Reasons to be cheerful
- Chemo session #2 complete – I’m a third of the way through chemotherapy
- I still have hair
- Cadbury is relaunching a chocolate bar and it looks scrummy.
It’s nearly two weeks since the last chemo, and the session itself went well. I wore my Wonder Woman boots and took my super powers with me. However, I had forgotten to pack the super power of staying warm. The cold cap was so much colder without a thick mane of hair at the back of my neck and I got chilled to the bone. My head didn’t feel any colder this time (I think it just goes numb after 10 minutes at -5 degrees), but that evening at home I felt very cold, and my friend who visited me said I looked white as a sheet. So, for round #3 I will take some muslin for the nurse to put on the back of my neck under the cold cap, and a flask of tea so I can sip hot tea for the three hour endurance test.
My nurse had to use a different vein in my hand this time, as the previous one used wasn’t playing ball. I’m hoping I don’t run out of good veins and have to have a permanent port, called a picc line, put in my arm. As I’ve had surgery to my right armpit, my right arm can not be used for injections or IV, so my left arm is taking a bit of a beating. My vein is also sore all the way up my arm, which apparently is a common side effect. Makes sense really, as our veins aren’t really designed to have a litre of various toxic fluids pumped in to them.
Some other interesting new side effects to report. I don’t think I mentioned that one of the chemo drugs, epirubicin, gives you bright red wee straight away – it comes out the same colour as it goes in, just like the Tiny Tears dolls of my childhood. The chemo suite has a patient only toilet, and I imagine it’s because we are all urinating such toxic stuff. I was also advised to flush twice if I use a public loo whilst I’m peeing the red stuff. This is a selfie from said toilet after my chemo.
And you know that thing where your wee smells after you’ve eaten asparagus? Well, chemo does that too except it’s quite a bit more pungent.
Finding the positive, no PMT to deal with at the moment as chemotherapy has stopped my periods. And in all likelihood they won’t come back, I have a medically induced menopause to look forward to. More on that another time.
This is the view from the Whittington after my chemo session:
Despite all the above, I have bounced back more quickly this time than after chemo #1. I now realise that some of the side effects I had experienced first time were actually the start of shingles. Also, this time I had acupuncture the day before chemo, and I think this has helped. Fingers crossed for #3.
One of the ways I am managing this whole dastardly affair is by facing the tough stuff when I feel ready. For a week after the chemo I knew my hair was dirty and falling out but I did not have the emotional strength to deal with it, so I wore a buff or a beanie day and night and avoided looking at my hair in the mirror. Then, day 7 after chemo I knew I had the strength to face reality. I washed my hair, and it fell out in clumps. What would the mirror reveal? Hooray, I’m not bald! Definitely perfecting the comb over technique, but still presentable. I am enjoying my hair whilst it lasts.
Have you seen the film Get Out? I’d highly recommend it. On one level it’s a stonkingly good thriller story, and on another it has a lot to say about middle class racism. My reason for mentioning it is that there is a scene where the protagonist is hypnotised. He is instructed to “sink”. And we see him sinking in to his armchair and being sucked in to a black abyss. That’s what the days after chemo feel like. It is like being sucked physically, emotionally and mentally in to treacle. Everything feels much harder and slower. And nothing feels the same. But I know it will pass. Day 6 and 7 I can feel myself emerging from the treacle. So, now matter how thick the treacle gets, I tell myself tomorrow is another day and it will get better. And it does.
The Treacle Cafe
Your taste buds change completely in the days after chemo. This time I didn’t even like sparkling water. But I could tolerate Waitrose sugar free cloudy lemonade and was drinking cans of it a day. Not exactly healthy, but it’s more important to stay hydrated. And in terms of food, the menu at the Treacle Cafe (ie what I could face eating) is basically a kids’ menu:
- Baked beans
- Fish fingers
- Jacket potato
- Tuna sweetcorn
- Vanilla ice cream
Put anything else green in front of me (salad, broccoli, spinach) whilst I’m in the Treacle Cafe and I will fold my arms and push out my bottom lip until it’s taken away. Definitely a kids’ cafe.
I have often gone along to watch the London Marathon and cheer on all the amazing runners. It is one of the most uplifting experiences, to witness the pursuit of human endeavour and the huge support from the crowds. When the depressing state of the world which the media portrays to us gets too much, go to a mass participation event, cheer from the sidelines, and revel in the good in humanity. All those thousands of runners who are running to make their lives better, and to improve the lives of others, it makes me feel good about the world again.
This year I watched from the treacle sofa, and found myself crying quite often (which I do anyway, I cry when I complete half marathons and cycle 100 mile sportives too). The commentators said that since its inauguration in 1981, nearly £1billion has been raised for charity. Astonishing. Over the years I have donated to charities, as well as raising funds through sponorship by running numerous half marathons, cycling sportives and even cycling London to Paris in 2010 (an amazing experience, I highly recommend it). This is something I have always done with huge pride, but always felt a little awkward asking for donations. Well, I won’t feel awkward in the future. Having cancer has meant that I have become reliant, not just on the NHS, but also charity. Already I have received direct support and benefit from a number of charities: Macmillan, Penny Brohn, Cherry Lodge Cancer Care, The Haven and Breast Cancer Care. There are also a number of charities whose websites have been hugely helpful to me. And if it wasn’t for thousands of strangers willing to put themselves through the hell of training to run 26.2 miles, and thousands of strangers willing to donate their hard earned cash, then my experience of cancer treatment, and my prognosis, would be very different.
I will keep saying thank you to all of you for your words of support, your company, your gifts, your good wishes, your time. It’s a long haul getting through treatment and beyond, and I’m forever grateful to have you there by my side.