With my blood results OK’d and my nails polished in a dark shade (apparently it stops your nails from getting damaged from chemo), I was ready to go!
I always had to have my little red book with me to record all things chemo.
Docitaxel seems to be the one the chemo nurses are most worried about administering. This one was just one IV bag fed into a cannula. I had tried not to read too much into the side effects as I know every patient is different. When I went in I was told to take the chair nearest the nurses station ‘just in case’. I was also told repeatedly to shout out if I felt anything out of the ordinary. I was getting nervous.
As it was, it went fine. I had no reactions to it and felt completely fine afterwards. The pharmacist came to see me and told me she’d make up my medication bag as, this time, I’d need to take steroids 3 times a day for the first 3 days and I’d also need to give myself a gcsf injection to help boost my white blood cells. Steph had given me all of my IVF injections so this was his job again (I’m far too much of a wimp to do it to myself).
The steroids made me feel MENTAL! I had loads of energy and couldn’t sleep a wink. My house was cleaned to within an inch of its life and my dog looked like he was going to pass out after a few days of drug fuelled walkies.
This level of energy didn’t last long though and after about 4 days I was back in bed feeling dreadful. The side effects were completely different this time. There were so many, I’m going to write them in list form (You know I mean business when I list stuff!)
1. Pain: My back, hips, legs, feet & hands started to ache.
2. Dizziness: I became dizzy and faint really often, sometimes even when I was lying down.
3. Worse vision: even trying to read a magazine was difficult as my vision would become blurry and unfocused regularly.
4. Cognitive function: I’d forget what I was talking about or lose words as I was about to say them. My brain felt scrambled and unorganised. I felt like I was losing ‘me’.
5. Nosebleeds: my nose would bleed from time to time but it was constantly blocked with dry blood.
6. Lack of taste: food started to taste either horrible or of nothing.
7. Toothache: all of my teeth ached and I was constantly worried they’d fall out.
Pretty grim yes? It got worse…
About a week after chemo, I called my GP to try to get a home visit. I could barely walk and all of my side effects had gotten to the point that I couldn’t manage them. Unfortunately, as I was still registered at a medical practice where we used to live, (about 3 miles away from our new house) they refused to do a house call and told me I’d have to make my way along to the practice.
Well, that was an interesting experience. Steph had to help me get dressed, put my shoes on and hold me as I, very slowly, made my way downstairs and into the car. When we arrived at the practice, he helped me into the waiting room and I lay down across the chairs. Thankfully there was no one else in there or that could have been a bit embarrassing.
The doctor walked in and saw me there and looked a bit frightened (serves him right for not coming to my house!). He, along with Steph, helped me up and got me into his office where I was deposited on the bed. He took blood and prescribed me with some codeine and amitriptyline to treat my pain and fluconozale and difflam to treat my oral thrush (I know, it sounds yuk. It was!)
With that, we headed home and I was so relieved to get back into bed.
Later that afternoon I had a call from the doctor telling me my blood results were worrying. My neutrophil levels were down at 0.4 (normal, healthy level is between 3 – 6. Anything under 2 is low. Anything under 0.5 is considered at serious risk) and he wanted to admit me to the chemo infection ward. I did the grown up thing and burst into tears and told him I hated that place! My temperature was hovering around the 37 degree mark so after a call to my oncologist, he agreed that I could stay at home unless it went over 37.5. He made me promise I’d go straight in if that happened. Well, it did, and I didn’t. I know, I know…. Pretty stupid but the thought of spending another moment in that ward was too much for me to cope with.
Luckily, my temperature had come down to 37 again by the next morning and the medication I’d been given was all starting to give me a little relief. By the following week I was over the worst of the side effects and I braved going outside for a (very short) walk.
In the next few days, I was up to going out for lunch and got to catch up with my friends.
Speaking of friends, I should mention how amazing mine are. I constantly received flowers and chocolates in the mail, got picked up and taken out whenever I was up to it and always had company when I wasn’t stuck in bed. They kept me occupied, entertained and allowed me to rant.
My advice to you, if you are the friend of someone going through cancer treatment is to stay in contact. Don’t stay away because you’re worried about what to say. Say what you’d normally say. They are still the same person. Maybe think of ways to cheer them up, even if that means lying on the sofa with them telling them all the gossip they’ve missed or picking them up their favourite snack. One of my friends would message me with photos of us from our childhood and teenage years and that always made me laugh. Others brought me books & dvds. Just spending time with them was massively appreciated. It doesn’t take much, just let them know that you are thinking of them. Sadly, a few of my friends went AWOL and at a time when I needed them the most, I’ll always feel sad about that.
Luckily, the vast majority of my friends were fantastic and I now feel closer to them than ever.
Love you guys!! Xx