Four days ago I had my first experience of chemotherapy. I had been anxious in the days leading up to the appointment. I was crying when I spoke to my nurse about it while getting my bloods tested to ensure I could get chemo a couple of days later.
The day before chemo turned out to be quite eventful. The surgery phoned to tell me that my bloods indicated that I was anaemic. This isn’t a big deal generally but I was really upset to hear that as I had spent the previous 6 weeks trying to build up my red cell blood count and I saw it as another sign that my body was failing me.
A friend who had previously had breast cancer popped round with soup later and I was crying when I told her. She said that she had been anaemic all the way through the process and that did alleviate my concerns and put it into perspective.
I picked up the letters from the post-box and there was one from ARI. I felt sick because they had no reason to contact me other than to tell me that there was some problem with my scans. It turned out to be a thank you letter for the chocolates I had given to staff at the ward.
Finally I got a phone call from my Macmillan nurse telling me that my scans had all come back clear and that my bloods were good for chemo. I once again found this hard to take in. I was so worried about my lungs but the scans did not show a problem. As for the anaemia, it was very slight and not a problem for chemo.
All of which shows that fear played a big part in the next step in the process, the delivery intravenously of my treatment drugs. The first of 6 cycles of FEC-T.
I attended the ‘Spey Suite’ at the hospital to receive my treatment and I brought a close friend who also happens to be a nurse. The nurses were lovely and finding a vein was not problematic. The process took about an hour and a half. It went well.
I went to my bed a couple of hours after getting home. I felt nauseous and was sick about 4 hours later. I was able to sleep quite well but was sick again the next morning. My friend came and gave me a white blood cell booster injection that afternoon. I ate a little that evening but spent most of the day in bed.
The next day I was able to go out for a walk but felt flat and very tired. I think I almost hyped myself up for chemo. I should have felt good about getting the first one completed but instead I could see a long difficult path with 5 more of these to get through. Even though the side effects were much less unpleasant than I feared I just felt so low.
The next day I felt better. You have to remind yourself that you have been through a lot of stress and fear. This does feel like adversity but I would not describe it as a battle at this point. As ever, it becomes about how you face the difficulties ahead.
My scans on my lungs, bones and heart show no evidence of cancer that has spread. The cancerous tumour has been removed from my breast and 2 cancerous lymph nodes also. The symptoms I was experiencing pre- diagnosis were most likely symptoms of a cancer than was growing. These are the facts that I have.
The treatment that I am receiving will make a significant difference to my prognosis and so far it has been manageable. This was the bit I knew I would struggle with but each cycle takes me closer to where I need to be.
I need to stop feeding the fear that cancer has created in me and move forward towards my future. I have had many difficult days but now I need create space in my life in between cycles where I remember what life is for. I have been living half a life fixated on my survival. I have many reasons to be more optimistic about this now and so my greatest challenge in the next few months will be living again properly. I need to be there for my boys who I have been impatient with frequently during this process. It hasn’t made me a better mother. I think that in hiding my concerns about my illness to protect them I transfer that into anger sometimes. I am not proud of this.
It has been easier with my husband because he knows everything. He has read every one of these staged reflections from pre-diagnosis onwards. That honestly has helped us I think, and made us both appreciate each other more.
I have work to do and I need to face that fact. Christmas is coming and I need to spend some time with my boys and be a proper mother again. My next Chemo will be a couple of days before the New Year. I need to turn my face from these shadows and look forward to better days.