My twelfth week of Chemotherapy

WEEK 12

23rd March–29th March

Hair after chemotherapy

The first in a series of a time lapse photographic project, showing hair growth returning after Chemotherapy. Image © Mark Rowden & Nicola Price, 2015.

I learn about injecting myself and miss out the mid cycle dip and flu symptoms.

It is taking a while to get back to my energetic self. The oncologist said it would take about 10 days, and it has been up and down as usual – on day 13 I was exhausted for most of the day.

I am still feeling at odds about eating. I find it difficult eating and drinking some of the things that I had regularly when I was feeling so sick. There are associations that have built up with the sludge and sickness and I balk at the thought of coconut water now! Years ago, I was ill while staying with my brother Leo. He was living in San diego, and for a week I was terribly sick with flu. I listened to his music and one track in particular about Elvis that he would play a lot. For years after that, whenever I heard that track, it made me feel queasy! Associations are powerful and may be a reason I have not listened to our beloved vinyl records since the treatment began. They have been a great miss.

We start time lapse photography for my hair!

Monday 23rd
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 8

My back, particularly the sacrum, made an interesting clicking sound as I stretched in the bath this morning. Then later, as I was driving, I found it increasingly difficult to sit comfortably. I had a massage booked and by the time I came out, I was feeling a throbbing pain. At home I went straight to bed and put an electric blanket on for comfort. I rang my osteopath and she advised a cold pack to calm down any inflammation. I was feeling more and more concerned and in pain. I rang the out of hours chemotherapy department and discovered that the injections that I had been putting into my stomach fat can cause pain in the bones. The bones are encouraged to work harder to produce white blood cells in the bone marrow. It is a side effect that is very common, especially in the thigh bones. I had experienced pain on a low level and chose to ignore it, thinking that the muscle aches were the result of not being used to walking for long distances and it was muscle fatigue after a walk over the hill or through the town!!

Now I was flat on my back and ready to take pain killers as soon I could line my stomach with some food.

Tuesday 24th March
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 9
It is day 4 of injecting myself. I find the instruction booklet stuck to the inside of the box. I didn’t realise there was one. I had been shown how to inject myself and being the pragmatist that I am, and thinking I knew enough about it, just got on with it! I learned that I was supposed to keep injections out at room temperature for 30 minutes, along with lots of other information that would have been useful to read.

This time, to give my sacrum a break, I inject into upper / inner thigh hoping my femur takes the hit.

I have been in all day with the weather miserable and my chest feeling vulnerable, tight and still on the mend. I make a break for freedom and a night out and have a great evening with a beautiful group of six women who meet up to explore life discussing the work of Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. We watched clips of them talking about their work on Conscious TV and then discussed it. It was an immensely nourishing evening for me.

It is also incredible what is possible to access for free on the internet! I had never watched Conscious TV before.

Wednesday 25th March
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 10
My mother arrives for a few days. It is a lovely time to sit and chat and talk about all sorts of things that have never been discussed before. I discover details and observations from my childhood that I am so happy to know about now.

Thursday 26th March
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 11
It looks like the neutrophil injections have helped me over the mid cycle dip. I haven’t felt shivery or experienced any flu symptoms for the fist time in a cycle. It is miraculous; a reprieve that I wasn’t expecting. I do notice that my thigh bones ache a little and feel just a bit heavy, but it is more than manageable.

Friday 27th March
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 12
I am still feeling a bit overwhelmed with cooking.

I have found a ‘Raw Takeaway Pizza‘ place!! We go and pick up a meal for three. It has slaw and olives on the side and an irish moss chocolate pudding to polish the meal off. It is absolutely delicious! Much relieved, having been most dubious as we opened the boxes. The pizza base was delicious and gluten free (this is a first) and the topping was the best I have tasted. Mark licked out the slaw container!

We went to a party in the evening. Emma, our hostess, had a great idea to stimulate the conversation. (her parties are always action packed. A gong bath one time and laughter yoga another!). We all wrote out three questions that we really wanted to ask but didn’t feel able to. They were then put in a hat and we picked out three to discuss in pairs. There was no ‘brushing the surface’ small talk – I got to know the four people that I paired up with extremely well. The evening was most entertaining and enriching!

Saturday 28th March
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 13

My body is feeling really heavy and I have no energy. I only just make it up the stairs after breakfast. I spend most of the day in bed!

I finished my book, The Humans by Matt Haig. A good read, perfect for recovery. Made even more interesting when nodding off to sleep at intervals and in my dream state, extraterrestrials merging with reality as I pick up the thread and read again.

I feel heavy with slightly aching bones, but no other flu-like symptoms.

In the evening we have a lamb casserole that has been in the Aga warming oven all day. It is beyond delicious. My diet is now being determined by what I feel like eating, with no restrictions. It is becoming quite bizarre. Popadoms (really peppery ones!) and sprouted puy lentils for lunch.

Hair status!

There is a good mix now appearing.
The bald patches are now growing a downy fluff. The old hair bristle is slow growing and the new downy bits are variable in length – some wafty strands are twice as long as others. I have a combination of dark, blonde and grey colours coming through, so quite an interesting mix. Mark is going to time lapse photograph my head starting today. We will start with weekly shots and see the progression! The idea reminds me of the play doh hair that my children used to play with!

Sunday 29th March
Week 12 Cycle 4
Day 14
Clocks go forward!

After my bath I have some yoga and dancing time. It feels great and I get carried away rolling around and playing on my mats! I breathe for over an hour. I feel very still, calm and relaxed, breathing rhythmically with no movement at all – just observing my physical body and delighting in the complete stillness. There is no need to move. A clear image of an empty car park came into my mind at one point. It made my whole body relax even further!

I felt in such a blissed out relaxed state, so at the end, before getting up, I started asking questions of myself to see what answers might drop into the still void.

They were great questions and all sorts of wonderful answers were flowing in; It’s amazing what you can find when allowing yourself the time to really relax and then, in that bubble of stillness, look again at life’s quandaries and feel inspired.

This is my last week with a daily blog and week summary. I will post when I feel the need to share! It has been a very cathartic experience. I have enjoyed the sharing, hoping it to be valuable for anyone wishing to look into the life of someone who is hell bent on making the best of a challenging situation and determined to not only just stay alive, but on the roller coaster, savour the up good times and dig deep for the down right bad. Thank you for reading, hanging in and staying along side me.

Coming soon

Today is the 28th May and the time lag of posting is a mix of catching up with editing when I have the energy and focus, and a deep desire to be in the garden in the good weather and not at a computer.

I will post up my next couple of months of my experience and the challenges of getting back to a normal life. We have struggled as a couple to come to terms with what has happened and how we both dealt with the very different challenges that met us. Our marriage was seriously in the balance and we have spent much time talking and listening. I am happy to say that we are now safely back on track!

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