Bored of the taste.
When we were growing up, my sister, brother and I had a phrase we used when we didn't want to eat any more of whatever it was we were eating (for some reason macaroni cheese comes to mind although I could now eat that until it came out of my ears!). It was usually the main course and it was code for "I really don't want any more of this as I'd like to leave some space for..." (Usually pudding or cake!).
Well I'm using that phrase again now. Only this time it's the chemo 'taste' (and it does come with a rather unpleasant taste and adverse effect on the whole oral experience as it happens...) which I'm 'bored' of. Very, very bored. Fed up. Sick and tired... Hahaha - that's an apt expression if ever there was one. I am thoroughly sick and totally tired.
But I knew this would happen.
Chemotherapy is not renowned for it's uplifting, invigorating and health enhancing qualities (despite the overall aim of the treatment). Ironically, in order to rid the body of cancer it attacks the very body it's aiming to heal. The ultimate, "If it stings, it's doing you good" experience.
I know all this. But I don't want to be ill anymore. I want to be well. NOW. Please...? I want to leave space for... (The rest of my (hopefully) long life)
So, today I've had chemo number four. The first round of the T initial (Taxotere) of the FEC-T treatment. But before that I had to have my mid point Oncology review. And a portacath inserted (yuck!)
During the last chemotherapy session, the veins in my right arm finally got so painful I decided the only way I could bear the next session was via a portacath. This was something I was hoping to avoid (mainly because the thought of it makes me feel decidedly queasy)
Until the weekend before last I still wasn't 100% convinced that I needed it.
Then in the early hours of that Saturday morning I woke up with horrible pains in my right arm (my chemo arm). My ring finger was swollen and a bruise had mysteriously appeared. The back of my hand was also puffy. It being the middle of the night, the fears which would normally be held in check by rational thought, were exaggerated by the dreamworld I'd just been dragged from and I almost immediately decided that I had developed a DVT... In my finger! (DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis (clot) and the fact that there are no deep veins in fingers completely escaped me at 4 o'clock in the morning!).
I phoned the emergency number provided in my little, red, chemo book.
A very sleepy sounding voice went through all the symptoms with me and decided that whilst it wasn't an immediate emergency I should go to A&E in the morning (proper morning not 'middle of the night' morning).
I got to Charing Cross A&E (I decided to go there rather than Ealing (which is a five minute walk) for all sorts of reasons but the main one was the easier access to all my cancer treatment notes) by mid-morning. I realised I'd be in for a wait but was hoping they'd just check me over, tell me there was nothing to worry about and send me home as we were supposed to be going away for half term that afternoon...
Rather alarmingly, I was triaged straight away. And sent to sit in a drafty corridor at the back of A&E. Where I looked after a strapping young man who was about to faint. Having done more than my fair share of fainting back in the day, I recognised the signs and went to fetch help before he keeled over! After he'd gone, I waited & waited (which I took for a good sign). Then they called me in and took a blood sample. From my foot - none of the veins in my arm were giving any blood at all - bad sign. Then they sent me for a lunch break! That has never happened to me in any previous A&E (and I've been to a few in my time!) - I took it for another good sign that they didn't think anything much was wrong...
After a hearty cooked breakfast in the cafe next door to the hospital, I returned for another wait.
Eventually the lovely young doctor came back with my blood results. Not good news. There were signs of thrombosis (clotting) and I would have to have a blood thinning injection, return the following day for another one (more bloody needles!) and a scan of the veins in my arm on Monday.
The cancer and it's consequences were conspiring to ruin yet another holiday... Bloody Cancer.
Another couple of hours on Sunday, spent waiting in Charing Cross, this time in the Clinical Decisions Unit. Not wasted however, as there were two other women waiting and we all got chatting and swapping stories (medical and otherwise).
The following day I turned up early at the ultrasound department and was seen really quickly by a bubbly Australian sonographer. She thoroughly searched the veins in my arm and found that all the superficial ones were buggered. There was very little flow through any of them and clots in two. But the deep veins, the ones that are dangerous when clotting (thrombosis) occurs, were all clear.
I had been frightened to sleep the previous two nights because if a clot in a deep vein moves it can cause heart failure or stroke. If I was awake and aware I would be able to warn Mike (my husband) to call an ambulance. If I was asleep I wouldn't be able to and that may well have been that. Scary.
But after a chat with the Doctor on the CDU he was happy that the veins would heal themselves without any further intervention. HOORAY! No more medicine or injections. And we were allowed to go to Swansea for our half term holiday. HIP HIP HOORAY!
After a lovely week away, I had the portacath insertion to look forward to. On Monday morning, after a consultation with the Oncology Registrar (where he told me I had 30% chance of the cancer returning - for future reference I'm going to suggest he tells patients that there's a 70% chance of it NOT returning as somehow that feels a lot more positive!), I eventually (via various circuitous pre-assessments and after getting lost... Twice!!) made my way to the Vascular Radiology department. And eventually had my portacath inserted. Yuck.
A portacath is a small metal disc with a silicone surface which sits under the surface of the skin, usually on the chest. It is attached by a narrow tube to a major vein (in my case the jugular) and can be accessed easily by means of a special needle, to administer chemo and take blood samples.
I'm not going to go into the details of the operation (which is done here at Charing Cross under local anaesthetic). Suffice to say, it was distressing.
So, now I've had chemo number four. I'm two thirds of the way through the course and at the metaphorical 'breakfast stop' (to use a Long Distance Walkers' analogy - the breakfast stop on the annual 100mile challenge is always at about 60+ miles). It's the point on the walk at which you know (barring accident and/or major incident) that you will complete the challenge. You have a lot less to go through than you've already endured. That's where I am now. With the chemo. BRILLIANT!
And, on a really exciting (but slightly scary) note, I've just had my very first standup comedy booking confirmed for 26th November at The Cavendish Arms, Comedy Virgins night. All welcome but NOT please if you're easily offended! It's going to be dark and a little bit twisted (how could it be anything else?!). More details to follow in subsequent blogs. Scary, but nowhere near as frightening as this whole Cancer malarkey!