A recurring theme throughout my reflections on the experience of getting a cancer diagnosis and moving forward through treatment was an acceptance of many things being beyond my control.
Ten days after my 5th cycle of chemo I had my personal worst case scenario play out in my home. When I first became familiar with the long list of chemo side effects I was worried that I might collapse at home while my husband was away and the children were asleep, and that’s what happened.
I had a restless night and woke up just before 7am with a sore head and upon getting up had a nose bleed. I went through o the kitchen dressed only in my bra and pants to get some water with the intention of coming back to bed but by the time I got there I realised that I was going to collapse.
I had a moment of blind panic as I realised I needed to get help. The next thing I remember is being licked back to consciousness by my dog and feeling intense pain and swelling on my left temple where I had struck the side of my face and my skull against the slate tiles on my kitchen floor.
I was in shock and couldn’t get up off the floor and wasn’t sure if I would be able to get my children’s attention in order to get help. Fortunately my eldest son heard me calling for him. He came down and was able to phone my friend who is a nurse. She was luckily on her way to work and was with me in 10 minutes and called the ambulance.
I was at my local hospital within 20mins and was well looked after. I was monitored for a head injury and also treated for an infection as I had presented with a high white cell blood count. This turned out to be a red herring as that was a direct consequence of the white blood count injection I had got after chemo.
However, I did get my blood transfusion the next day and felt an immediate improvement as a result.
It was a really scary experience and left me feeling very vulnerable. I was happy to stay in hospital because I realised how exhausted I was. I just wanted to curl up and sleep. Even doing very basic things had become a trial but at 10 days after chemo usually I would have been starting to feel better.
The experience taught me not to be complacent about how chemo can affect your body and also to listen to what you body is telling you. I had a busy day planned for the day I collapsed which had included registering my son at the local football club for the community football season, transporting him to a party and picking him up before driving 50 miles to attend my brother’s 40th Birthday. Under normal circumstances not difficult things to do but these are not normal circumstances.
I was so worried that my final chemo would be delayed as a result of these events. I thought I’d fractured my skull. Fortunately, I was not more badly hurt. There are no prizes for pushing yourself to do all the things you ‘normally’ do. This situation is nothing like ‘normal’ and you need to acknowledge that to yourself and your family. I wasn’t always doing that and consider this episode as a lesson learned.