First Day of Chemo

Thursday 4th February

Thursday 4th February and it’s National Cancer Day. What a not so fabulous co-incidence and yet arguably a perfect date for a charity head shave and the arrival of Bob. This is the name I’ve given to my wig. I HATE the word wig it conjures up thoughts of being bald to me so I figured Bob is just a cute way to refer to it. However, the joys of a head shave couldn’t start before I’d had yet another visit to the hospital. Today was to check if I had a heart, something to do with the second bout of chemo drugs and they need to make sure that everything functions properly. The scan was pretty insignificant but what as lovely was that my private nurse, Janice, who had been assigned to me for the chemo process tracked me down at the hospital and delivered to me the batch load of drugs that I needed to start before the chemo. Steroids are taken for the first couple of days and I was given a collection of meds that are supposed to help with side effects of the chemo. She advised me to speak to the doctors about getting some sleeping tablets. It’s getting more real by the minute.

I laughed through the whole thing. So that was that – hair gone. I’ve got a buzz cut.

After that, I took the train to Cambridge to go back to Scruffs to see Garry who I’ve now renamed ‘Two R’s’. He has to be the most incredible man. I’m not the best with people being too nice to me. It upsets me. I’m built for fun, laughter and piss-taking that’s how I cope and he got the balance just right with me. He mirrors his clients beautifully. You know what? It wasn’t so bad – I laughed through the whole thing. So that was that – hair gone. I’ve got a buzz cut. Painless, unemotional and it actually looks ok.

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Bob arrived and I can honestly tell you I love it. It feels unusual but then again I’ve never had to wear a wig except for fancy dress parties and it will take some getting used to but as I left the saloon to meet the couple who run ‘Something to Look Forward to,’ I had Bob on and it just felt really ‘normal’. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I certainly didn’t get any weird looks at all. Funny, what we envisage will happen and the reality is so different. We had dinner, with lots of wine back on the train and was tucked up into bed for 1.30. I’m buzzing, the steroids have kicked in and have given me so much more energy so took a sleeping tablet when I got home and woke at 7.30 am.

Spa Treatment Friday 5th February

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Nothing new today. I just have a Cancer Nurse in my house administering me chemo. Who would have thought? My Facebook time hopped today to a few years ago when I’d taken the boys to Orlando for 10 days. How times can change.

I felt fine and full of energy, not how I expected to feel.

Nurse Janice arrives. She preps and then she starts with saline to flush the vein. Then I’m given an anti-sickness drug before finally the chemo. I was fine for about 15 minutes then I struggled to breathe. It felt like someone was standing on my chest and my face was on fire. It happened so quickly, I just didn’t have time to say anything. Fortunately, she noticed and stopped the drip. She told me it’s quite normal to have a reaction. I guess our bodies weren’t really built for all these chemicals. Puriton and an anti-cortoson were administered and we’re good to go again – she did check with Karen, my oncologist, though to just be sure. Karen wanted to talk to me and said that they had found something on my hip in the scans so I need to go back and get rescanned just to make sure that it’s nothing of concern; better safe than sorry.

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And that was that. Finished by 12.30 pm. I cooked lunch and did a load of jobs. I felt fine and full of energy, not how I expected to feel. Sally came over to meet Bob, the boys came home for school, I caught up on all my lovely messages, text and work emails and awaited the arrival of my friend for a lovely catch up, followed by a couple of glasses of wine in bed for about 10.30.

So the first spa treatment day was done and dusted. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected. You have such ideas in your head about chemotherapy and how your hair (or what’s left of it) will just immediately fall out and you’ll be instantly ill.

Saturday 6th February

Saturday; Oddly I’ve woken up after a good night sleep feeling fine. It’s weird because you really don’t know what to expect but so far so good. I’ve been warned that after the steroids stop I will feel a bit down so we shall see what Sunday and Monday brings. My plan is to have no plans, this way I won’t be disappointed, but I’ve got Catherine over shortly after I get stabbed with an immune system booster then we’re off for a dog walk. I’ve completed my whiteboard with a smile 😊

Sunday 7th February

On Sunday, I woke up feeling fine. Sent my family an update email. Only my sister-in-law replied – she had cancer last year and had a double mastectomy so I guess she has an understanding of where I’m at. It’s weird, it’s like waiting to be ill. Walked the dog for 4 miles. Cleared the kitchen for the decorator’s arrival tomorrow. Clips came with two bags: one full of yummy goodies like prosecco, crisps and chocolates and one packed with healthy options including green tea, ginger, and the most amazing toothpaste ever. It’s called Biotene and trust me is just great. Another friend Jo came with a chicken and leek pie and Cornish pasties and Alison made the boys a Sunday lunch which they collected. I had a bath and then felt VERY, VERY ill. I sat in bed about 7ish and snoozed on and off until 11.30 pm only to be wide awake again for an hour or so. I felt a bit nauseous, my bones ached as they’d said, predominantly my breast bone and my thighs. I felt like I had a huge weight in my stomach. Not sure a Cornish pasty and a piece of toast could really make me feel like that. It’s a weird type of ill, is all I can say.

Bob, Me and the HGV

Being bald isn’t actually that bad. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it. I find myself taking Bob off when I leave work and drive home. I’ve had some funny looks but to be honest I really couldn’t give a shit… so what??? And it’s soooooo comfy. I do seem to spend a lot of time touching my head which is a bit weird I guess. Now we’re all different, but I can’t bring myself to buy one of those “look at me, I’ve got cancer” headscarf things. I just think it’s a bit tragic. If I’m truthful I don’t think I look that bad and apparently I have a “nice” shaped head. As IF people say that to me!

I’d completely forgotten I’d left Bob on the passenger seat so when I opened the window to ask what was wrong the look on his face was absolutely priceless…

Now, I haven’t mentioned this before but my really good friend Karen had a stroke a couple of weeks ago so we’ve now changed who visits who. She’s clearly the most poorly. What I didn’t appreciate is that a stroke isn’t a one-off incident… it’s a forever illness. She has some issues down her left side with her leg and face (she’s always had problems with her face though, lol). What has been amusing is our conversations. We are very similar; we’re both usually a million miles an hour and cram in as much as we can to our day, and night for that matter. What this also means is that her brain, like mine, is usually so active and we both talk way too quickly. But due to her stroke and my chemo brain we’ve had some hilarious nonsensical conversations whereby we either forget the word, forget what we were saying, lose our train of thought or say the wrong thing. I told her it was Monday when I meant Thursday so nothing too important, but potentially changes the outcome of the conversation. All good sport and we’ve laughed so much about it.

So I’d decided to take a drive over to see Karen again. I was busy chatting on the phone to my friend Heather whilst I was navigating my way through the back roads to get across to the A43 and then the A14. While I was gassing, I arrived at a junction and was waiting for traffic. Directly opposite the junction was a bald Spanish lorry driver who was out of his cab and dodging the traffic to cross the road to me. I asked Heather to wait a moment and I wound down the window as he asked in broken English whether he could get his HGV down the road I’d just travelled (no chance, by the way, much too narrow). I’d completely forgotten I’d left Bob on the passenger seat so when I opened the window to ask what was wrong the look on his face was absolutely priceless…he was faced with a bird who was as bald as he was. His English, which by the way was actually very good, was somewhat stunted as his brain processed that I was without hair… really amusing!

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Friday 8th April

Gosh, time is flying. It’s now the 8th April and it’s chemo day 4 again, which means in my head I’m over halfway. In fact, I’d go for 60 per cent and only two left after this one. However, I’m really dreading this if I’m honest. I’ve felt SO well this last time, almost back to normal. I’ve had to look after myself and be careful about having early nights, eating sensibly and not doing too much, but I’ve just felt great. I’m changing from Docetaxel to a drug called FEC; means nothing to you or me but apparently what happens is the cancer realises you’re trying to murder it so the same chemo stops being effective. I’ve been assured this one is easier but I guess everyone is different and we all react in different ways. I’m staying positive, naturally, but there’s always a ‘but’. I’ve planned to have this next week off as I usually do so it almost doesn’t matter what happens… but I’d so like to stay feeling well AND keep my eyelashes.

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Wednesday 13th April

Five days later and we’ve got to 13th April. It’s not been too bad. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I feel OK. The nausea has relented a bit but I feel so thick, a bit like when you’ve got a mega hangover and your brain can’t process information properly. I find it embarrassing. I can’t hold an intelligent conversation and my ability to recall what I was saying or even finish a sentence properly has been compromised. Still, it’s not forever. Another weird thing: My teeth hurt. And the tips of my fingers. Really is the most obscure feeling ever.

I’m not sure that’s what you do to someone on their birthday never mind someone who’s ill…

I got a text today from the ‘friend’ who posted the Facebook comment that had upset me back in February regarding the head shave. I was due to see her on Friday but she was texting to let me know she wasn’t coming because she was going to work – arguably not important, but Friday is my birthday and whilst I might not be ready to party, frankly I’m not sure that’s what you do to someone on their birthday never mind someone who’s ill… It’s the strangest thing but I get the feeling that there’s a cabinet reshuffle on the horizon – I’ve got a couple of ‘friends’ who seem to have got lost along the way. This journey really is a ‘buckle up and let’s see what happens next’ ride and not for the faint-hearted! Not only is it having a dramatic effect on my mind and my body but some of the people whom I thought were friends have been a bit of a disappointment.