What going through chemotherapy is REALLY like….

I will warn you now, there will be TMI further down in this post.

A few weeks ago, whilst chatting to a friend, it struck me that not many REALLY know what it is like to go through chemotherapy – I mean, why would you unless you have been through it yourself or physically helped someone through it. My friend’s expression made me realise that, although everyone can only imagine what it is like, you (and I before I had to go through this myself), would think OMW, it must be so tiring and draining, not to mention the nausea.

Well, yes, the first 3 cycles of treatment of FEC was exactly that, all of the above, tiring, draining and awful nausea. Then there was the constipation. My friend had to come to the rescue with that one night, I was alone at home. She brought over prunes, Germaloids and Movicol, which were to become me chemo staples throughout.

Straight after FEC, for 3 days, there would be no need for the loo as the mixture of the Ondansetron, Dexamethastone, Metaclopromide and Co codamol, buggered things up.

Nature then couldn’t hold in after 3 days – I would SCREAM. I would have Germaloids cream SMOTHERED IN AND OUT in preparation.There were tips on my Breast Cancer support group of holding the basin and crouching to all other positions. I managed to work out a method that best suited my ‘situation’ – my ‘situation’ was one that meant that ‘things’ were favouring the right side of ‘exit’.

I would take many deep, slow breaths, just like I have taught the kids when I am removing a splinter with a needle from their feet! I would then be leaning only half way on the loo seat, with 4 squares of loo roll in my hand, then pressing on the ‘favoured side’ to divert things for an even spread, because the PRESSURE….OMW.

Probably used about 15-20 breaths for each ‘attempt’….halfway through…guess what? Wee squirted on my hand which was still firmly in place! This got me by surprise so I managed to ‘clench’ and paused for a moment to think. Didn’t take too long for me to decide….OH FUCK IT. JUST FUCK IT! I let it all go, WITH my hand still firmly in place and it just continued to flow, like NIAGARA FALLS! Thankfully the window was open, for my dignity to fly out freely….

Then we move on to the last 3 cycles of Tax, the chemo that would see me through to the end. This got more difficult as body was weaker now from all the poison. The only good thing was, there was no nausea. The ONLY good thing.

Constipation gets confused on Tax, because whilst the drugs are still causing you to be constipated, the actual Tax drugs, cause the OPPOSITE effect! Try dealing with THAT! I got to the point where I was so exhausted of trying to figure it out without being able to get up from the bed quick enough, what was to be, was to be. Again, the loo window was left open for my dignity to fly out freely….

With Tax, I felt ok..until day 3. It’s referred to as The Tax train in the BC world. Then the aches started. From the waist down. Tummy CRAMPS, worse than giving birth naturally without drugs (I’ve done it so yes, I do know!). Leg pains that go through your bones like you have been hit with a baseball bat. Felt like I had 2 hearts in my feet as they THROB and BURN so much.

And if you think that was bad, I was SHAKING uncontrollably for hours under the covers, like someone who was going cold turkey.

It would take 10 days from day 3 to feel like a human being again…then would have a few days before the cycle started again. Oh and I have been working on my good days. Thank goodness being self employed for me, means that I am able to look rotten but get the work done, in my pj’s!

So, for all of the above reasons, that is why I stopped making plans during the second phase of my chemo, which started in December. My head has been FUZZY, plans stress me out since phase 2 of chemo and the ones I have made like my father in laws 80th, well, I crossed everything on the day that I was able to make it and did not need to cancel!

Now, whilst my chemo is all done and dusted, HIP, HIP HOORAY…..but I’m still very tired! This is where I have time to now look back at the last 7 months (WTF!!!?) and say, right, THAT happened, I have now put on this weight (after being at my fittest pre diagnosis), eyebrows are barely there, eyelashes are mere stubs and hair, well, it’s neither here nor there, boob, it’s had it’s maximum inflation allowed until June post rads – still 200 ml to go….I need to prepare for my daily radiotherapy which is over 6 weeks, commencing on 11th March.

x

Nic

Ps : How did my husband cope with all of this you may ask….easy, every chemo, he would move out the room for at least 10 days…#chemo smell is leathal stuff too!

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NO, MO, CHEMO!

What a GREAT day this was, 4th February 2015,  my last ever (I hope) chemo!

I was literally doing the dance of joy – remember BALKI from the tv series in the 80’s, Perfect Strangers? He did that ridiculous dance, yup, that was me 🙂

My lovely friend Jane, made me ‘chemo cupcakes’ to celebrate with on the day and it also happened to be World Cancer Awareness Day on the 4th as well!

Time seemed to have whizzed by for the last session, that is because I was just HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!  In fact, the last 7 months seems to have whizzed by….what a journey!

Thing is, after the last session, you still need to through the motions of the effects of the chemo and this took a full 2 weeks before I even started feeling half human, was a downer from the HIGH that I was on.

My head is still trying to piece everything that has happened since first finding the lump, not given it too much thought as I have been mainly consumed by the side effects most of the time.

Never had to draw on eyebrows until now and eyelashes are just stubs. Hair is about 40-50% there, can’t wait for a pixie cut! At times, I forget to draw on eyebrows (they are very fine right now) and even forget to put in prosthesis, the only time I am grateful for rubbish weather as I have been using a winter coat and headband a lot, can’t help it with the eyebrows though when I forget!

Finito with the chemo. Hallelujah!

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Third time…yucky

It’s all sinking in … quite literally! This cycle saw me in bed for 6 days….6 days! Could not even try and fight it, I now understand FATIGUE!

The cycle itself was SEVERELY painful due to the cording (vein damage), so much so that they had to stop and start chemo as I was in tears – pure pain and SPASMS through the hand and arm. To this day, it is very, very sore…

It has been decided that for my next cycle, I will be fitted with a PICC line, which will be threaded to sit on top of the heart. I will receive chemo this way for the last 3 cycles. I am being fitted with this on 22/12, then will have an Xray done to ensure that it is in the correct position.

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I was completely WIPED out by this last cycle…..my body has recognised the chemo now and trying to deal with it. I feel a lot weaker and out of breath now, so need to do things at a different pace than I am used it. Yesterday I was clearing some paperwork, just tearing the paper was painful for my arm and I was so tired. *I got Gingko Biloba for the fatigue, should have had it from day one but at least I have it ready for the next cycle.

Oh, I also forgot to take the laxatives for the first 2 days, OMG…NEVER will I EVER forget that. I won’t go into detail about that….just know that I have been eating LOTS and LOTS of prunes!

My dog is very confused – one minute, I am taking her for 2 hour daily walks, 1hr in the morning and 1 hr in the evening, then my cycle happens and BOOM….she has to pace the floor to get anyone’s attention that she needs to go out!

I had 50ml fluid inserted into my inflatable yesterday.Consultant said that she has never seen a reaction to the breast in her career like mine has had since I had the infection a few weeks ago. She was hoping that the mastectomy would just be a smooth shape and the fluid would be gradually inserted to give me the clevage and symmetry that I am used to. She is still unsure if we will keep the inflatable in but will review again on the 9/01. Having woke up this morning after the 50ml from yesterday, everything seems *ok*.

I need to get back on track with my juicing. I have now bought http://www.crazysexydiet.com produced by a cancer survivor, so that is my mission for the next week, getting back on track!

My next chemo is on 24/12…..<insert cries here!>…though, I am looking at it this way, it’s my Christmas present to be one step closer to finishing!

I continue to meet the most amazing people through this journey, going through similar, if not WORSE. These women are so inspiring, makes me feel humbled and grateful for my life and this chance I have of getting through this.

Right, I have a parents Christmas event to attend tonight, Winter Wonderland theme….perfect timing as I am in the ‘good zone’ and I have one hand that works, one hand is all you need to hold a glass of delicious bubbly! 😉

*mwahs* to you all reading this….I appreciate it!

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Nic

Halfway there……..yup, I’m living on a prayer…and lots of Bolly darrrrhhhhhling!

Well, tomorrow has come around quickly – if you know what I mean! Yup, it’s Fekkin FEC time again!

I have had the best 10 days EVER! Sorted out heaps at home, ok, I had a lovely lady help me and I’ll give her a shout out here as she travelled out of her zone to do so and what a FABULOUS job she has done! http://www.organise-your-house.co.uk/ (I’ll come clean, mine is the blue kitchen – when she puts the photo’s up)

I have worked 10 hours flat! I am self employed and wouldn’t have it any other way but it’s at times like this, I feel that this chemotherapy and cancer *stuff*, is just plain down inconvenient!

So, tomorrow marks my ‘half way mark’ – not one to count but I find myself counting now. I also heard that when my next phase starts (I am on FEC-T), which is the T for 3 more cycles from Christmas eve – this is where things go downhill…..steroids are needed the day prior to chemo and they keep you in for a a while under observation, due to the side effects…swelling of the legs (!?), back pain and sore throat…

Thankfully, I am re-reading the book The Secret which my dear friend bought me 6/7 years ago. If you have read this book, you will know that what you think is very powerful and that sends out a message to the universe. So, if I think this is going to be worse, it WILL be worse. I am not thinking that 😉 Also from The Secret, see below :

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I have realised that the further you get away from your last treatment, the more your taste buds come back! I still need VERY STRONG things…I’m talking GORGONZOLA or nothing!

I went to the gym about 10 days ago…I have now frozen my membership until March! Dog walks instead. A combination of things I believe but yeah, even ‘light’ movement on the Xtrainer for only 9 minutes, wasn’t the brightest of ideas! I ended up with an infection, on anti biotics for a week and a temperature of 38.5 for 2 days!

To my surgeons surprise, my breast has puckered, so on my last visit to her, she did not inflate the implant as it was purple/red and she decided to let the ani biotics do the work. I am due back on 12/12 for her to review. It has mostly been uncomfortable and slightly painful – the implant may just not be agreeing with me but we will review it.

The cording is back and OH Sooooo painful! yesterday had bloods done, injected into vein used for chemo – no blood! More vein damage – let’s hope they have one to use tomorrow because my arm is now BATTERED and I can’t use the other arm for blood pressure or bloods as have had my nodes removed.

Sing a long with me….to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas….’1 bad boob, 2 dodgy arms and hair … almost GONE!’ 😛

I have lost 40% hair now, using the cold cap. I am ok about it but when more falls out, will need to make some decisions. Here’s a picture to update you of my hair and my sudden love and need for Bolly! I feel on top of the world when I drink it….forget the flowers, bring on the Bolly! <said in my best Patsy voice>

Much love,

Nic

xbubbly

2nd cycle down!

Well, this is feeling a bit different than last time….

Today is day 5 since #cycle2 on Wednesday, now I did not throw up and I believe that is now thanks to the Emend anti sickness tablet and the Metoclopramide (yes, I know the side effects and was like getting sign off from the Queen for this one but oh so worth it!)

Thing is, now that I have not been sick, the drugs are in me, working, so it’s pure nausea. Of course, I am very thankful that I have not had to speak into the great white telephone and even more thankful that I made it to the SA vs England rugby yesterday! I KNOW right!? If you were a fly on the wall, you would have seen me flopped out on the couch at 6:30pm!

A week after my first chemo, I developed cording omg….the FEC is a pretty strong treatment and damaged the vein, that’s why #cycle2 needed to be through my hand – OUCH!

Week 8 after op (we are in week 10 this coming week), I went to the gym for some gentle exercise – that night, I had a temperature of 38.5 and I have since developed an infection. My surgeon/consultant thinks that yes, it may have been a little soon to be doing the X trainer but is also monitoring to see if the body is rejecting the balloon implant. Currently, the breast is not looking as normal as she would have expected, it’s rather like a really shrivelled Yorkshire pudding when you have opened the oven during the bake..and was purple/red!

Captain Kirk administered the first dose of Lenograstim to the tummy (my tummy that is!), under hospital supervision. He now has to do it for 5 days of the cycle. This increases the white blood cell count. I can feel that it is starting to hurt my larger bones.

Everything tastes rubbish! Only hot Nando’s and chilli on scrambled eggs is my friend!

I am starting to feel like I have been diagnosed cancer. I am starting to feel tired. Very tired at times. My concentration span is not the same, nor is my cognitive response. I need people to read my mind now and not ask too many questions or too much of me. Even me responding a ‘yes’, takes effort as I am probably thinking of something else anyway.

I have a week of things planned then I am distancing myself for a while, this is a conscious decision so that I can focus on what the children, Captain Kirk and myself need, first and foremost. I love everyone who has shown me the warmest, truest affection since my diagnosis and I know they will understand.

Thank goodness we opted for the Animal Dyson, between the dog and myself shedding hair….there is LOADS!

Much love to all of you who are taking time to read this and keep sending me those positive vibes, I sure can feel them!

*mwahs* to you all

Nic

x

Results are in and results are GOOD!

I should have updated that on Monday 6th October, the Bone and CT scan came back GOOD! The Grade 3 Cancer has NOT spread to my bones or organs…wooohhhooo…I celebrated with champagne!

SUCH a relief! It made the 1.5 hr wait, SO worth it! The oncologist had been away on a sabbatical and this was his first day back! My nerves were well and truly UP, not to mention Captain Kirk pacing up and down the corridor, switching between playing Candy Crush and reading a 2011 hospital magazine of House and Home. Thankfully, my bag was stashed with magazines and he flicked through Grazia.

When the oncologist delivered the news, I said right, I can go now, nothing else matters! That’s how I honestly felt…yes, I have to go through this chemo malarkey but it seems like a walk in the park, compared to what the news ‘could have been!’.

Now, I’m not saying that chemo IS going to be a walk in the park because I know it’s going to be tough, but honestly, for me, it’s easier to deal with than the thought of other things that were possibly going to be affected.

This week, I am back in on Wednesday for a heart echocardiogram, which takes around 45minutes and they put pressure on your…CHEST…wtf!? I’m going to assume that they will do their best to minimise the discomfort for me as when I lay flat, it still feels like there is a spear in me post the mastectomy!

Then on Thursday, I need to do more bloods and another chemo consultation.

Chemo starts on Wednesday 22nd October. I will be on FEC treatment for the first 3 cycles (that’s 9 weeks of those drugs in my body) then I switch over to ‘T’ drugs for the last 3 cycles ( 9 weeks of those drugs in my body).

This takes me to February where I will have around a 4 week break then start radiotherapy.

Perfectly timed that I have another EFT session on Saturday and a Reiki session on Monday, all before the treatment starts – I’m very pleased about that!

I’m feeling genuinely OK, slight butterflies in my tummy but all in all, mentally, I’m fine. Physically, I do need to remind myself that I need to rest more as am still recovering. I can only do once activity or meeting per day and I’m best in the morning, I then need a few hours nap but not been having it everyday and boy does it catch up!

People in my life have been truly amazing, I’m so, so blessed!

Nic
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Oh, I went back to get my hair cut shorter!

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The Costa Brava doesn’t cure Cancer….

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But it has SPECTACULAR views and has helped to clear my head!

The children’s passports arrived 2 days before we left! Our first road trip to mainland Europe and it’s been AMAZING!

Rural France then a week in the Jewel of the Mediterranean, El Port de la Selva. Breathtaking views and a desireable pace of life, I was conscious to even breathe slower, take it all in and JUST BE!

I slipped in and out of moments of parking my diagnosis, right at the back of my head and enjoyed climbing the rocks, swimming in the clear water and purposefully setting my alarm so as not to miss the most perfect sunrise -afterall, this is where Dali himself lived, worked and was inspired!

Am now in Barcelona, enjoying the history and beauty (La Sagrada Familia OMW-the most beautiful building in the world!)

I’ve slowly started to think of what lies ahead when we return home. I go from being mechanical to being sad and angry, asking myself how and why did this happen but more so, how did I not notice it? I ask myself, if I had not been so rushed in my life, would I have taken the time to check more regularly? Would I have discovered the lump at a much smaller size? Could I then have had a lumpectomy instead of being faced with a mastectomy?

I’m putting it down to nerves. Thinking rationally, I’ve discovered many women who been through a mastectomy, even double mastectomy by choice, as they were carrying the gene. My breast cancer is not gene related, it’s sporadic growth. You qualify for gene testing if you are under 40 and have an immediate relative who has had it – mother, not aunt in my case.

My consultant called me before my holiday as I had queried gene testing AND it had occurred to me, 11pm the night before, sat straight up in bed, ‘would I be better off having a double mastectomy than having a single? Would I be bothered knowing that one is different, even though, over time, I’m opting for the natural reconstruction, using tissue from other body parts?’.

She explained that removing a completely healthy breast can cause complications. Women who do this, would also be sent for a psychiatric assessment as it’s removing a perfectly normal body part. She explained that most woman who have tissue reconstruction, are generally very pleased with the results. *I’ve seen the pictures at the hospital of before and afters…AMAZING!

Thinking about it, I don’t know many women over 40 who are thrilled with their boobies and have not considered a lift of sorts….

My diagnosis came as a shock to many of my friends and family, especially as a few months before, I had embarked on a #fitby40 mission! (It’s my birthday on Sunday and I will be 39). Physical changes had already started becoming apparent through my bootcamp sessions using weights. I joined the gym a few minutes walk from me two weeks before I found the lump. I’m an early riser and was looking for an option to exercise first thing.

Here’s the thing, people who I’ve personally come across who have been diagnosed with either a type of cancer or breast cancer, are some of the fittest people I know! Yoga teachers, marathon runners and fitness fanatics…also, there has been an ex gymnast with a high public profile, who’s just recently gone through a double mastectomy after finding a pea sized lump after doing her normal post yoga stretching….

I’ve mentioned to a friend that it’s now an #aliveby40 mission….she wasn’t impressed, so I’ve given this more thought and there is no reason why I cannot continue my #fitby40 mission, I just need to adapt it! One of the things I am going to miss is the kettlebell…if anyone knows a trainer who has worked with a woman who has a mastectomy, please do let me know as I need to know what upper body exercises are appropriate!

Might be the Spanish sun or the Sangria but it’s inspired me to learn Spanish, perfect use of my chemo time I *think*? It’s a no brainer as I can use it in my work as well! (I run an au pair agency).

Adios y hasta la proxima!

Nic