Thursday, 23 October 2014

Chemo blues, 'roid rage and anxiety attacks

Reasons to celebrate

Yesterday was Chemo #4. This should have been a day of celebration for at least four reasons:

1. Chemo Day itself is the pits. The four Chemo Days I've had so far make it in to the Top Ten Worst Days of My Life along with the day I was diagnosed, the day my mom died, the day of her funeral, the day of my grandad's funeral... those kinds of days. They really are SHIT. So I should have been celebrating four down and only two to go.

2. I now knew I was having six chemos in total, not eight. This means I am done with the hellish cocktail of chemo poisons known as FEC and was moving on to Tax (Docetaxel). I have really had enough of FEC, and its nausea, destruction of veins, and hair loss. That's not to say Tax is going to be nice. It's likely to be equally shit, but just with different side effects (including bone pains like a bad case of flu and painful finger and toe nails that might even fall off). But you know what they say, a change is as good as a rest and I am more than ready for a change from FEC.

3. You only need to keep the cold cap (Head Freezer) on for a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes on Tax, unlike 3.5 hours on FEC. Can NOT put in to words how much this meant to me.

4. It was a cannula success day. It went in first time, it didn't explode my vein this time, and I didn't faint (bringing my cancer treatment related needle faint rate down to 44%. Yay me!).

"Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll go and eat worms"

Lots of reasons to be happy, you see? But I got home and found myself in the lowest, bluest mood ever. I felt completely down on myself as a person. I was annoyed at myself for being annoying, and for annoying everyone else. (This despite the fact that everyone has been so nice to me, and it is me that is behind on keeping up with everyone's messages, emails, phone calls, requests to get together etc.) These blues were so powerful that they were completely overwhelming me.

I sent a stress email to a friend about something I was anxious about. I asked "What do you think?". His reply was spot on. "I think you've had a pretty mad couple of days and you should rest. Get over this session, and reassess." My mind had been running as fast as it could along the road of Anxiety, Hypersensitivity and Pointless Self-esteem Attacks. I think this was the moment where I at least managed to stop myself and make my mind stay still for a moment. I realised that, oh yeah, I'd had a pretty full on few days. Monday I was writing my bucket list, convinced that on Tuesday my CT scan results were going to reveal that my cancer had spread and become incurable. Massive low. Tuesday I found out that: my cancer had not spread beyond the one lymph node which was the absolute best news I could have had, my blood levels were fine meaning my chemo would be on time, I would be having six chemos in total meaning no more FEC and finished with chemo by Christmas. Massive high. Wednesday was Chemo Day, and despite the reasons to celebrate, as always it was inevitably a massive low.

'Roid rage

I knew the best thing to do would be to go to bed, and wait and see if tomorrow would be a better day. BUT! I was dosed up on steroids. Sleep wasn't going to be on the cards for a while, even though it's what I really needed. So I headed over to the Younger Breast Cancer Network (YBCN) group on Facebook and announced that I had had my first Tax and was in the lowest, bluest mood ever. Had that ever happened to anyone else? I was blown away by the response, which was a resounding yes! Feeling miserable as hell isn't listed as a common side effect of Tax but it seems to be a common experience. I sparked a big discussion about how people had come away from a Tax blast feeling sad, blue, over sensitive, emotional, anxious and feeling isolated.

I wasn't alone! It's incredible how much better you can feel just from hearing someone else say "me too" and understanding exactly how you feel and what you're going through - because they are going through it too. This is one of the things that makes YBCN so special. On days like the one I had yesterday, when you feel like you're losing your mind and have turned in to a complete idiot, there's nothing like the reassurance that comes from someone else saying "yes that happened to me, you can blame it on the drugs, and it will pass."

In a way, I was glad of the steroids. Instead of going to sleep unhappy, they kept me awake and online and by the time I was tired enough to sleep, I felt much more like my normal self again.

Anyway, here I am. It's a new day and I feel back to my usual self mood wise. It's my last day of being pumped on steroids so I'm going to make the most of the 'roid rage and get myself and my house ready for the upcoming week where I might be too sore and achey to move far from the sofa (I hope not, but I'm still going with prepare for the worst, hope for the best).

To my friends who have read this: thanks for putting up with me!

To anyone who reads this who is going through chemo: If you have inexplicable meltdowns, it's the drugs, it's not you. And if you are under 45 and in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis, do join the YBCN group on Facebook. On those days where you feel terrible, there's always a big group of superwomen there ready to support you through it.

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