It has been a long and frustrating week in some ways, seemingly dogged by delays (medical) and technical difficulties. But we are finally at Friday and I had my first chemotherapy treatment yesterday. It lasted from 12 noon until 1a.m. this morning and was non-stop toxic chemicals flowing into my system through the IV. Curiously, one of the most distressing things was the background vibration of the pumps pushing the drugs in. It seemed to permeate into my very bones, and possibly made me feel more sick than the drugs. Well that was what I thought until this morning :-) Give it up for anti-nausea drugs!
More of that in a moment. Rewind to the previous evening. Hospital time exists in its own continuum. Whoever dreamed up the schedule needs a good slap. I like to think I am more of a morning person than a night owl, but I find drinks at 7.00, breakfast at 7.15, lunch at 12.15 and tea/dinner at 5.15 all a bit much. It feels very much as if we are rushed through the system to suit working hours of the (very lovely) ancillary staff at the cost of a more sympathetic and natural timescale. 8.00 comes and it’s all over bar the shouting as this is when the last drinks trolley of the day comes round. Now – the lovely night nurse gave me the most fabulous up-to-the-minute news the other night, considering this might become my second home for a while. She asked me what I wanted to drink. Fatal. It’s good to get out of this Rice Krispies, turkey pie, fruit cocktail kind of existence once in a while (is it ever good to get INTO it?!) so I couldn’t help myself. I just couldn’t stop it coming out – ingrained habit, sorry! ‘I’ll have a nice large glass of cool chardonnay please.’ To give her credit she absolutely cracked up and so did the lovely other lady who had just ordered her tea – and clearly thought she had missed her opportunity to get something a bit more exciting. Apparently at Christmas the doctors organised a drinks trolley on a couple of days, and in their infinite wisdom – and they are all-knowing, right? – they decided to instigate a Sunday night drinks trolley. Result! Shame I might be discharged by then, but I’ll be sure to put my order in early when I’m next in.
It is now the day after chemo so I have time to reflect on my first serious brush with Big Pharma. I usually avoid doctors and drugs as far as possible but in this situation I very much want to live using whatever resources are available, as opposed to die by my principles. I felt my heart sink as I read the enormous list of chemicals that would be given: for every drug that kills the cancer there has to be another which will alleviate its toxicity. It was the strangest feeling, watching bag after bag being pumped in: I was grateful to be in the hands of experts but upset at the invasion of my body. I tried to meditate during the IV process and be accepting of the moment but the drugs made me very woozy and sick. Going up to the place where I usually meditate was really uncomfortable and ungrounded so I had to stop.
I was talking to one of the nurses about this conflict and she told me of another patient who sees the drugs as good soldiers who have come in to kill the bad guys. It was suggested to me that I could add the condition ‘and do as little harm as possible’, which makes a lot of sense. I am hoping I can get to a place of acceptance – and less hostility – towards all this, as the important thing in the end is that it works. It is a very big lesson for me and I am gently tweaking at the edges of it to find out more. I do have many dark moments, and it is healthy and a recognised stage of grieving to allow the anger out. There is a growing feeling of why this, why now and of course, why me? I will never be the same after this. For any cancer patient there is always the shadowy threat of regression from which you can never be free, and that has fundamentally changed my thinking.
Today (Friday) I am pumped full of drugs and to be honest I will need a supermarket trolley to take them all home. Which will be tomorrow!!! My blood tests are all back and fine so I’m outta here. Until next week when I come back for a blood count check.
For those of you who followed my madcap dash across Hampshire for the PET scan – we just got the results and it is clear. Relief is too small a word for it. There are apparently a few weird teeny weeny lumps on my head but they can look at those when my hair all falls out, which will be in about 10 days. Much too much hair around at the moment. See – always a silver lining!
And guess when my next treatment starts? A Thursday. Which means……I will be still be in on the Sunday for the drinkies round!