Friday, 22 August 2014

My first FECking chemo

Well, it's fair to say I've just had a pretty bizarre week.

Saturday: (having found out on the Thursday I would be starting with chemo instead of surgery) Got a letter in the post telling me my chemo information session would be on Monday. Pissed off! I had plans for the Monday to go to Birmingham to meet a new friend and shop for cancer related essentials (fake everything, essentially). We rearranged for Wednesday.

Monday: Went to the chemo information session and found out I would have my first chemo on WEDNESDAY! Shiiiit! Not mentally or emotionally ready! Plus this meant cancelling the Birmingham trip again so not practically ready either. Argh!
Then I had the shit well and truly scared out of me. I didn't think it was possible to fit the words "fatal", "emergency" and "life threatening" in to one short PowerPoint presentation that many times. The reassurance was that if you call the 24 hour emergency number (on the red emergency alert card that you have to carry with you at all times), for every tiny little thing, then they promise to make sure you won't die as a result of chemo. Phew! That's ok then. My friend Marta that went with me just kept reminding me that they are just making sure you're ok and that whatever the chemo was doing to me it was doing to the cancer too. Yeah, she's right, take that cancer!
I'm not sure what I learned at the chemo information session beyond: phone the number if you so much as get a sore throat and, you will have red wee for 24 hours after chemo.
I went home and started a mad panic of trying to get myself organised, lining up friends to keep an eye on me over the next week or so in case I needed it.
Then I wrote a blog post which I'd had in my mind about the Page 3 vs Breast cancer campaign, Check 'em Tuesday. I tweeted a link to the No More Page 3 team and they messaged me saying they'd share it tomorrow, as it would be Check 'em Tuesday. Cool! How exciting to get a message from NMP3! :-D

Tuesday: Tuesday was meant to be a day of getting shit organised. I had a dentist appointment in the morning to fix up a dodgy wisdom tooth and the one next to it. I had a doctors appointment booked to ask about things like the free prescription card, flu jab, and sick leave at work, and I planned to go to boots and buy one of everything. Pretty much. Did all this, while getting literally hundreds of messages via Twitter, Facebook and email about my blog post! Apparently it struck a chord/hit a nerve with a lot of people! To date, over 8000 people have read it. I was contacted by people at Buzzfeed and The Stir and also someone at ITV news! What the shit?! My little blog post that I wrote as a distraction from chemo nerves. It was only about a week before that I had the guts to share my blog with my friends... Now thousands of people reading about my wonky nipple and wobbly arse! Gawd. Still, I figured, if that many people were reading it and sharing it then I was probably far from alone in feeling the way I did. I hope...!

Wednesday: FECking chemo day. (My chemo will be 3 or 4 cycles of something called FEC and then 3 or 4 cycles of something called T.) Ok, so I was nervous, but my lovely friend Marta kept reminding me, this will kill the cancer. Chemo is a good thing, blast the cancer! So I went in to the hospital telling myself that I too was now a bad ass superwoman who was going to kick this cancer's arse. Cancer can fuck off! Yeah! I'm hard as nails! Bring it on! Then the nurse put the cannula in me. And I passed out. I passed out! It wasn't even connected to anything yet! Not feeling so bad ass anymore. I came round with about 8 nurses and important looking doctors in suits crowded round me, hooked up to a bleepy machine and with an oxygen tank ready. How embarrassing! They spent the rest of my time there teasing me about it! Oh well. I'm sure they'll take extra good care of me next time now. (Apparently next time I get to go in a recliney chair.)
Having the chemo at the hospital is the easy bit. You sit there for an hour while a nurse talks to you (in my case, makes fun of you!) and puts the drugs in. Don't feel a thing. While I was sat there I got a message from writer and columnist Daisy Buchanan about my blog, so I was emailing her about that on my phone as she wanted to do an article about it for The Debrief! And then I sat there for an extra 2 hours with the cold cap on in an attempt to not lose my hair. (Although I'm sure my scalp is sore already meaning it probably hasn't worked. Damn.)
For anyone who reads this who has chemo to come and wonders about the cold cap - it wasn't a problem. For about the first 15 minutes your head feels the way your ears do when you've been out in the cold in winter, and then you get used to it and it's cold, but not painful. Worth giving it a go! It works for some people.
However - one note about the cold cap and looking after your hair. Before having the cold cap on they cover your hair in conditioner (so the cold cap comes off easily without ripping your now very precious hair to shreds). Then when they remove the cold cap they tell you, don't wash your hair more than once a week, don't use any products on it, don't use a hairdryer or straighteners on it...  I don't know about anyone else, but as someone who washes their hair every day I can assure you I would actually choose a wig over my own hair, stringy and greasy after a week of neglect. I'm washing it tomorrow and hoping for the best.

Anyway! I went home feeling great. Thought about ordering a pizza but was talked out of that idea. Luckily. Because a couple of hours later, I started being sick. I'll spare you all the details but lets just say it got to the point where I had my face on the toilet seat and could not lift it. I decided at that point, no more chemo, I would take my chances with just surgery and radiotherapy. Obviously I was calling the emergency number, expecting after the information session on Monday to be rushed in to hospital in an ambulance. But no! I was told to take some of tomorrow's anti sickness medicines there and then, with as little water as possible, then consume nothing more and just go to bed. It did do the trick, and I slept kind of ok that night.

Thursday: Woke up feeling ropey as anything but after a few hours I had settled down, got my instructions of what tablets to take from the chemo nurse, and was reassured that next time they would give me better anti sickness meds, and to definitely keep going with the chemo!

And then from this point on not a lot has happened. I haven't been sick since. I went to bed at about 8pm on Thursday and slept til 10am today, Friday. At which point I took some more meds, and then dozed for another couple of hours. Then I've sat around a lot and started to get quite bored and fidgety.

Tomorrow I am off to Birmingham, finally, and I can't wait! With luck I will get my fake hair sorted tomorrow. (Yes, I have realised I have a real issue with the word "wig"... It's made it on to my list of bad words, along with "moist".)

And then I think the next round of FECking chemo fun begins on Sunday when:
1. I get my first visit from the district nurse for daily injections of white blood cells. Woopee!
2. I'm no longer on steroids, meaning I am apparently going to turn in to a hormonal, miserable, emotional nightmare. SORRY IN ADVANCE EVERYONE! Just tell me you love me and it will all be ok and I'm sure I'll be fine.

To anyone who reads this who has FEC chemo to come - you will get through it. It might be shit for a bit, but you'll get through it. I promise. I'm actually the biggest wimp of them all and if I can do it, anyone can. x

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