16th March–22nd March
A very up and down roller coaster week. I had my last chemo treatment, which was swift and easy. I felt great relief that it was the last.
We were prepared for what we were told will be about 10 days of recovery time. The tiredness is accumulative and I can see that my energy levels have shifted down a gear, especially with the preparing and thinking of meals and how to feed myself. It seems so much effort!
It has been such a big deal. The clearing has eclipsed 3 months of our lives, swinging us into a bizarre and unknown landscape of living our lives. Our choosing the best probability of survival in Chemotherapy, took us through the mire of sickness and huge challenge, and discovering, perversely, joy too. The joy was particularly felt by me, physical and emotional relief. For Mark it was not so keenly felt. He was still in the mire of holding everything together!
My day two after clearing was a day to bottle! I shall never forget the euphoria of waking without that sludge feeling for what I thought was for good.
I sowed seeds and spent a day in the sun, pottering in the garden and marvelling at how it seemed all of a sudden that my long journey of healing was coming to an end.
Parcels arrived in the post with presents to celebrate my last week. A last burst of receiving! My mother sent us money to help us for the next three months, which seemed to start a trend! It felt like the tribe of family and friends were really rooting for us. I have been told that it takes a while to get back to normal energy and brain functioning after chemotherapy. It is a period of time to go gently and recover from the physical and emotional fall out from the whole experience of the cancer discovery, diagnosis and treatment. It is a huge relief to have the financial pressures taken away.
This week we said goodbye to our cleaner, Kamila, who made such a difference. It was a great idea and gift from my daughter Harriet. I would never have thought of it, but Kamila’s three hours a week has really helped us preserve our energy and enjoy a level of cleanliness during chemotherapy that I know we would not have otherwise had!
On the food front, I have really been enjoying oranges this week!! It is the first food I am eating that really hits the taste buds spot! – apart from tomato ketchup, salt & vinegar crisps and pepper popadoms 🙂
Monday 16th March
Week 11, Cycle 4
I woke just in time for my yoga class. Driving along the coast road, tears of relief streamed down my cheeks: it is my last clearing today.
We jump through all the hoops of treatment at the cancer centre and this time it is as swift and as painless as possible. I had rung and talked about how unhappy I was last time. I thought it was important for them to know how vulnerable I felt and how upset I was.
A patient I sat next to at the centre pointed out it is probably not going to be possible to have a tattoo on my right breast scar as my lymph nodes have been removed from my right armpit. It is not wise to have tattoo ink and no lymph to clear it away! I was taken aback and most perturbed. I’m concerned that my plans for my chest decoration might not be possible! I have been searching for the best tattoo artist to make me a magnificent chest plate of colour and design to finesse my scars and make the most of the new blank canvass. This is one to remember for discussion with the oncologist.
We settle down to the distraction of a film and I can feel the spreading presence of the clearing doing its job. It was very difficult to relax and the sludge inhabiting my body was an uncomfortable constant. I put a castor oil pack on my liver with a hot belly bag over the top for the warmth to help it detox. I filled a big jug with cucumber water to keep up the hydration!
Last thing before bed, I prepare a camomile enema, which is exhausting, but well worth it as it leaves me feeling much clearer and lighter! I go to bed listening to Osho, ‘Be still now’. Very restful, but it’s still difficult to sleep.
Tuesday 17th March
Week 11, Cycle 4
I feel nauseous first thing so I put the sea sickness bands on both my wrists, spooned down the slippery elm and took both anti sickness pills given to me. All guns blazing!
I have decided to go down to 1 steroid pill. My face is all puffy and I don’t like how I feel in my body with the internal gearing! By afternoon this had thankfully settled down.
I spent most of the day in breathing meditation. I feel pretty grim but am hanging in there. I prepared a coffee enema for the afternoon and felt immediately better. If you think this might be helpful for you, there is an enema section in week 1 with links and additional information including… *whispers*… disposable rectal catheters. (Important to get the right ones 🙂
In the early evening we went for a walk over the hill and I still had the energy to sow some broad bean seeds for my raised beds in the back garden. I was blown away by the turnaround today – I was expecting to be out for the count for at least a few more days!
I felt sick and weird and then a window opened up and I ripped into some chicken and avocado sandwiches with lime pickle and pepper popadoms on the side! Strong tastes seem to appeal!
Now I think I have got the perfect balance of medication FOR ME … 1 steroid pill, at breakfast and lunch and I have two different anti sickness pills if I need them. My first response to feeling any sickness is to put on my travel wrist bands and take a heaped teaspoonful of slippery elm in half a cupful of water. Back-up is the anti sickness pills.
I have had no concrete gut this time around – the Japanese knot weed really helps with that.
A general report on other bits of my body!
My mouth is surprisingly OK. There are no sores and my gums are fine. I was expecting this to be more of a problem. I have aloe vera to drink ready in reserve but I haven’t really felt the need to take it since cycle 1.
My nose has calmed down for this last cycle. It is hardly bleeding at all.
I am eating more of what I feel drawn to eat. I have started eating chicken and chicken broth soups and a little wheat bread. I have really missed Yeo Valley dairy yoghurt and have just started introducing this back on my breakfast muesli.
Wednesday 18th March
Week 11, Cycle 4
This is an up day and I feel invincible and bursting with energy. I spend a lot of the day in the garden sowing herbs and getting all excited about what we can produce from our little back garden on the side of the hill!
I have an acupuncture session in the afternoon, and afterwards sit on the beach and marvel at the ups and downs of life.
I have a rest for a couple of hours before our evening out which is an event called Sex, Cancer & Cocktails. Having just posted my Week 6 blog where I had written so candidly about sex, I was interested to see if there was more to learn and what I could share!
The event was hosted by Brian who had had testicular cancer. He gave us a spectacular monologue of his sex life journey as a gay man. He included his experience of being an exhibit at an exhibition where over 250,000 people touched his remaining testicle! There was a doctor who spoke about what is important in terms of emotional and physical support for a relationship going though cancer and chemotherapy treatment. A social worker who worked with teenagers with cancer going though puberty revealed to us all sorts of poignant elements unconsidered by me before. For a man going through chemotherapy his sperm is toxic for a few days after the treatment and must wear a condom.
It was extraordinary the matter of fact way that people were talking about sex and I learned all sorts of words that I never knew, I felt positively closeted (excuse the pun!). When I got home, I had to google and find out what people were talking about! It was an eye opening evening 🙂
Thursday 19th March
Week 11, Cycle 4
Foetal position for the day.
Friday 20th March
Week 11, Cycle 4
To ensure my white blood cell count is high enough to fight infection I was given a pack of 5 neutrophil injections to give myself, daily, starting today. They are stored in the fridge. The neutrophils encourage the white blood cell production in the bone marrow. After being neutropenic during the last cycle, it is a timely guard against the mid cycle dip. It is likely to happen again if I don’t take this precaution. I have a bit of a thing about injections, never looking at the needle going in when they are given to me, so it feels slightly icky to do it myself and HAVE to look at where it is going. It is surprisingly painless and very easy to administer.
Saturday 21st March
Week 11, Cycle 4
The injection has to be taken at the same time every day. Today it is a breeze. As a child I had a real dread of injections. I have come a long way!
We spend the afternoon with family. My sister Sophie and I trot out for a little walk to the market and we find a great falafel place. We then make it to a cafe and treat ourselves to wheat free polenta and lemon cake with a soya hot chocolate. Really simple pleasures and such a treat to be out and about. The cafe has a DJ. It is in an old Midland Bank and one of the cafe rooms is the old safe. The door is three feet thick!
Sunday 22nd March
Week 11, Cycle 4
Harriet arrived last night and we have a wonderful morning sorting out my wardrobe and what clothes suit me now that my shape has changed! It is surprising to find that it is not just my top half that needs considering. The line of my favourite calf length, wide linen trousers looks most odd now. Hmmm, I see a shopping trip. I also see a big clothes swap with friends. I have 2 black bin bags full to re cycle.
The side effects of the neutrophil injections become clear. The chemotherapy hotline at the hospital is a godsend for advice!