Showing posts with label chemotherapy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chemotherapy. Show all posts

Friday, 10 June 2011

In the bag...

Before you ask, no, I'm not the bag in question.
Since starting chemotherapy treatment I have found my handbag to be increasingly full. I'm not normally a high maintenance girl so I carry a fairly basic kit of purse, tissues, sunglasses, ipod and headphones.

Lately the contents have expanded hugely with:
Chemotherapy Record (Little Red Book)
Antibacterial gel (to beat the bugs)
Lip salve (to stick my lips back on my face as they seem to be removing themselves in strips)
Hand Cream (I actually use this on other parts as well. My skin seems to be trying to impersonate dandruff with vengeance)
Chemotherapy Card ( equivalent to BEWARE OF THIS PATIENT)
Water (gotta stay hydrated)
Meds ( for the roaring ouchies)
Hat (to cover bald head from sun)
Buff (TM) (To keep above head warm in emergencies)
Spare pair of earrings (for instant prettification of chemo self)
Glycerin pastilles (for chronic dry mouth)
Mouthwash (to be used 3x daily, but not when brushing teeth)


I have not resorted to a bigger bag, my fairly trendy sized bag has managed to cope. I have however noticed the extra weight.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Bold and bald...

Today I went out in a bandana but my head was so itchy I abandoned it after the first shop. To my surprise, no-one seemed to notice my baldness. This has made me feel a bit ashamed of myself that I should have been expecting comments. Granted we were in DIY shops rather than on the High Street. I have been covering my head all the time, outside the house and garden, prior to this. Some of the reason has been practical, I've either felt cold or have been hiding from the sun. Yesterday my hat blew off, but unusually I had put on a bandana as well, yet I was embarrassed. All this seems to make little sense. I made the decision not to have a wig long before I lost my hair. Having seen those provided on the NHS I am relieved I don't want one. There are a very limited number of colours and styles and they do look awfully like hair hats. I am finding hats more comfortable than the bandanas as they have a bit more ventilation. However my wide brimmed green hat, my favourite, is not suitable for wearing in bed!
My favourite hat.
Keeping my head warm at night was not too much of an issue until after my last chemo. I am feeling the cold much more now, so need to reduce my heat loss. I can pull the duvet over my head but this is not without risk! I've tried wearing one of my 'buffs' but that makes my head itch. A silk scarf tied around my head seemed a good idea but the differentials between bristly scalp, cotton pillow and silk scarf made it fraught with issues. The scarf gripped the bristles, skidded on the pillow and left me half garroted. I was getting frustrated!
I have now found a solution. I have a very soft rectangular scarf that I lay across the top of my pillow which provides a nice draught excluder, but also allows me to pull it over the top of my head if I need it.
Today's experiment has increased my confidence to go out without a head covering. I'm obviously going to be sensible, as the chemo makes me sun sensitive, I shall need to protect my tender scalp. But I'm not going to cover my head just for the sake of it. I'm me, take me as you find me.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

As sick as a...

Chemo cycle 2: I was hoping to sail through this cycle problem free like last time. Day 1 was fine, the steroids supported me. Day 2, I started to feel joint pain and the chemo fog began to descend. Chemo fog, I should explain, is a distinct muzziness and inability to concentrate. It is for me one of the worst side effects especially when combined with intense chemo sleepiness. I feel out of control and can only cope by staying in bed where I feel safe. Having spent the afternoon of Day 2 (Saturday) in bed only feeling muzzy and sleepy it was a shock to come to, at 02.30am, feeling sick. The powerful anti sickness tablets are very effective but I had finished them. In my muzzy, sleepy state I 'might' not have taken the other sickness tabs ( I will sort a system before next time), anyway I was soon sick. I kept being sick for a couple of hours, at which time I told Mr G that we had better seek medical help. He swung into action and soon we were off to the Out Of Hours Service. The doctor gave me an anti sickness injection and a prescription for anti sickness meds that I could dissolve in my mouth without having to swallow anything, and some rehydration salts to be collected when the shops opened at 10.00am. We headed home, where after a short respite I started being sick again. Mr G having heard me, rang The Hospital ( the oncology ward at Northampton). The Hospital told him to bring me in as soon as possible, so off we went. The ensuing car journey, as the one earlier, is best kept veiled in mystery, suffice to say the roads are bumpy and nauseating!
In my muzzy, sleepy and nauseous state, Talbot Butler Ward was quite intimidating and I was glad to have Mr G with me. The ward was very noisy and as each patient has an individual room, lots of closed doors. By this stage I was down to dry heaving as I was dehydrated and exhausted. My details were taken ( because of course my treatment is happening in Kettering) and obs were taken. After what seemed ages, I was moved to a proper room , instead of a treatment room, I sank gratefully onto the bed. The doctor came and took bloods and gave me an intravenous dose of the very strong anti sickness meds. The relief from the nausea was almost immediate and I began to relax a little. We were then left alone for several hours, and I was told to drink as much water as possible. I tried but the water tasted foul and the cup smelt so strongly of chemicals that it was a real struggle. I managed two cups of water in all. At about 3.15pm , the consultant oncologist arrived. He, to my delight, said they were going to send me home with extra, extra strong anti sickness tabs that they kept on the ward. Mr G was dispatched to fill the other prescription before the shops shut as the hospital pharmacy was closed! On his way out, Mr G reminded the staff that my cannula (tube in back of hand) needed removing before I could go home. A nurse appeared to deal with cannula and give me my meds, and I was free to go! Mr G had taken my hospital bag with him, and my bandana too. I've become so used to my lack of hair that I forget my appearance could be a bit of a shock. The surprised glances I received as I walked through the corridors, made me wonder momentarily, then I realised what it was. I put on my most positive, reassuring smile so I did not frighten the visitors!
This experience has taught me to sort out my medicines for the fuzzy, muzzy stage. I will never know if I did forget to take some. Help is at hand, even if it is quite a long way away. Lastly, I always knew to take the vomiting seriously, but it was alarming how quickly I went downhill. I narrowly avoided being admitted to hospital overnight. I really hope this was a blip. I shall tell my oncologist all about it next time I see her.
I'm a third of the way through my treatment, I'll keep facing forward and get this thing done.
PS We liberated some of those very handy hospital sick bowls - by doing this I've just ensured I won't ever need them!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Hair today...

One of the major side effects of chemo, that most people know about, is hair loss. It might surprise some people that not all chemotherapy does cause hair loss. However Carbo-taxol treatment, which is what I am having, does. It is the paclitaxel element that makes the hair fall out. Carboplatin alone may cause a little thinning but not complete loss. My hair started falling out in earnest about 10 days after my first treatment. It was only at minor nuisance level but I decided I would get rid of it all in one go. I had already cut my hair quite short, but having heard that someone found their bowl of cornflakes covered in bristles, I decided not to risk leaving it!
Mr G clippered my hair really short then I set about my head with my trusty ladyshave. I have generally been using an epilator on legs and such, so had not used the razor for ages. It was an interesting experience - the noise of the razor echoed around my skull in a rather un-nerving manner. We had tried a wet shave but we chickened out as neither of us wanted me to be walking around with my scalp covered in scraps of tissue on all the nicks. Anyway after about half an hour of buzzing I had reduced my hair to a 'flock' (fuzzy textured wallpaper) type look. It was apparent where the hair had largely fallen out - my head looked like a random new world flock covered globe. So far, so good. What I hadn't bargained for was the velcro like behaviour of what remained of my hair. I have chosen to use multiway neck/head tubes (often known as Buffs (TM), other brands available). These are soft microfibre and very versatile. This property however meant that, as soon as one went near my head, the flock like bristles so attached themselves to the fabric that it was instantly fixed. Trying to arrange the tube in an attractive and satisfying manner resulted in many swears and much aggravation. I have now mastered a stealth approach by shaping my head covering and plonking it on quickly, then removing myself from the mirror before I have time to become critical.
To set off my look, I have taken to remembering to wear earrings all the time. Today I went to the shop in a spotted, pale blue, artfully arranged head covering, with dangly silver earrings. The lady in the queue behind me commented on how lovely my earrings were. Madam, I do not know who you were, but you made me a very happy lady.
Today is not all about cancer!

Friday, 6 May 2011

You need to watch out for...

When one is sucked into the big Chemo machine, it affects all areas of life. The little red Chemotherapy Record (to be carried at all times) not only records the treatment being administered but has lots of other instructions and suggestions. The main aim is to avoid infection at all costs. This is because chemo seriously affects the ability of the body to fight infections. I have been advised not to eat takeaways, soft cheese and bagged salads, undercooked food, wash/peel all fruit and veg. So far so good. I also need to crowded places on days 10 to 14ish, and obviously not go near obviously poorly people. This is tricky when you need to go to the Doctors, I spent this morning playing musical chairs as friendly old ladies came and sat next to me! I tried to move under the guise of changing the magazine I was reading so I did not offend. It must have looked most comical. I went to see my GP today as I have a nasty sore throat. While I would normally ignore this, the little red book says NO! So, off I went. My GP is a super bloke, I only became his patient last September, so we've had to get to know each other quickly due to my current problems. He checked me over, pulse, oxygen saturation, chest, throat etc, a really thorough examination. He said it did not seem too bad, but that he would do an urgent blood test to see how my body was up to fighting the infection. If my body was not able to battle the bug, then I urgently needed antibiotics, in hospital most likely. I had the blood taken and trotted off home. At 4.30 I rang the surgery to see if the results were back. The receptionist assured me that they were and that she had taken them through to Dr N. He rang me back immediately to assure me that my bloods were OK, taking the trouble to tell me what each count was. When I thanked him for his trouble, he said he did not want me to worry over the weekend and said that I would rest easy knowing I could fight the infection. I cannot state emphatically enough how good it feels to have such a caring professional in my care team. He has, at every stage of this journey so far, been absolutely amazing and always carefully discusses or explains my choices and considers my opinions.
Thank you Dr N., you are making a difficult journey much easier.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Just as nasty...

Yup, Chemotherapy is nasty. The last few days have been unpleasant. Not unbearable but definitely unpleasant. I was not sick, so that was a needless fear. I was, however, plagued by joint pain that could develop in a millisecond and last hours, bizarrely jumping from random joint to random joint. The extremely effective steroids and anti-emetics (antisickness drugs) caused my digestive system to slam on the brakes completely for 3 days. I'm still trying to persuade it to work again - oh for a proper poo! I spent Sunday in a sleepy blur, I literally could not keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time. This was not due to any medicine I took, just the chemo. Today, Tuesday, I am feeling brighter but still very tired. I have managed a few household jobs and took the DVD's back to the library, but had to rest between each activity. I am not even going to attempt to imagine how I will cope with the rest of my chemo sessions. I am simply going to take it all one day at a time...that is all I can do.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

One down...

At last, Chemo Day 1 has arrived. We arrived at the Centenary Wing, a little early, and parked in the dedicated spaces. We collected the parking permit then headed upstairs to the Treatment area. It is a large airy room with blue recliner chairs around the perimeter and two cubicles with beds in them. Radio 2 plays gently in the background. It is VERY busy, the consequence of a bank holiday tomorrow. Next week they have to fit five days of treatments into three days. I'm glad I'm not in then. After a wait of about half an hour, my cannula (needle in hand) was put in and a cocktail of medicines to stop allergic reactions to the chemo drugs was administered. They were antihistamines, steroids, tummy medicine, anti-sickness and fluids. I felt very strange for a few minutes as everything spread round my body, a bit dizzy and lightheaded. The WRVS are brilliant and bring tea and coffee round and deliver us a sandwich at lunchtime. I will take some decaff with me next time. Next came the paclitaxel ( very strong chemo) this is put through the drip slowly over three hours. The worst side effect during this time was an itchy throat, causing a lot of coughing and throat clearing (probably not helped by dry sandwiches). I drank lots of water and had to take Percy (the drip stand) for many walks so I could go for a wee!
After three hours, my line was flushed (salty water put through needle) and I had a little rest then the next lot of chemo was started. This is a metal based chemo drug called carboplatin. This went in over 45 minutes. I got a nasty dry mouth sensation, although my mouth was not that dry. This will evidently give me a strong metallic taste in my mouth cumulatively over the sessions.
Finally my line was flushed again and my needle was taken out - I was free to go home.
I left with a green carrier bag full of medicines for the side effects, two sorts anti-sickness (strong and weak), two sorts mouthwash; one daily, one for when it get sore, and lastly laxatives! This is accompanied by a card with when and how to take/use it all. My appointments for next time have all been made - my blood tests will determine if I have it.
Was it easier than I feared? Yes, it was. I had feared feeling sick while tethered to a drip. Will next time be easier? Yes, because I know what to expect. However, the side effects I have yet to experience may well cause some trepidation as we get next session just as we start feeling better.
The next stage of exterminating those pesky cells has begun. This lady is fighting all she can but, as my husband said in pirate talk,
"The sea be calm but the wench be slightly polluted. It be the cream 'O' the rapy"

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Next Steps...

I went for my pre-chemo assessment, at Kettering, this afternoon. Having felt quite blase about it all for the last couple of weeks, reality hit hard today. Brave left the building and a full blown scared and crying episode moved in. The chemo nurse said she would have been more worried if I had not cried. I heard little I had not heard before, but said in small chunks, with plenty of time for questions etc. The room in which I will receive my treatment is bright and sunny, not too hospitally. No tv, but radio is playing. We are encouraged to take entertainment with us, so ipod, books etc will be packed, as I shall be there for a minimum of 5 hours each visit. We were given all the emergency phone numbers we hope we will NOT need to ring, but out of hours care is provided in Northampton so we will need to keep the cars fuelled up. If I should need in-patient treatment I will have to go to Northampton. I feel quite fragile again now - I have had to face the fact I have cancer full on again, it has been easy to pretend otherwise during my convalescence from surgery. It seems such a bitch that I'm just feeling better and I'm now going to be, as my chemo nurse said, ' being filled with poison', and am very likely to feel like absolute rubbish. Still we discussed the hair loss, and strategies to deal with the practical bits of going bald over 3 days, and managed to have a laugh! I am very glad I am not a vain person, because the treats in store would really challenge a person who enjoyed external gorgeousness. My bald, spotty, puffy, sore and grumpy exterior will hide my totally gorgeous inside, so you will all have to use your imaginations...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Moving on...

Another week has gone by - I am physically much recovered. The daily ritual of injecting my tummy has lost any charm it ever had, but only six more days to go!
I am enjoying the compulsory daily walks far more in the sunshine and I can walk further every day. However, should I have the temerity to be over ambitious my tummy muscles soon get me back in line. I have definite dates now for Chemo Pre-assessment on 12 April and when it actually starts in 27 days. Somewhat strangely, I am impatient for this. I want to get on with the fight. Before then though I have some really good things to do. My daughter gets married in just under 3 weeks, a day I could not miss. My Oncologist was quite definite that the wedding came before Chemo. I get to see some dear friends this weekend. More good stuff to store. This is necessary. There are times when despite all the love, care and concern that surrounds me I feel anxious, worried and frightened, but then I do remember the good stuff and wrap myself up in it like a soft sweet cloud.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Well, that was nasty...

So, I have cancer, ovarian cancer... was not actually a shock as I had been warned. The need to have chemotherapy is a pain, as I had really hoped the op was all I needed. However, an ovary had ruptured releasing those pesky cells into my tummy. Not sure when I will start chemo, have to see oncologist first. Am fitting first one around my daughter's wedding - a balance between still having hair and not throwing up all day! I know I will lose my hair as I am having a cocktail of two chemo drugs; I decided to give those pesky cells the biggest shock I could. The next months are going to be a challenge, but I have amazing support in real life and virtually online.
Get the sick bags ready, my friends, this could be a bumpy ride!