You might be wondering why I’ve skipped from day 3 of chemotherapy to day 8. No, I’m not just a blog slob, nor have I failed to grasp basic numerical skills.
My type of chemotherapy (BEACOPP Escalated) works in a 21 day cycle, during which time I have four instances of what most people think of as ‘traditional chemotherapy’ (hooked up to bags at hospital) and 7 days of oral (tablet) chemotherapy – but writing about taking tablets every day isn’t the most scintillating stuff. Lord knows we’ve got enough danger in our lives, I don’t want to risk killing you through boredom!
That said, if you are in the mood for a bit of mild mental masochism, you can take a gander at my chemo regime below:
As I write, it’s day nine (which, the eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted, means that I start my DIY G-CSF injections today. Fuuuuuuuuuu-), and so time for a recap of day 8.
Which, if I’m being honest, was a total bugger of a day.
Yep, someone must really have pissed in my cosmic cheerios, because I woke up (at the crack of dawn, thanks Prednisolone) in a thunderously bad mood to begin with – and that was the high point of the day.
I’ve been battling a head cold for the last few days, which is no small thing for a lymphoma chemo patient, and the thought of adding a notoriously tough-on-your-lungs chemical like Bleomycin to the mix that morning was making my anxiety flare up terribly. I’ve felt fatigued, grumpy and have been getting some next-level cabin fever too, which I’ve in turn been channeling into baking AND THEN EATING MY OWN WEIGHT IN EVERY DAY. Someone save me from myself, or soon I’ll have to be rolled to the hospital for appointments. Please.
Still, my chemo session was due to start at 9:30 so at least it’d be out of the way early, right?
Those naughty celestial cereal spoilers decided today was the day to have some fun, and made sure that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Firstly, my chemo chemicals (Bleomycin and Vincristine) hadn’t actually been delivered from the manufacturer by the time I’d arrived.
I sat in the day ward for a couple of hours to no avail – the saintly chemo nurses did their best to chase down my prescription and whilst my Mum did her best to keep me cheery, but by 11:30 I was told to head back home and wait for a call, which ended up not coming until 2:30.
I know, I know, hardly the biggest disaster in the world, but when you’ve been mentally preparing yourself for something and it keeps getting delayed it makes your determination wobble, and you start wondering whether it’s ‘a sign’ that you’re going to have some sort of horrific reaction to the new chemicals. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have the Bleomycin or something?
Upon arriving there was even more confusion; apparently the meds still hadn’t been delivered to the chemo ward, but they were somewhere in the building being checked. For another hour and a half.
Dad was the sacrificial sidekick this time round and even he, in his infinite ability to just ‘sit and be’, was showing signs of restlessness. I could see that the chemo ward nurses were just as frustrated as I was (they are a special type of human being – able to maintain high spirits in the face of some of the most tragic and stressful situations people might ever encounter, yet simultaneously immensely relatable and human) but they kept me positive and entertained with cancer banter (yes, it’s a thing) and regular updates.
4pm rolled around and I was finally hooked up to my liquid breakfast/lunch/supper. By this time, my previous head cold had begun snaking its nasty little way down into my chest and I’d developed a cough. Perfect timing since one of the symptoms of lung damage caused by Bleomycin is, you guessed it, a cough.
We were done and out of the chemo ward by 7pm, and for the last hour my Dad and I were the only patients in the entire chemo suite. It was actually sort of nice; I got chatting to one of the agency nurses who is a really interesting guy. One of the perks of getting cancer has been getting to know, on a personal level, the amazing team members who work so tirelessly behind the scenes to keep people like me alive.
Even though it was finally over, I felt frustrated, miserable, anxious and generally fed up with this whole thing. Why me?
If you’ve gotten this far, you might be thinking that I need to chill the fuck out.
You’re probably right, but the thing about cancer is that it doesn’t just affect your body – it also really likes to mess with your head. I’m not normally a hypochondriac (queue slideshow of me scraping mould off of yoghurt and continuing chow down happily) but when you’re traversing such unknown territory, and every action you take (including the bloody treatment) comes with a mile-long list of risks and warnings, it’s difficult not to let some of it get to you.
That twinge in my knee? The cancer must have spread from my hip further down my leg.
That dry cough? It can only mean that I’ve caught pneumonia or that my lungs are now permanently damaged by my chemotherapy.
Itchy eye? Cancer. Stubbed my toe? Cancer. Trapped wind? CANCER.
I’m not even really being totally facetious. My diagnosis has completely changed the way I interact with my body in so many unexpected ways (there’s an upcoming blog post about that) and that, in turn, has impacted my mental health in unforeseen ways. Cancer isn’t a journey, it’s a bloody slog.
Today was a frustrating day, but there will be better ones. There’ll be worse ones too. As long as I focus on one day at a time, we’ll get there. Thanks for sticking with me through this, everyone. Bye for now.