My sixth week of Chemotherapy

Cancer art therapy painting

Painting by Nicola Price, Cancer art therapy class, The Onca Gallery, Brighton

Week 6

February 10th–16th February

This, the last week of the chemotherapy cycle, is generally the best. I am clear of the mid-cycle dip and in the last cycle it was a week of wellness. I am really coming to appreciate this phase where physically I feel more myself again, which is a great relief.

On Day 21 I talk about the reality of how it is sexually going through Chemotherapy. A heads up for you to skip that bit if you want to!

My mother was supposed to come this week, but she had a cough. I haven’t seen her for so long, every effort being thwarted by something cropping up. But I can’t risk anyone coming into my orbit with bugs! Meanwhile, this blog has been great for her following my progress. Since my diagnosis, keeping friends and family informed of the unfolding of events has been quite challenging. Blogging has proved to be an all round winner of efficient communication, and so satisfying, I love sharing! It is quite a bit of work though to edit down and prepare with my invaluable editor, Eleanor.

Body odour! I think I am smelling less! I fancied that it was a while since I caught a whiff of an armpit, and my t shirts/vests which normally get thrown in the wash after a day’s wear are recycling to at least day three! The acupuncturist told me that the Chinese call us Milkies as to them we smell of sour milk!

I am going to observe this closely. Can any vegans reading this enlighten me with their experience of their body odour changing/ the effects of going vegan!? I need ammunition to bolster my resolve to stay away from the cheese post treatment! But I REALLY miss it.

Cheese

This week I started taking the Japanese knotweed capsules suggested by the herbalist. It’s supposed to be really good for countering the concrete gut side effect of chemotherapy. I hope to be able to see if this does make a difference in the next cycle and will report back!

I am ramping up the self love! My little ritual of nurture is putting out all my clothes for the day on the radiator to slip into after my bath; a habit for keepers. It is delicious getting dressed in toasty clothes in the morning.

Feeling cold is a particular difficulty for me.
This week I made a smoothie from frozen chopped banana and elderberry juice ice cubes which was very cold but utterly delicious. Within minutes my kidneys started hurting too much to ignore. The electric over blanket was swiftly wrapped around me. It made me realise how vulnerable I am! I’m so reactive to any drop in temperature now.

One evening we went out to the Thai restaurant in the village. We so rarely eat out, it was such a treat not to cook, but I got the ‘concrete in the gut’ feeling before I made it home and to the sofa. I had a really bad night and at 3am I took a big tablespoon of slippery elm powder in water and put on a urine pack for the kidneys. It worked enough to give me a good sleep till 6am. I am losing confidence in eating out, and feel very vulnerable eating anywhere but at home.

I am have been loving my online scrabble games this week – little pockets of brain functioning through the chemo fog. My opponents: my two lovely daughters and my friend Sophie – a great combo. I am hoping that mentally it will help keep the neurons firing. My brain can feel so discombobulated at times. My memory is atrocious and sometimes, alarmingly, I am forgetting really simple things.

Tuesday 10th February
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 15
The mists have cleared! I’m up for a bit of work now. I ring Rob the musician and sound engineer and organise a day tomorrow for our new breathing audio. I am confident that I will be well enough to do this and follow through!

Angie (friend and allotment buddy) came over and I showed her the turban tying technique. She looked fantastic and was blown away with her head feeling so warm. I see the quick turban tie really catching on in Rottingdean village… and beyond!

I had problems with the cold today and relied heavily on my electric blanket. Our dinner out in the village was a treat but I felt awful afterwards – concrete gut again. I’ve found it really hard eating away from home during the Chemotherapy process.

Wednesday 11th February
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 16

I so enjoyed my morning breathing session and really didn’t want to come out of it. It was great to be moving and dancing again. It has been a while!

My afternoon was spent on a houseboat! In Rob’s editing suite working on my Inspirational Breathing audio. Anticipating what a boat in February might be like, I took my electric blanket and, not leaving a meal to chance (no concrete gut!), a root vegetable and barley soup.

Thursday 12th Feb
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 17

Hot yoga in the afternoon was like finding a long cool drink in the parched deserts of exercise. The sun has been in hiding, it’s been incredibly cold and I haven’t felt like venturing out much, so getting heat into my bones and working up really good sweat up was blissful. I tried to pay but Bridget Ann, the director, is insistent that my turning up is payment enough for her. It is very generous, touching and a great relief to be able to go when I am able without being held back by my purse.

I am getting much better at feeling comfortable with being given to. I am given a breathing session by Emma after the yoga which is such a great combination!

There is so much generosity flowing in – including a brilliant book left for me on the doorstep. A hilarious read: ‘The Rosie Project’ – thank you Nikki La Brooy. I was just thinking it was about time to lose myself in a book! Until now I have not been drawn to filling my head with more data and new information. The book is laugh out loud funny and beautifully written. I am now looking forward to the hours spent in clearing on Tuesday… if there is any book left to read!

Friday 13th February
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 18
Ollie, my stepson, came all the way from Cambridge for the day to do plumbing in our ‘now picking up major momentum’ kitchen. He worked with such tremendous focus and trojan spirit. He loves Indian food, so I cooked a big organic chicken curry with lots of trimmings. Dinner was so delicious and for the first time in many months I allowed myself a bit of meat and chicken stock. I thought it would help build me up in this last week, preparing my strength for the next treatment. Perhaps an error of judgement – I was up for much of the night, wired and body buzzing.

Sat 14th February
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 19
We had a lovely morning walk over Beacon Hill.

At 4.30 pm I welcomed my first client since my surgery. He enquired about breathwork by telephone and told me his heart wrenching story, so I had no option but to work with him! I told him about my situation and that I wouldn’t charge him. We agreed if I didn’t feel up for it on the day I would cancel but I knew that, this being my best week, it would be safe for me to give him an appointment. I absolutely loved being back in the flow of my work; giving my total attention in the moment to someone else. It was good to remember that I have a working life to pick up again; it had felt a long way off. I found it deeply rewarding.

Sunday 15th February
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 20
I’m feeling particularly buoyant this morning, though Mark is crushed by a headache. A kitchen in full building progress and balancing books with little work coming in is a little overwhelming for him. I checked our bank balance and with great relief saw that just in time we have had a back payment from the benefits department. There always seems to be a miraculous flow whenever we need it, but our faith and trust in abundance was tested right up to the line here! We are very relieved but it is taking a toll on Mark’s nerves, him being the household treasury.

There is another pressing issue which, if I am going to be totally honest in this blog and give you the FULL scoop about our life, I have to write about. I remember the earnest face of the Portuguese nurse, telling me that ‘intimate relations’ is of great importance and something that needs to be attended to as a matter of priority! Today Mark had mentioned that in my absence of interest in our bed chamber, he might have to take matters into his own hands!

I pray for a surge of love and light and inspiration in the sex department! Chemotheraphy has completely taken that drive away from me, as well as it making it slightly painful.

Monday 16th February
Week 6, Cycle 2
Day 21

Lovemaking during chemotherapy

I wake up with every intention of feeling sexy. This is the last day of cycle 6 and I am feeling pretty sparkly. With clearing tomorrow, I will be in the recovery position for a while. My nose has stopped bleeding so much, so I am hoping that the fine epithelium lining in other parts of my body has similarly recovered!

I have never written about sex before, but I really want to give anyone in this situation the basic navigation that might help. I’m not making it into bodice ripping literature here, but maybe skip the next four paragraphs if this is too much information for you! Lovemaking during chemotherapy is a delicate process, with the sensitive lining of the vagina a tendency to dryness and the need for lubrication. KY jelly is recommended by the oncologist. Apparently oil gets too hot with the friction! I find this is the best water based product – YES-YES-YES.

But surprisingly even with lubrication, making love was uncomfortable for me. I found that having a clitoral orgasm first was the only way to ensure enough of the right lubrication, where it mattered, to make it pleasurable.

We have explored something completely different that doesn’t involve penetration, and is, I am told, a very good way of ensuring against prostate cancer for men!

Ladies, if you haven’t found your man’s G-SPOT, this could be a great time to play in other areas!

When I lost both my breasts we decided to have some fun and buy some toys and had a hilarious time discovering all sorts of new avenues! We bought the Je Joue G-Kii which was recommended by Nic at She Said Boutique. She was the first to talk about the importance of good healthy sex at the Mind Body Spirit Fair. She blasted though the taboo subject with her inspiring approach to something that is really important in our lives but not talked always about and fully understood.

My factual account over, phew – a bit of a stretch for me! It’s not something that we both feel is going to be of great focus and energy expenditure at this point in time, or for a while. The loving cuddles and hugs that are a necessity will hopefully keep us going throughout this time.

Harriet is visiting and we make it to Hot Yoga. I am keen to get well stretched before the feeling of sludge body after clearing tomorrow. We both lay in shavasana for a long time at the end (corpse pose) and were the last to leave the room. It was still a great class for both of us!

A Cancer Landscape – An exhibition

The private view of the art exhibition ‘A Cancer Landscape’ at the Onca Gallery, Brighton, was in the evening. A wonderful juxtaposition of science and art: on one wall the expression, through paint and colour, of the experiences of those who have been through cancer and opposite, images of cancer cells seen through a microscope – the scientific story.

cancer cells

Images left to right: Lung cancer cells (credit: Anne Weston, LRI, CRUK), Cerebral angiogram; brain cancer (meningioma) (credit: Wellcome Images), Cancer cell migrating through blood vessel (credit: Annie Cavanagh). These images have been permitted for use by Wellcome Trust Medical Photographic Library as part of the A Cancer Landscape exhibition programme.

I went to an art therapy session for cancer patients in early December, and my painting from that session was also displayed. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and was completely absorbed. I was quite emotional about the waves of support and help that have come my way from so many quarters. I tore up tissue paper for background and painted circular daubs to represent people. They became ranks of coloured circles, creating the chain of support for me. All of our work had been beautifully framed and was exhibited alongside the works of professional artist Michele Angelo Petrone. He has written and illustrated a very beautiful and touching book ‘The emotional Cancer Journey’. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in 1994 at the age of 30.

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