My third week of chemotherapy

WEEK 3

21st–27th January

In summary – my third week of Chemotherapy…

This week was a great week, I am feeling like a normal person, with no inner nervy sludge feeling, no sickness, just a bit of tiredness.

I once went to an exhibition at the Tate Modern where there was an installation video clip of a woman lying on the floor with a sofa on her head. She was making a really odd moaning sound and then in the next clip the sofa was being removed and she was saying something like – “ohh that feels better!”. So the third week is a bit like having the weight of a sofa removed … Which might account for the wave of peace and pure joy in the relief and respite felt. I now know that these clearing cycles are all manageable; the whole terrain of the 3 weeks has been mapped and experienced with the ups, downs, twists and turns.

It is the weirdest situation, feeling as close to normal, but my hair started falling out … everywhere. It got in my laptop keyboard, my eyes. The bath was coated. So soon! I am a bit relieved knowing that the treatment is evidently working well and doing its job … but by the end of this week I am bald as a coot. I went down to about an inch all over with a dinky little fringe but by the next day even that was too much and Mark shaved my head.

Chemotherapy cropped hair.

Stage 1: close cropped hair with dinky fringe.

Chemotherapy hair loss - shaved head.

As bald as a coot!

Chemotherapy pink wig

Pink wig alternative.

Chemotherapy homemade hair piece

My turban and homemade hair piece.

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This is how our conversation went:

Me: – in the hair cutting chair, finishing flourishes on the bald head – “Well what does the shape of my head look like? How is it?”

Mark: – “It looks a bit like Beacon Hill; rather lovely.”

Me: – “But there is a crater on the top of Beacon hill … Have I got a crater in the top of my head?” (slightly high voice…)

Mark – “Well not exactly ( pause ) more like a fairy ring!!”

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Energy levels were so good we managed to have a full day trip to IKEA for our kitchen. Undaunted and still some energy in the tank we then swung round to John Lewis and bought a fridge too!

What has not been a problem: oral hygiene. I have had no ulcers in my mouth and my teeth and gums have never been better. There was a big warning at the beginning of treatment about keeping teeth flossed and the mouth swished with mouthwash just in case of problems.

My ‘must have’ and desert island discs luxury is my water jet (it’s is called a water pic). I have also added to my regime a between the teeth – (interdental) brush – for extra care and attention for gums.

At the end of the week I had an interesting meeting with my oncologist. She said that all the symptoms wouldn’t get any worse than I have experienced already, apart from the tiredness, which is likely to accumulate. So, for an example, instead of 2 days after clearing, I might need 10 days of sofa rest by the end. I’m relieved. It’s tough going at times but I feel it’s all manageable!

How can it be that my body is feeling so full of life, healthy and in truth, I have felt so happy and most at peace with the world … and my body is holding a level of toxicity that is killing my hair follicles … even in my nose!!

Now for some daily detail for those that are interested!

Wednesday 21st January
Week 3, Cycle 1
Day 16
I went to see the herbalist Julia. She had saved me with the slippery elm advice at Neals Yard. I told her that my sleep was great for the two nights after the sleep tincture she made me. It apparently re-sets the sleep clock,which it certainly did – taking me past the usual 2/3am wake up time.

She made me up tincture to support my system through chemotherapy and also advised me to steer clear of turmeric due to my specific chemotherapy.

Thursday 22nd January
Week 3, Cycle 1
Day 17
Morning bath time and a lot of my hair came out. I scooped it up and made a little ‘hair nest’ on the side of the bath and took a photo for my blog. I was expecting hair fall out from around 4 days after the 2nd clearing treatment, but this is much sooner.

I was hoping that at least my upper lip would lose the moustache hair! But that is feeling holding fast along with my rather long leg hair.

My nose is a constant problem now. Apart from that I feel pretty OK. When I was in India for 3 months I researched nose hygiene. Cleaning the nose with special salt water is apparently an incredibly good thing to do for your health and mental clarity. You need a neti pot and a tiny bit of special salt. I thought it would be a cinch to buy in India, but I ended up using a tea pot while I was there.

Back in the UK I bought a proper neti pot on line and for the first week really hacked the uncomfortable feeling of slightly salty water pored through the nose. But unsurprisingly, it was something that didn’t make it into my everyday health regime! But NOW is the time. I can report back that my nose has been much less dry and sore with less bleeding just after the first go. 3 Days on the run and it is sorted now.

We have had no money coming in for what seems a worrying long time. I haven’t really worked since August. Breathwork needs full on energy and 100% attention in tuning in to a client for magic to happen. I can’t offer that now and it is a full time job having had cancer then surgery and the possibility of secondaries on my liver really upped the swathes of appointment times.

I am going to claim benefits to take the strain. By the time a got to speak to someone to advise me, I had done a loop the loop of 5 phone calls with an added ‘find out from your phone company what is the cheapest call rate and given 2 different numbers … I was in tears. REALLY! It has been such a big palava to get all the forms together, there are so many, and to different departments and my poor GP has had to sign 3 different pieces of paper with reports and information. SO getting it together with the paperwork brings on an immediate case of brain fog and frustration that I really don’t want to have to do this!! BUT I am nearly there and receiving benefits will keep me going and feeling a bit easier about the tower of organic veg boxes that arrive from Abel and Cole.

Friday 23rd Jan
Week 3, Cycle 1
Day 18
2nd day of netti pot … and you know … it is OK!! It is supposed to help with clarity of the mind, so as I am feeling like a nasal douche has just caught me off guard from the sea (it feels a bit of a shock at first) but I count the seconds and imagine all sorts of nooks and crannies clearing out up there!!

Away from nose drama – We made parsnip and pear soup (great combination!) with parsnip crisps!! It was SO delicious.

It has started a rush of home made crisps. Using a spiraliser to get thin slithers of potato and parsnip then adding oil and finely chopped rosemary, very hot oven for 15 minutes and then we dive in. They don’t have much time to cool!

Saturday 24th January
Week 3, Cycle 1
Day 19
I slept really well, the herbal tincture is working!

My hair is moulting, so the bath is full of hairs.

I washed my hair for the first time in quite a few days. It feels SO soft. My scalp feels really sensitive and odd, especially the scull cap bit that is a funny shape at the top back. I have been massaging it expecting there to be bald patches, but It’s not come out in noticeable patches, just an overall major thinning.

I met Angie up at the allotment and we weeded the herb boarder in the sunshine. It felt so good to be doing something outside and digging in the earth was very grounding.

NOSE – I made a big mistake. My nose was very uncomfortable and dry this morning, so I tried my very excellent propolis healing cream, just a dab up each nostril to moisten it. It sort of helped, felt a bit weird, and smelt wonderful … and then in the afternoon I realised I hadn’t used my neti pot today and I had, as usual, had a day of my annoying nasal drip. SO I filled it up with my salt solution and started pouring. In an instant a fiery sensation shot though the upper reaches of my nasal passages and my eyes were smarting. I stopped immediately, but then for some crazy reason tried the other side, unsurprisingly with similar smarting effect. Then I remembered the morning’s cream daubing. It’s not a good combination.

Sunday 26th January
Week 3, Cycle 1
Day 20
My hair is coming out in handfuls. I like to massage my head under water so my bath was full of hair and it got really messy when it came to the coconut oil and skin brushing. I had so much hair glued to my body, I looked like a prehistoric cave woman! (Not many people get the opportunity to write that) Today is definitely the day for a very short haircut.

I went up on my hill and ran my fingers though my hair and let the wind take the fallout. I saved a long bit in tact as I had decided to make a little hairpiece fringe to put in the front of my bobble hat. It looks so much better to have just a little bit of hair with my hat on… and to keep my forehead warm!! So I decided to make a little removable forelock hair piece. Aoife and Seth came round for dinner, so afterwards when the menfolk got their guitars out, Aoife and I went for the kitchen scissors. She cut the saved long bit right down to the scalp for the hair piece, and the rest an inch all over with a bit of fringe. I got the long bit to the sewing machine before the hairs had time to break ranks and, with a bit of jersey cotton fabric, sewed the hair in, going backwards and forwards until it was well held in place. That simple!! AND it works.

I lined the bobble hat with the jersey cotton to make it softer and warmer and now it is great to go … giving me enormous pleasure and little chuckles.

Monday 26th January
Week 3, Cycle 1
Day 21
So Mark got out his razor and trimmer for me. It took a while and when he brought the mirror it was a shocker … it didn’t look like me. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of no hair. I knew it was going to happen but I simply didn’t recognise myself.

I forgot to take my morning steroid tablets that prepare me for tomorrow, my second clearing!!

I managed to remember by lunchtime and I totally forgot about the side effects of steroids as I was hoping to be really calm for the evening activity! Rob, a musician friend and recording engineer, came round and we made our first recording together for a free breathing audio which we are planning to put up on our website. It was a bit of a challenge as I felt a bit hyped, but in the event, a very calming experience, prefect for my preparation for round two tomorrow!

Next Week

Next week I will find out about my third round of ‘clearing’.

2 Comments

Alison

It’s great that the oncologist was able to reassure you that you won’t feel any worse with subsequent treatments apart from the tiredness. Rest up when you need to. I’m thinking of you. lots of love xxx

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Sophie

Hey my super friend. You are TOTALLY rocking this, I am so super proud of you! Loving your writing, its so eloquent and touching, a complete honour to read. You are such an inspiration to me and many others. You are looking awesome….keep rocking the turbans girlfriend!! Xx

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