It’s chemo day, cycle number 2 of 8. They say cycle 2 or 3 can be the worst. I don’t understand this, as if it’s a build up of the chemicals then surely cycle 7 or 8 would be the worst? I’ve set my alarm for 8 am but I’m awake by 6.30. Usual routine of feeding Molly and Tia followed by 1/2 biscuit, coffee and a fag. I sit and think about what the day will have in store for me.
Facebook messages and texts of ‘good luck’ start to arrive (thank you to you all). Mom calls from her holiday to say “happy chemo day” She has to walk to the beach to get a signal and there’s limited signal and internet there. You would think she was on the moon but she’s only on the Isles of Scilly, some 50 miles off Penzance!
This blog was intended to help others going through chemo and their loved ones. So saying ‘good luck’ prior to chemo is an odd phrase, it implies like a exam, I may fail. So talking this through with my mom, it’s either a happy day in terms of killing the cancer (happy is probably the wrong word) or just change the message to ‘thinking of you’ is better. I need to change my mindset about chemo and learn to embrace it but that’s hard. Without it to kill the cancer cells within me I won’t survive. So I should want the drugs, look forward to it, but it’s so hard. Today however I just focus on the fact that I may see chemo/cancer friend Karen again. What if she can’t make if she is ill or just changes her mind? I would be so disappointed but I’d have to just understand if that’s the case. What if we don’t recognise each other? The last time we saw each other back in March, we looked very different and as we hugged each other to say goodbye, I couldn’t see for tears and neither could she.
Steve drops me off at the front doors of the hospital, a quick kiss and “love you” exchanged, he heads off home. He has organised to start work late and was going to sit with me until Karen’s text yesterday. I didn’t want him to sit with me anyway. Not in a nasty way but because he would ask me every 30 minutes if I was okay, ask every 20 minutes if I needed anything and every 10 minutes he’d want to go for a fag, all of which would drive me mad.
I’m always the youngest there. I talk to an old lady who is on maintenance chemo and another old lady who is on cycle number 3. I choose the window seat and settle in.
Then she is there, walking towards me, armed with Costa coffee and muffins.
Now I don’t need muffins. They weigh you every time you have chemo and I wasn’t surprised at all that I had again but on weight. I’m now 62 kg, that’s 9 stone 11 ‘in old money’ as they say. I said to the nurse that I must be the only person to get cancer and put on weight. She said that years ago people lost weight normally 2-3 stone but it’s not common now due to the steroids. I am still in my size 8 clothes but for how long? I may need a whole new wardrobe soon! Karen just laughs at my muffin top belly as it isn’t that large, as I am tall and can carry the weight off easier if I stand up all the time, but it is a big muffin top for me.
When we first saw each other, we both just cried and hugged each other. The nurses are also moved to tears when they hear our story too. We are bonded by cancer and our brief time together in Ward 12. We know each others’ pains and fears but we don’t know what each other likes to drink. Karen has brought me a Latte which as I don’t take milk is a ‘no go’ but the nurses enjoyed sharing it and Karen drinks tea. Karen goes to get me a black coffee and whilst she is gone I sit and cry overwhelmed that she has come to see me. We catch up with as much as we can but she has an appointment at the hospital with a counselling cancer nurse so she is gone all too soon. Thank you Karen for being there with me today.
She did manage to return to me after her meeting and walk with me until Steve arrived to pick me up. She said the best thing ever to Steve as a greeting, “hi there Steve, how many condoms are still in the packet?” Eight he replied and we all laughed. All too soon she was gone, walking away after a hug and blowing kisses.
I also met a lady who was there for the first time. The nurses introduce her to me (I have no idea why, for encouragement I think) I am just honest with her as she tries not to cry. No one can change the way the first treatment feels so I don’t even try. I just tell her that is how it feels and it’s normal to be scared. After I was cooked I went to say goodbye to her as she was in another bay. Turns out her husband died of cancer 8 years ago, she used to sit with him when he had his chemo. She has bowel cancer, stage 4 as it’s spread to her liver and lungs. Ain’t life just shit sometimes hey?
Now Steve says I should try to explain how it feels to have chemo, so here goes.
You know when you go on a roller coaster ride and they strap you in? The fear and realisation that there is no turning back, that’s what it’s like. The cannula goes in. Flush first, steroids and ‘space dust sweets’ up your bum feeling for 2 minutes, then flush again, i think. Then the bag of chemo. The nurse presents it like she is offering you a good bottle of wine. There you go Mrs Guy, an infusion of herbs and spices, check the use by date and that your details are correct. The chemicals burn through your veins, the burning builds. Peaking at the last 1/2 hour when you have to ask for a heat pad. This helps to open up your vein. Last flush through for 8 minutes and then the best feeling as the cannula comes out.
Having chemo feels like your body is pissed and you have fallen into a bed of stinging nettles. Your arm aches, your bones ache when you use them like chewing, your jaw is so sore. You have random pain in your eyes, pins and needles in your hands and feet. You can’t even cut a piece of bread as you can’t bear any pressure on your hands. You curse every metal object in your house as you can’t touch metal, at all. But the worst thing is the the lump in your throat. This feels tight, like you can’t breath. It’s odd but you can’t eat or drink anything cold due to the lump in your throat, it’s scary. I lay down to rest in the garden but even your own saliva feels cold and you feel like your throat will go into a spasm. I try to relax my throat and stay calm, as that’s what they tell you to do. I walk like I’m an old woman bent double with the aching in my body. Chemo slows your body down so talking is slow and Steve has to help dress me. If you ask me how I am, I’ll say “I’m fine” cos if I answered with what I’ve just written you would be bored.
Have you ever seen Johnny English, the film with Rowan Atkinson? If you haven’t then treat yourself. There is a scene when he is injected with a truth drug, which is a muscle relaxant. It’s hilarious as he can’t control his body, that’s what chemo is like, muscles lock. Texting is hard cos my thumb locks up, facial muscles also lock, like you have been to the dentist and your numb all over your body and it feels so strange. It’s not all bad as I can still enjoy a coffee and a fag, I just can’t hold the cup without gloves until it warms up from the coffee.
So please realise how much effort has gone into tying this for you, one handed and partly with a glove as the keys are okay but my bloody laptop is metal So thank you for reading this as it’s only taken me 4 hours to complete this post, but you’re worth it