Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Cymbalta Diaries - A personal story

I came across this blog: ( written by a lung cancer patient with a fantastic sense of humour and an enormous dose of realism. She has developed neuropathy and has just begun taking Cymbalta and has decided to keep a diary. Well worth reading! I'm publishing one post here but I'm sure many people will wish to continue reading her blog - general title 'As the Tumor turns':Subtitle: 'That which doesn't kill us merely postpones the inevitable.' - full link above.
The Cymbalta Diaries

I deliberated long and hard before I decided to take this new drug Cymbalta that my GP prescribed to help with the pain from peripheral neuropathy. This pain, which is a result of nerve damage caused by one of my chemo drugs called Vincristine, has become progressively worse since chemo ended, and is beginning to put a big fat crimp in my QOL. On bad days the pain is all I can think of, and even on the best of days, it's preventing me from doing things I enjoy, like gardening and working out.

I had my last treatment in January. In early February I pruned my roses with no problems, but today my hands hurt so exquisitely and severely that I can barely hold my pruners, much less squeeze them. And I'm just waiting for the day when the pain and numbness cause me to drop an 800 pound barbell on somebody's head, most likely mine.

My life has become pretty darn miserable lately. I have numbness in my hands and arms and feet, accompanied by what's technically called "tingling" but that's way too mild and festive a word. It's really more like an intense constant soundless buzzing. Sort of like when your foot falls asleep, except here it's all four of my limbs, and they never wake up. And this grating neurological cacophony is accompanied by a throbbing, pervasive soreness, achy tenderness, and sharp shooting pains that radiate up my arms into my shoulders. I would like very much for it to go away.

But this drug, Cymbalta. In the few years since it's been approved to treat major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and diabetic neuropathy (Vincristine induced neuropathy is actually off label but word on the street is it's effective anyway), it has managed to develop itself a pretty nasty anecdotal reputation among users. It's most popular nickname seems to be "the Drug From Hell."

Cymbalta's two most commonly reported side effects are: 1.) turning into a raging homicidal/suicidal maniac, and 2.) gaining 45 pounds. But when people try to stop taking the damn stuff, the withdrawal, even with tapering, is said to be more brutal than trying to quit heroine, cigarettes, coffee, and Grey's Anatomy all at once while somebody is pounding on your head with a sledge hammer and running electric shocks through your brain.

Here are some of the less dramatic symptoms that show up in a google search for Cymbalta side effects:

profuse sweating
zero libido
severe insomnia
extreme irritability
suicidal ideation
debilitating lethargy
uncontrollable hunger
inability to eat
wild mood swings
kneejerk rages
vivid nightmares
blurry vision

Wait. That sounds awfully familiar, almost like...hmmm. Chemotherapy? Why the hell would anybody submit to this hell if their life didn't depend on it?

But. You have to figure there's a selection bias in action here: the people who take Cymbalta with very good results and minor or no side effects are not generally the people who stay up all night posting on internet message boards about how Cymbalta forced them to them hack their parents into tiny pieces and deep fry their spleens like a batch of Tater Tots for supper. So even if 99% of the people who take Cymbalta find it effective and benefit from great relief, any random internet search will tend to be skewered in favor of the 1% that became rabidly addicted homicidal ax murderers with a keyboard. That doesn't necessarily mean that I will.

But just in case I do, I've decided to start keeping The Cymbalta Diaries, so I can monitor my reactions to the drug. At least if I flip out and start deep frying people's organs, my beloved children may be able to sell the screen rights to these diaries and retire somewhere in the south of France where nobody knows who the hell their crazy mother was.

So, without further ado, I present to you: The Cymbalta Diaries, Day 1.

7:30: Woke up with severe pain and buzzing in both hands and arms. Feet felt like bursting into flames when they touched the floor. Nevertheless my mood was vaguely cheerful and spacy as usual. Pain subsided somewhat after a few minutes of puttering with the animals and boiling a pot of tea.

7:50: Made up a batch of super healthy high protein high fiber blueberry muffins with flax oil for breakfast.

8:15: Took first Cymbalta capsule, 30 mg., with green jasmine tea.

8:20: Decapitated three neighbors and gained 45 pounds.

8:21: Haha, not really. Actually I just took the muffins out of the oven. They turned out pretty good.

8:22: No change.

9:15: Nothing.

10:15: Nada. Have another muffin?

11:30: Ho hum.

1:00: Lalalala, I'm waaaaiting.

2:15: Ok, maybe the pain is a little less. Or maybe not. I can't really tell. Nothing dramatic. But also no sweating, no vomiting, no mayhem. No noticable mood changes, still vaguely cheerful and spacy. Maybe it takes time to build up or something. I'll report back later. But if you don't hear from me, be sure to watch the 6:00 news tonight. Just in case.


  1. Hi, I am another who is being driven crazy by my hands! I have idiopathic neuropathy. I have been taking Cymbalta 60mg for one week. no change yet, good or bad that I can notice...

  2. I'm pretty sure you need to give it some time before you'll know if it's working or not. There is another post about Cymbalta here on the blog (see list on the right or use this link)


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