Chemo…I’m doing this shit, I’m having chemo. As I write this tears well and I don’t know why because it’s 18 months since I finished chemo, I guess the scar runs deep…invisible but deep.
*Please note this post has medical content that may be a trigger for some. I am not a medical professional so please seek professional advice if needed.
My first chemo infusion day had finally arrived (Dec 3rd 2012), a false start and another quick surgery saw me ready but can you ever really be ready for chemo? No, not really.
My mister and I travel to my appointment once again with uncertainty in our heads and hearts. We head up to the Oncology unit and we’re placed in the corner chair for privacy, the new kids on the block, that’s us.
For over an hour a chemo nurse talks us through side effects, care, treatment and so much more, it’s full on information overload and I’m feeling like I might like to go home now and hide. Folders of pamphlets are given to us, warnings given and it all feels too much. Too real and bloody scary. The nurses gown up, glove up and get started. I am given pre-meds and then walked through what to do when I get home, including when I might need my ’emergency letter’.
The emergency letter is bright orange and has a list of warning signs linked to high temperatures (apparently can be dangerous) there’s a paragraph in bold that is like a free pass to get me through the emergency department queues if I needed to present there. Side effects and warning letters sent my mind spinning…seriously there’s more to this shit than losing your hair and having a chunder…much, much more. We later laminated that letter and yes it did get used.
I still had the mega needle from port surgery protruding from my chest so after a flush the first bag of meds are pumped through and a bag of chemo hooked up…and then just like that I have poison being pumped into me.
I watch my mister…the love of my life as he sat head bowed reading literature and every now and then he gives me a reassuring smile. Even though he was smiling I could see the pain in his eyes. Geez was this what we meant when we said ‘in sickness and in health’?
Cancer treatment starts
Chemo doesn’t hurt. It goes in, the whirring and clicking of the machine are somewhat soothing until the beeping breaks in when the fluid backs up or the nurses come to change the bag for a different one. I can walk to the toilet with my Iv stand hooked up to me. There’s lots of fluid going in so I head off for a pee and totally freak out because my pee is pink, yes that’s right one of the chemo infusions is red and makes you pee pink…how bloody perfect for a breast cancer patient!!
The morning tea trolley comes and we choose biscuits to go with our cafe coffee and a few hours later the lunch trolley comes and we’re given sandwiches, yoghurt and fruit. Man the service is pretty good here and even though they are poisoning me they’re also feeding me, give n take baby! We watch tv, read, chat and wait…there’s lots of waiting with treatment…LOADS!
Yeah I know I look like I have a saggy boob in the pic below but it’s actually the fat roll from under where I had my breast removed… Weird!
We arrived at 8am and leave at 2:30pm, the first day is a big one with education and slower infusions to ensure I don’t react. Eventually I’m unhooked and the needle is removed…YAY! Ummm yes that needle was in me!
We grab our things and hightail it outa there, heading home to wait it out. I wonder when I’ll throw up, when will it hit? I’m nervous.
I feel weird…not sick but heavy and weird…and tired. When we arrive home I head to bed. We were lucky enough to borrow a medical type bed from the in-laws with a remote that raises the head and feet and gives a good massage. We chose to set up a space in our second lounge room with the bed and coffee table filled with essentials like medication, sanitizer, get well cards, candles, magazines a journal and a bucket, yeah the bucket is important. As I lay on the bed trying to sleep away the side effects my dog knows there’s something wrong, he sniffs me all over and takes up position at the foot of the bed unsure of what the heck is going on with his human.
I take the anti nausea medication and other pills I’m given by the nurses and don’t feel like eating. Strangely I feel ok…turns out it’s the calm before the storm. This particular chemo is once every 3 weeks for 4 rounds and then I did another twelve weekly rounds. This one is heavy shit and hits hard 48 hours after the infusion.
Fuck did it hit me. I had incredible burning pain in my gastric system, even drinking water was tortuous, my mouth fills with ulcers and all I craved was mash potato with gravy. My head bangs and I feel so sick. I wanna spew but nothing comes. The pills stop the spew from coming but not the feeling of wanting to spew. You know, trembling cheeks and that feeling in the back of your throat right before you hurl… Uhuh it’s constant and all I can do is curl up on the bed or the lounge and ride it out.
My eyes hurt, light bothers me and I have explosive diarrhoea so I sit on the toilet wanting to hurl while my arse is exploding…it’s not pretty. A few days later everything starts to subside but the pain in my chest is outa control and we try all the over the counter tablets but nothing works so I drag my arse to the GP and he prescribes a pill which does fuck all so I head back to hospital for something stronger. Finally some relief! Oh yeah and these drugs are bloody expensive, yup being sick is a costly business.
The first few weeks are lonely, we see no family but have a handful of friends who turn up night after night with meals or flowers. Some bring wheat bags, hand creams, ulcer relief and lovely scented candles, they rub my back and we laugh and cry together. Half way through week two I start to feel like I can face the world again and the cruel twist is I have to bat up for this again in just over a week…seriously?! I feel shithouse and weak and broken.
Chemo breaks down all your fast dividing cells, obliterates them to kingdom come and it’s a mega shock for the body. Eventually the body and immune system can become very comprised and weakened…this is what’s happening, my body is under attack. Ironic right, that we have to be broken before we can be fixed.
The days and weeks are long and I’m experiencing so much that is foreign to me, physically and emotionally but I have no choice, I keep going. I’ve got this.