  4. I had that, but not nearly as bad. It could be blood-pressure; I know while on chemo I could feel and hear my heart beat all the time, like it was this tinny device clanking away in an empty chest.

    But it could be inner ear hair loss as well. When you hear ‘hair loss’ you think carpets and curtains, and that’s about it. You don’t think about the hair in your nose or ears. I now know what the hair in the nose is for – having gone through enough tissues to devastate a small rain forest of trees. And I now know what the hair in the ears – ALL of the hair – is for. Nails are a form of hair, and I was lucky that mine only became fragile and stopped growing rather than fell off altogether. Oh, and when your eyelashes start growing back, they’ll be lovely and lush and all fall out again 28 days later, because that’s the natural cycle of an eyelash – it’ll take a month or two before they all stop being in synch. These are the things the doctors and the oncologists rarely tell you about, possibly because they’re busy with the keeping you alive part.

    Here’s the part you might enjoy – when you started chemo, (if you were like me) you were morbidly fascinated with all the horrible effects it was having on your body. Now that it’s done, you’ll be acutely aware of every change in reverse. It’ll be slow, about twice as long as getting to this stage, and sometimes you might be impatient. Push yourself when you can and baby yourself when you can’t. I just remember that six months after chemo I could putter about ten minutes in my garden before I felt like a noodle skeleton and had to lie down before I fell down. 21 months on, I can go all day digging in my garden. It’s all better from here on, Pat. Hang in there.

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