My Friend the Pacific Yew, Taxus Brevifolia


This Tuesday (5/6) I had my first treatment with paclitaxel. My allergic reaction was comparatively mild: I felt dizzy, had a headache, my heart rate went up, I had labored breathing, and my arms were a little bit itchy. The nurses stopped the paclitaxel drip and gave me some Benadryl and Lorazipam. A few minutes later I was able to resume treatment.

Side effects once I got home were also mild compared to the A/C. I slept all night, waking up only once to use the restroom. Same thing last night. I’m not having any facial swelling and so far there’s very little nausea.

I guess the trees, they like me.

Some more info on paclitaxel is below.

Drug Information: Paclitaxel (pak’ li tax el)

(From Medline)

Paclitaxel is in a class of drugs known as taxanes. It slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in your body. The length of treatment depends on the types of drugs you are taking, how well your body responds to them, and the type of cancer you have.


Before taking paclitaxel,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to paclitaxel, cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), teniposide (Vumon), other drugs containing Cremophor EL (polyoxyethylated castor oil) or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially aspirin and vitamins.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had heart or liver disease.
  • you should know that paclitaxel may interfere with the normal menstrual cycle (period) in women and may stop sperm production in men. However, you should not assume that you cannot get pregnant or that you cannot get someone else pregnant. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should tell their doctors before they begin taking this drug. You should not plan to have children while receiving chemotherapy or for a while after treatments. (Talk to your doctor for further details.) Use a reliable method of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Paclitaxel may harm the fetus.
  • do not have any vaccinations (e.g., measles or flu shots) without talking to your doctor.
  • your doctor will prescribe a medication called dexamethasone (Decadron) which must be taken before your treatment. If you forget to take the dexamethasone, tell your doctor as soon as possible.

Side effects

Side effects from paclitaxel are common, and include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • change in taste
  • thinned or brittle hair
  • pain in the joints of the arms or legs lasting 2-3 days
  • changes in the color of the nails
  • tingling in the hands or toes

Tell your doctor if either of these symptoms is severe or lasts for several hours:

  • mouth blistering
  • fatigue

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • change in normal bowel habits for more than 2 days
  • fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • severe exhaustion
  • skin rash
  • facial flushing
  • chest pain

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

In case of emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
Special instructions

  • The most common side effect of paclitaxel is a decrease of blood cells. Your doctor may order tests before, during, and after your treatment to see if your blood cells are affected by the drug.

Brand name(s): * Onxol® * Taxol®


About Wild Rose

I’m known as Wild Rose, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 8, 2008. I had no insurance, and my income, which wasn’t large anyway, had just been cut by 2/3. This is my story, my thoughts, and the ideas that I dream up or find elsewhere. I hope that other patients and survivors find solace here.

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