Chemo 3

Half way there. Hurrah! That was the last of the fizzybum chemo.

I’m a bit knackered, but nothing a good sleep won’t fix. The hospital car park was a complete mess, apparently those big arrows on the ground are nothing more than a vague suggestion. “You’re going the wrong bloody way FFS!”, then having a total panic that they’ll be sat in the chair next to me for the next 3 hours. I missed the tea trolley. No, not in the car park, things hadn’t got quite so bad that Costa had deployed a mobile unit.  The lovely volunteer had trundled off to dispense tea and Jammy Dodgers elsewhere by the time I got to the ward. I was really quite miffed, if people had only followed the arrows….like I kept telling them to.

I’ll be back after I’ve caught up on tea and sleep. But…did I mention…I’m half way there. That’ll do for today.

I can pee a rainbow

There are many, many things that happen to you once diagnosed. Some people like lots of info and stats and stuff, not me. Tell me where and when to turn up and just get on with it, thank you. I’ve stayed away from Google, and a brief scan of possible side effects with some of the supporting meds convinced me to stick with that old mantra “Ignorance is less scary”. Seriously, anyone who takes those meds after full disclosure is either drunk or illiterate.

I am totally unprepared for hospital stays, I don’t own a dressing gown and am stubbornly refusing to buy one. Like owning one means I’ll have to stay in hospital overnight. I’ve never got the hang of grown up nightwear, NO, not THAT sort of nightwear, behave. I mean matching pyjama tops and bottoms that aren’t comfortable (new ones which haven’t been washed thousands of times), and those unstretchy, button up ones? Who wears a blouse and trousers to sleep in? Old t-shirts and distressed joggers, that’s what I like. I grudgingly bought one pair of stretchy pyjamas. Only one pair because I’m not staying in overnight. My mum sent me a pair, worried for me and worried I would wear the t-shirt I brought home from Oz in 1994. I wouldn’t have taken that, it might have got lost whilst I was out cold.

It turns out there’s a lot more walking involved in a hospital visit than I remembered, the days of cheery porters wheeling you wherever you need to go seem to have gone. You are given a pillow, and a gown (2 if you were too tight to buy a dressing gown), and a set of places you have to go to have various procedures carried out, and a load of forms to be filled out. It’s like the most un-fun treasure hunt ever. Trotting round the hospital looking for various rooms, when you find the right one they invariably stick needles into you and take pictures of your wobbliest bits. Really shit prizes. You have to carry your pillow with you too, everywhere. I think they put tracking devices in them in case you make a run for it. 48 years old, dressed in 2 surgical gowns and nothing else, hugging a pillow, pushing though crowds of clothed people waiting to see their Dr’s. Thankfully we were all very British and completely avoided eye contact.

Lots of the people you have to find put all sorts of weird stuff into your system. There’s the dye that helps the surgeon track your lymph nodes, that turns your pee blue. They said it’d turn my face blue too but I’m Scottish and already pale blue, so that phenomenon was a bit of an anti-climax. Once you start chemo there’s something called FEC(k) which turns your pee red. It’s a bit of a boring day when my wee is straw coloured now.

I pointed this out to my husband who declared “Bloody Hell, you’re peeing like a unicorn”. Which was funnier than…

“Fat and bald eh? Not so much fun” Did I mention he works in IT? I glared and took the green leafy shit off my plate and put it on his.
“Yes darling, how will people tell us apart?”

Before you send him hate mail, he has never yet refused to go and get me wine.

I did end up having to spend one night in hospital, despite all the precautions I’d taken to avoid it. It wasn’t so bad, the menu was huge and the food better than you’d think. My room mate was fun, she was having new boobs whilst I was having one removed. We shared the same name, and I suspect we found that much more amusing than the nurses trying to dispense the right drugs to the right patient. “Nope, the antibiotics are for 2 boobs, I’m one and need the pain killers”, maybe that’s only funny if you’re still a bit hazy from a GA.


“Write a blog”, they said.

Clearly none of my friends have done battle with WordPress. I want voice recognition tech, so when I swear my instructions at the keyboard things happen like I want them to. I don’t want to watch a tutorial, the last tutorial I watched was some woman who managed to take 15 minutes to explain how to fold a fitted sheet. 15 minutes to fold a bloody sheet! I could have ordered a new one on Amazon and had it delivered faster. My husband is an IT person, he takes a dim view when I start banging the mouse on the desk. Not that I care, it just means I have to shout at him and the screen. It’s annoying.

Given the events of the last few months you’d think I’d have learned a bit of patience, or mindfulness (is that what we’re calling it now?). I haven’t.

In January, after a 3 week wait, my biopsy results showed I had breast cancer. Fuck. After quite a few cysts and other nameless anomalies you stop listening when the Dr says it’s nothing to worry about, you’re gathering your bag and coat and getting the hell out of there before they change their minds. This time I was the statistic. FUCK. No, really. FUCK! This is not in the plan, not that I have a plan, but if I did this definitely wasn’t in it. Again, FUCK.

“Yes, yes, mastectomy and chemo. Can we start now? it’s instant, right? Whoosh down to surgery and then plug me into the..the..the radioactive stuff. I get a hat and skinny and we’re done by..Easter? How long between sessions, can I have them all at once, I’m sure I can do that”. I was fairly sure that’s what was going to happen because breast cancer is so common and everyone and their brother is fundraising to wipe it out.

It turns out the process is somewhat slower. The surgery was pretty instant, but then you fall into a pattern of waiting 3 weeks between each step. Surgery to results. Results to healed enough to start with the big scary drugs. Each session of chemo is 3 weeks apart if you manage to stay healthy and infection free. 3 weeks. I’m developing a very irrational dislike of 3 weeks.

It’s not just the 3 weeks, the list is growing but it’s not the things I’d expected to hate. The chemo isn’t as awful as I’d feared. So far I’ve been lucky and coped reasonably well. A few shit days and then recovery. That’s do-able.

Being bald is ok once you get used to it. It’s actually an advantage in the morning. I’m last in the rota to get in the shower, after I’ve cattle-prodded the rest of them to achieve a level of cleanliness that’s acceptable. There were days where I never actually combed my hair, but it was always washed. There’s 5 minutes I’ve clawed back, ‘cos ALL the hair disappears. No shaving. We’re screwed once it starts to grow back. The schedule has gone, I’m not sure you can ever get that back. “I’m sorry the children are late again, but it’s sunny and I had to shave my armpits so I can wear a sleeveless top”.

The things I hate:

Steroids. I know they’re keeping me healthy but they don’t half make you eat. Through mouth ulcers and all. The food must go in, or the hanger will finish us all off. Who bloody knew that cancer treatment makes you fat (ter)? Gone are my dreams of getting into the size 10 jeans still stashed on the top of the wardrobe.

Headtilters. it takes every ounce of self control I have not to poke your head back into an upright position.

Wheat bags. It’s taken me weeks to work out what makes my stomach turn on the chemo ward. I knew it was a smell, I just didn’t know what the smell was. I am very sorry to the tiny, very old, little lady who I was blaming. There goes my karma again. It’s the microwaved wheat bags they use to raise your veins. I’m taking my own hot water bottle and Penhaligon’s Luna next time.

That this hurts and worries my family, especially my children. The only time I’ve got angry about it is when they got upset. How fucking dare it upset my children.