I should start off by apologising if this post is nonsensical and/or rambling. I’ve just finished 5 hours straight of chemotherapy, and my brain feels like the stuff you scoop out of a sinkhole after washing up the dishes.
But, I did it. First day of chemotherapy is done.
It feels really good to be able to say that; for the last couple of weeks everything has seemed in limbo. I have been weighed down with the fact that I have cancer, but caught in that frustrating period between knowledge and action. Today, finally, I started fighting back.
As I’ve mentioned before, my current chemo regime is BEACOPP Escalated – a pretty hard hitting and inevitably rough going type. I’m going to have it as cycles of treatment, each lasting 3 weeks (21 days). Day 1 to 8 involve what you might normally think of when imagining chemotherapy, then days 9 to 14 I continue with the steroids (my waistline already hates this), and some injections. Then, I presume, a rest until the cycle starts again.
According to much of what I’ve read, the first day is often the toughest of BEACOPP Esc because it’s the longest, and involves some of the nastier drugs (with Doxorubicin ‘affectionately’ known as ‘the red devil’ amongst some of my cancer friends, thanks to its dreadful side effects).
I have to say…so far I feel okay. Wiped out for sure, but I haven’t yet noticed any other side effects. Maybe they take a few days to kick in, I’m not sure? The only time I did feel anything was during my Cyclophosphamide infusion, when my sinuses began to sting and I got a bit lightheaded. Other than that and the fatigue (touch wood), I seem to have fared surprisingly well.
The day got off to a bit of a bumpy start, though. When I arrived at 9am (and noticing I was the youngest there by a few decades!), my notes were missing and my chemo meds hadn’t yet been delivered. That took an hour to sort, and then it was only when I specifically asked about my anti-nausea medication that the staff realised I hadn’t been given any. Normally you take them an hour before chemo – so I took those, and waited another hour before treatment could get underway. Did I mention that I am not good at waiting?
Other than that, it went smoothly. I was assigned the most awesome nurse, a lady called Emma from Zambia, and the mood in the chemo suite was positive and professional. All the staff were so lovely. I was even given two ice lollies, which made my day (they give you these to reduce the impact of mouth ulcers from the Doxorubicin).
Barney kept my company all day bless his soul, and I think by the end he needed a nap more than I did. My parents popped by, as did Barney’s brother, his Mum, and her partner. Quite the social outing! Big love to everyone online that messaged me and kept me company digitally today too, I really appreciate you all so much.
After five hours in the hospital, I was sent home – along with enough meds to set up my own damn pharmacy. Seriously, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER WHEN AND WHAT TO TAKE?! Looks like my evening is going to involve spreadsheets.
That’s about all I have the energy to write for now, so I’ll leave you with some of my top tips and learnings from my first ever chemotherapy session:
- Don’t be too shy to question what’s going on – you might remind the staff about something important. You have to be your own advocate!
- Drink as much water as you can, and then drink some more. Keep doing this
- Bring your own snacks – hospital food is bleurghhh
- Wear comfy clothing that you’re happy lounging about in for hours
- Keep hand sanitiser on you at all times – you’d be amazed how many of the staff I saw coughing and sneezing today
- Bring some entertainment, but nothing too involved. I found I wasn’t able to concentrate on anything for long
- Get a PICC line if you can. That thing was a total god send today