To write, edit & publish the blog while under the toxic effects of the chemo...
I'm on day five today of the third round of chemotherapy. This appears to be the day when the toxic effects are at their worst in relation to my mind and how well (or not) my brain is functioning. So I thought I'd have a go at writing whilst 'under the influence'.
Possibly an interesting exercise but also a way of avoiding looking too far outside myself - this week's been a tough one for for that. Too real and raw. Today is Shiley Carpenter's funeral. She was the new(ish) Headteacher at my sons' primary school. She died of cancer. Lynda Bellingham, who had decided to give up her chemotherapy and let nature take it's course, didn't even make it to the last session, let alone her last family Christmas as she'd hoped. And two very different but equally affecting pieces of writing, which I'm by no means equal to (and have tried to add as links to this blog), have all added to an introspective mood. So here it is.
Suffice to say I'm utterly sick & tired (though luckily not actually physically vomiting or even particularly nauseous today) of having to be trapped in this cage of chemicals. I've never been very good in situations where I feel trapped, too much wild in me I think. I don't like feeling out of control. Not even the feelings or lose of control imposed by drugs (legal, medicinal or otherwise). A mild fuzzy feeling's ok as long as I'm still aware enough to maintain self control. The internal fight with the overwhelming sensations of general anaesthetics and opium based painkillers can be wholly dumped in with one (or three, by the time it's reached my system) too many vodka & sodas... I no longer have control of my own existence.
It's just an illusion though, isn't it? Having control over your own body, your own life?
One of the reasons I made the decision to shave when my hair started falling out in clumps, was down to control. There was of course also a very practical side to it - the mess would've been horrendous and I'd have had a hard job keeping the dinner free of hair! But the thought of walking round (albeit with my head covered) with an ever wispier, sparser barnet was not an option.
Sometimes you just have to take control of the things you can.
So I woke up today with a mouth like a badger's bottom which had been crawled all over by large, sticky, slimy slugs. My throat was sore (a bit like when you've been snoring but I'm reliably informed that for once I actually wasn't). My eyes were gummy and blurred. My skin has become oversensitive and delicate. I'm starting to get tiny little ulcers all over my mouth again (this too has happened at each round, starting on about the same day and finishing by about day nine.
I'm still getting the intermittent, fizzy, toxic, chemical sensations, crawling under and over my skin and, in exactly the same way, through my thoughts. I've mentioned this phenomenon before but it's so difficult to explain and so bizarre I'm going to have another go while it's actually occurring. Interestingly, no one else I've spoken to who's going through chemo seems to understand what the hell I'm talking about... Maybe it's just me?
So it starts like a tightness in the skin and then crawls into a combination of burning without heat (sometimes even freezing) and a fizzing, prickling sensation. It affects scar tissue first starting with the most recent (left breast & underarm) and turning up in places where I'd forgotten I had scars. Then sometimes moves out over all my body. And my mind. The thing is it affects and disturbs my thoughts in exactly the same way. A physical sensation transfigured into a contorted thought. I'll be thinking absolutely straight (well, as straight as I ever do...) one minute then the chemo chemical starts crawling into the edge and under the ordinary thought. It turns into an indistinct, unintelligible picture or string of foreign words. I think new born babies' thoughts and dreams must be something like this. Maybe.
It has made tangible and physical the until now only intellectually understood reality that my body and mind are not in anyway separate but rather part of the whole. Annabel. Me. This sack of skin with stuff inside. Amazing, unbelievably complicated, miraculous, magical stuff.
I wish I didn't now know this. Sometimes. Because I'd rather not have had breast cancer. But now I've had it and am having to be treated for it, I may as well make the best of it. It never does to feel sorry for yourself. I'll take the positives I can find (and there do seem to be a surprisingly large number considering) and make them work for me and all the people I love and care about that I can (which is pretty much most people I meet to a greater or lesser degree) as it would be such a waste not to.
There. I wonder what that'll read like to you (and me (after the toxic effects wear off))?!
Ooh, and here's the 'poem' I wrote on day five of round two...
Fizzy, fuzzy, dizzy
Popping, paining, aching.
Ice cold comfort.
Brain & body both.
Limbs think/mind feels
All one. All one.
There is also a great last interview with Lynda Bellingham - I couldn't get it to link but if you google Lynda Bellingham Telegraph it comes up.