Friday 23rd February – Chemo #3 – the Red Devil
That’s half of my chemotherapy treatments done, we aren’t celebrating, no woohoos, its just a fact and now we move on. Ally thinks I’m being pessimistic because I’m not celebrating and feeling ‘proud of myself’ its certainly not that I’m pessimistic, that couldn’t be further from the truth; no one wants chemo to end and for me to come through this more than me, it’s just that I am going through chemo for a reason, a terrifying reason and chemo is so so hard that I don’t want to have to think about it for longer than I have to; hence no celebrating.
My last meal before this chemo session was a very cheeky steak, given to me for my birthday; I let Ally share too, after all he is doing all of the injecting for this cycle (I’ll come to that shortly). I cooked the steaks deliciously rare and we had them with crispy, sweet parsnip chips, green beans cooked with tons of smoked garlic (I’m a little obsessed with the smoked garlic from our farm shop) and lambs lettuce – definitely a meal to build up my iron levels. Ally will be home from work for the full 5 days following this chemo, because sadly my mum is poorly. She has a terrible throat and ear infection and is taking antibiotics so we can’t risk her being near me when my immune system is so compromised at the moment. It’s made even worse because it is my father’s birthday and he was hoping to be able to celebrate with Filly and me. Even if we could find another person to inject me, there’s no way that I would be able to cope with Filly, the boys and the house on my own in the days following chemo, so Ally will be my full time nurse – help!
I was first onto the chemo unit again, I think its because my treatments take longer due to the cold cap, so we left the house just after 7.30am. My dear, lovely mother in law retired a couple of years ago, so (like my parents too) she doesn’t have the need to be up quite so early any longer, but nevertheless she arrived at our house, slightly bleary eyed, with her breakfast in her bag to take care of Filly and the boys for the day. I don’t know where Filly gets its from, but she loves to lie in, she’s rarely awake before 8.30, which is nightmare for playdates and nursery but we are definitely not complaining, so she was still sleeping when we left.
We arrived at the unit, checked in (oh what I would give to be checking into a hotel somewhere sunny instead!) and got moving with the cannula and my fancy new, all singing and dancing and terrifyingly expensive anti-sickness meds. I have never been able to swallow tablets, I am a total brat and I either chew them (which is horrid) or I cut them up into teeny pieces, if anyone ever gives me capsules I empty them into jam or just don’t take them. So when I was presented with these new, very expensive drugs and they were capsules I made a complete idiot of myself and asked the nurse if I could have them emptied out. I am pretty sure she didn’t mean to but she actually snorted and laughed out loud; once she’d composed herself she told me (quite rightly) to man up and get on with it; and I did, I swallowed them all by myself, not much of an achievement in the grand scheme but it was the first time I’d ever swallowed a tablet. For the record, I am now a self-styled expert and managed to swallow the whole course of tablets.
This was my last cycle of FEC, after this there would be no more of the Red Devil, as Ally and I have named it. The RD is the Epirubicin and is bright red, it is given by injection through the cannula at the same time as a saline drip, this is because the RD can damage veins so it needs to be ‘watered down’ as it is injected. It is also injected quite slowly, which is why the treatment takes so long and why a nurse is with me for most of the treatment – which is a great thing as I’ve enjoyed chatting wth each of my nurses. I’ve felt a little uncomfortable in my arm during previous treatments but it’s been quickly countered with a heat pack along the veins in my arms for the duration of the injections. Unfortunately this time, for reasons unknown, it was extremely painful during treatment, no amount of heat packs would help the pain. My only option was to stop and try a new vein, which wasn’t without issue as I was now wearing the cold cap so putting a new cannula in would have been tricky or to carry on; so we carried on. With hindsight, I wish I’d spoken up more forcibly and tried to slow down the infusion but I have always been one to get the bad bits over with quickly.
The rest of the treatment, although painful went without a problem and during the 90 minute cold cap wait after the infusions have finished I got chatting to another patient. This was a first for me as I usually have all of the curtains drawn so that I can’t see the other patients being treated. It was her first time trying the cold cap, although she’d had 30+ chemo treatments in the previous year and hadn’t lost her hair the Oncologists were now trying her on a new regime which meant that she could potentially lose her hair. She was struggling quite a lot with the cold and the headaches and was having a cry so I gave her my blankets, a couple of paracetamol and some of my nice smelly things from my chemo-kit bag. I think it was a good distraction as she was soon feeling better, the cold cap just takes 15 minutes or so of unpleasantness before you can forget that you are wearing it.
My chemo kit bag is made up of a few lovely things to make the day a bit easier and to make me smile. I have my ‘sheep of good stuff’ which was made for me by my super talented friend and contains strands of Blue’s tail, a Badger Cheerful Mind Balm (which I rub on my pulse points and it smells divine, like a summer day in Tuscany), Burt’s Bees body lotion and hand salve, hand sanitiser (I have these stashed all over the place nowadays), ginger oat biscuits, a Nakd bar, either vaseline or Burt’s bees lip balm and my journal; there are usually a couple of magazines in my bag too – The Week and Horse and Hound currently and whichever book I’m reading. Most of my chemo kit has come from friends, which is why it makes it more special and why I was so happy to be able to share it.
We were back home in time for a late lunch of homemade soup, I made it the day before, don’t worry Ally hasn’t suddenly become a domestic Goddess! So that was halfway, next time it will be a new set of drugs and a brand new set of challenges.