Chemotherapy – Was It Really That Bad??
That couldn’t be more relevant here.
Chemotherapy makes you feel…. crap. There is no glossing over that. I would use stronger words but I’m trying not to lower the tone.
This article is not just a list of side effects I had and how awful they were, no. Well – YES – SOME of it is, but it’s not meant to scare, or bring back bad memories, it’s just how I coped (I use that word loosely mind!).
Some people suffer more from the side effects from Chemotherapy than others.
No one person will have exactly the same issues, for exactly the same amount of time.
Some people have a higher pain threshold than others.
Some women’s bodies react so differently, sometimes it’s hard to comprehend.
The Process Begins
Once I was feeling much better from my second surgery, which was about 3 weeks, I decided to go back to work. I felt great going into the office, having been out for 2 months. I had an appointment with my Oncologist before I went to work and she said they would be in touch with a date to start Chemotherapy.
I was still very blasé about having it at this point. Naive, maybe. I hadn’t gone online and looked up anything about the type they were giving me, or been in touch with anyone who had gone through it either. I just read the information from the hospital, which was enough at the time.
Speaking to my family and friends, they seemed more worried than I was.
After a few days back at work, I was getting into the swing of things again, thinking I’d have a month AT work before I started the course of treatment. Then I had a call saying they wanted to start it in two days time.
What?? Firstly, that’s too quick for my little brain to cope with, and secondly, that date happened to be my daughter’s birthday! I’ve got twenty 9-10 year old children attending a Swimming Party at the weekend as well! Arrrrrrghhh!
Thinking I’d have a battle on my hands, I explained this. Calmly.
Yes honestly I did! I don’t do jumping up and down to cause a fuss.
“Ah, don’t worry Mrs Evans, let’s leave you to enjoy her birthday – we’ll start you the following week instead”.
“Oh! Right! That’s great, thank you so much”.
“Well that’s the last thing you need that week – we can’t do that to you as well”.
I liked this Consultant….she could feel the horror I think I was expressing down the phone.
So the following week it was. My Manager at work’s face sunk a little, however.
Hi I’m back after 2 months recovery – but I’m only here a week then I start Chemo, soooooo…. shall I just answer the phone and do emails…??
Actually, they were fine. And they knew my next 6 months were going to be full of appointments, me coming and going. But the good thing about my job is that I can also work from home and that became vital for my recovery, as I’ll explain later.
So I kept myself busy, with a birthday, party AND Wedding reception to attend that week, my mind was occupied nicely. I was of course extremely anxious in between, and didn’t really sleep much the night before.
The day before Chemo was given on each occasion, I had to go to the hospital for a blood test to make sure blood cell levels were high/low enough in the body to have the Chemo drugs. If they weren’t, I would have to come back the next day, and so on until they were OK, resulting in the actual Chemo date being delayed.
Entering the Unknown
I had to be at the hospital for 10 am to see the Oncologist first before going down to the unit. She checked I was well enough and although she told me about the actually drugs I was getting, I didn’t know all the small details. There was a lot to it, as I began to realise.
My Husband accompanied me to the Dorset Cancer Centre on that first day and we arrived and sat in the waiting area. We were then taken through to one of the day bays, and I was weighed.
Oh my good god. How heavy??? Ok I’m going to just ignore that for the moment…
I expected a bay of beds but instead there was a mix of beds and comfortable chairs. I was sat in the latter.
As I looked around, there was:
A lady opposite who arrived the same time as me, waited half an hour, had a tablet, and went home;
An elderly gentleman who was tubed up and chatting away to a nurse and found out he was going to there all day;
And a lady next to me who I couldn’t really see because she was surround by 4 members of her family who were all tucking into a bag of food purchased from the nearby garage. Quite a picnic they had. She wasn’t eating, but they were enjoying scoffing quite loudly. I looked at my husband and we raised our eyebrows.
Anyway I sat down and expected it all to begin. It didn’t. We waited for a while then a nurse came and sat down. She went through what would happen and said that now I had arrived, they would sign the form and order the drugs to come up from pharmacy.
Oh great – how long do I have to wait for THOSE??
Calm down Claire – it wasn’t hours it was half
an hour. I was given some Steroids and Anti-sickness drugs and would need to wait an hour for them to get into my body, to hopefully ease any immediate side effects the Chemo could bring on. Whilst we waited they put a cannula in me.
Cycle one – easy – back of the hand (middle of my arm stopped working after surgeries, so there was no point in trying). Throughout the 6 cycles, they continued to use the back of the hand, various positions of which gave up. It became their challenge bless them!
Then it was time. I felt sick with nerves. My veins weren’t great to begin with and the chemo drugs were quite thick. So they put my hand in a bucket of warm water to open them up.
I then just felt like I needed to wee….
The nurse brought out a tray with 3 MASSIVE syringes filled with meds, and 3 bags of fluid. Now you may think I’m being dramatic here about the size of the syringe, but we’re not talking the size you give Calpol to a child in I can assure you!
The Nurse sat down and explained that I would be given a bag of fluid to flush the system, followed by:
A syringe of Fluorouracil, 2 syringes of the Epirubicin (thick red drug) and finally the last drug Cyclophosphamide was given through an IV Drip over 30 minutes.
Finally a last bag of fluid to flush the system again.
Afterwards I sat there and relaxed for a bit. All in all, I was there for around 3 hours. We walked back to the car and apart from a little light-headed, I felt fine. Home we went.