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Archive for the ‘chemotherapy’ Category

 

It’s Friday afternoon and I’ve just come out of hospital since Tuesday morning, after having had first round of chemo. There wasn’t a bed available for Monday so I had to wait another day. Unlike the last time I was booked in a few weeks ago, when delays occurred I freaked out, and decided to postpone chemo treatment for the time being as I saw it as a bad omen! This time I stayed calm and recognised that this would probably be a constant factor in receiving treatment, so I shouldn’t worry about it when delays occur.

Unsurprisingly I was pretty anxious when I got to the unit at Southend Hospital – fight or flight response in action, as I was walking into totally unknown territory once more. But the staff seemed to have their set protocols firmly in place, where everyone knew what they should be doing – except me of course – meaning I was seen by the ward doctor after a couple of hours, after which they made the chemo up for later in the afternoon.

There were many bags of fluids to be pumped into my body which totalled nearly sixty hours, and thank goodness I never had any physical complications during this first infusion. However, mentally and emotionally things started to happen, where thoughts I’d kept in my mind, and emotions I didn’t want to feel, now wanted to make themselves known.

I’d met a few people in the unit, and as they were further along in their condition and treatment than me, most of the women had lost their hair and looked pale, some quite poorly. But they each spoke about their journey and gave me their thoughts on chemo.  Unlike myself, who questioned the efficacy of chemo, they had just accepted the treatment with hope…and it seemed they were gaining benefits from it…!

After having read so many times that…’chemo kills more people than cancer’, I sort of understand now what that means. As once that poison has entered the body no-one really knows what is going to happen, and it can be kill or cure, as we already know! Before and during treatment I was told about the precautions I must take regarding infection control, where if the temperature goes below 36 or above 37.4 for more than two hours I must immediately seek help from A & E, with the task of getting to the hospital and being on intravenous antibiotics within the hour…! Really…!

They said time is of the essence because of the lack of immunity meant the high risk of sepsis, so I must monitor myself carefully in case I feel unwell, be vigilant, and stay away from people or places which might be infectious. That’s going to be quite hard at this time of year when the colds and flu start to pop up for their annual feasting. The doctors and nurses said that infections were one of the major complications of chemotherapy treatment, so not to worry about it…mmm, but just be alert.

I just hope I don’t get too obsessive about all of this and end up being a hermit…I need the fresh air, like we all do.  It helps me feel better.

After I’d had the first couple of infusions I went to the loo, and caught sight of myself in the mirror. I stopped and looked at my face, my hair, and wondered what I’d be looking and feeling like in a few weeks time. The other patients I’d spoken to had started from my position and I guess that is when the impact hit, where now there was no turning back and I had to face the consequences of whatever.  It was painful to my heart, as it brought me once again back into the cancer reality of illness and terminality, and the realisation that whilst I’d been able to sort of plod along feeling not too bad over the last few months, now I would be losing my hair, feeling sick, weak, unwell…ugh!

Now back at home I feel okay, just a bit tired and apprehensive as to what will happen next and I’ve got a muggy head which is irritating. After having something to eat and a short nap, I mentally scanned myself a little while ago to find my poor body screaming inside…it is being poisoned, it is being killed off...it doesn’t recognise that it is receiving treatment that could help it survive…it thinks it is being murdered! I thought about prisoners on death row who received lethal injections..!

Although I was really glad to be coming home, my thoughts jumped to the new routine my life would take for however long, and I felt a bit down. My second chemo session is in just ten days time, along with blood tests and oncology appointments next week. Would hospital now become my second home?

I’m not complaining really, I know I’m one of the lucky ones who at least has the chance of prolonged life. Unlike the terminally ill man I spoke to at bedtime late last night in the TV room, who sadly told me that ‘every day he’s awake is another day he is alive’. He didn’t want to go to bed, he didn’t want to die!

So…I’ve got more mental and emotional processing to do as the poison in my body starts to do it’s job, and I have to try and stay positive, active and normal (if there is still such a state), for as long as possible. I’m told the sickness and tiredness could start a couple of days from now, then of course, on the other hand, I may get no side effects at all. Fingers crossed it is the latter!

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Having not written anything for the last couple of years, because of health problems, I’ve decided to resume writing at this time, because if I don’t do it now then I probably won’t do it at all….where the subject will be my experiences with cancer.  I don’t think I intend it to be all doom and gloom, as that’s not how I want this ride to be.  However I will probably share the pitfalls I experience during my journey…to who knows where!

I was diagnosed in April 2015 with advanced bowel cancer, which had spread to my lymph nodes and attached to my pancreas – which was not cancerous, but still meant that half of it would have to be removed. After a lengthy hospital stay and four operations I was told I was ‘cancer free’.  I never believed that of course, and I didn’t rejoice in my ‘cure’, as I knew, like we all do, that once you have been diagnosed with cancer anywhere, then it takes more than a bottle of pills and a few days in bed to get rid of it. Where the very nature of the disease means there’s always the possibility it may come back at sometime, in a different part of the body.

I’ve always had problems with depression and anxiety, and indeed last year, whilst in hospital, I went into a deep black hole that contaminated my whole being, where the depression affected my thinking more than having cancer did.  And it broke me more than anything else has in the past.  I was a prisoner, in a situation I didn’t want, and could not escape from. After five months I accepted the anti-depressants that the psychiatrist offered me.  In fact I nearly tore them out of his hand, I felt so desperate.  I planned my suicide, I didn’t want to exist like this and suffer more pain. I wondered how I would cope at the end…when my time came to step off the cancer train and fall into the arms of the heavenly bodies we hope are there waiting for us when we pass over. I say hope, because whatever you believe, and I thought I’d had evidence that our spiritual friends do actually exist, we will never truly know until our time comes, to find out the truth will we!

In April I was told that cancer has spread to my peritoneum and liver. ‘That’s it’ I thought, ‘I’m not one of the lucky ones who got away with it!’. It has taken all of these months, with various scans and tests, for me to make up my mind to accept palliative chemo treatment. It’s in my bloodstream so I doubt if there will be any more ops…which I’m pleased about. Having ‘it’ cut out and took away might sound appealing, but ‘it’s not possible in my case’ the doctors tell me.

Yet now, as time passed and I started to feel stronger and better, my mood is confusing to me.  I don’t feel scared or worried.  I thought, knowing how I used to suffer with anxiety before, that during this experience I would be terrified…but I’m not, and it feels sort of surreal. I wondered if I was in denial, but I don’t think I am.  I don’t want to constantly focus on it, or talk about it, as my ethos is that I will deal with events as they occur…for now anyway!

Accepting chemo has been a really hard decision to make, and I did lots of research on-line for various alternatives.  I was looking for one of the wonder cures that are written about on various sites, but nothing seemed plausible. Bicarbonate of soda cures, vitamin cures, diet cures…the list goes on.  Nothing was helpful to me. In fact it confused and worried me even more, where people were saying how ‘chemo kills more people than it cures’, that ‘chemo causes other cancers to rise in the body’ etc. I didn’t know what to believe.  And THAT was terrifying!

The oncologist and Macmillan nurse gave the expected response when I tried to talk to them about the alternative to chemo options…’There is no evidence’…’You shouldn’t believe what you read on the web’. But how can I trust what the doctors tell me…as I know they are also fallible!

I’ve been told, very enthusiastically by the oncologist – who ‘legally had to inform me of the possible risks’, that chemo…’could kill me’…‘will make my hair fall out’…’will make me feel very ill’, so have I got that to look forward to? We’ll have to wait and see, as I bit the bullet and tomorrow, Monday, I start chemo…that’s as long as there is a bed available  on the cancer ward. I am worried about it…it feels like it will kill me…which of course it will, by killing off both the bad and good cells. But it doesn’t mean to say it will physically kill me does it? And the medical staff assure me the immune system will recover eventually.

My first-line treatment is chemo once a fortnight, for three months.  They hope it will extend my life…so do I…! The pic line I had fitted a few weeks ago became infected after three days, so that meant another week in hospital on loads of antibiotics meaning the pic line had to be removed. Which delayed things a little. So I must spend a couple of days in hospital for treatment until the pic line is fitted again, then I think it can be done in day stay.

For now this is a brief update of my situation. I hope to write more during my journey on the cancer train, which i have been on for some time now, where I discover the different platforms I’m forced to embark upon – with different problems I must overcome. I know I’m not alone…cancer has become an epidemic that affects everyone in one way or another.  And although when I was first diagnosed I didn’t intend that cancer would dominate my life, it does…as everything is directed around ‘it’, and the effects it has on my life and that of my family and friends.

I have to ensure I don’t treat ‘it’ as the enemy…even though it is, as I can’t afford to emotionally let myself feel the pain and distress that could disable me further, draining my energy, leaving me even more powerless against my anxious thoughts. Yet even though this is happening to me, which is hard for me to believe, I still want to feel happy, good, positive…and more importantly…alive! There’s time fore everything else later – but not now!

I will keep you posted…!

Sending love,

Chrissie xxx

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