It’s now 3 days since my first chemo session. Looking back on it I’m thinking it wasn’t that bad. The actual administering of the drugs by intravenous injection took about 30 minutes with the nurse slowly pushing in the plunger on each syringe to allow the drugs to mix in with the saline solution being fed into my veins. The drugs had been kept in the fridge and some were coloured red. This definitely looked and felt like poison being pumped into me especially as I could feel the cold creep of it spread up my arm. Not very nice, but essential nonetheless. The veins in my wrist started to ache and hurt a bit so the nurse laid a heat pad over my wrist which really eased this discomfort.
The worst part was getting used to wearing the cold cap. Before putting it on you have to make your hair wet with leave-in conditioner, this helps the cold to get to the roots easier. I was sat in a very comfy chair, with special squishy seat pad, I would think specifically designed to avoid pressure sores on your buttocks! Then the nurse put the cold cap onto my head. It was already filled with freezing gel. I thought “ooh, chilly but not too bad”, then she leant down on it more to make sure it fit really well and then she bought down this really tight strap which fit very snuggly under my chin. See the glamorous pic – this is my best brave smile.
I pretty much felt like I had my head in a freezing cold vice, the strap cutting into my chin underneath. I new it needed to be tight though. My eyes started to stream and a few tears rolled down my cheeks. Deep breaths were needed. A dear friend of mine had reminded me of the power of positive thinking and visualization. I tried my best to think of warm summer breezes and a happy picnic scene, ripe juicy fruit, fat buzzing bumble bees, the kiddies laughing with all my troubles behind me. It did help, but not initially!
I wore the cold cap for about 4 hours. All in attempt to hold onto my crowning glory. After the first hour, I barely noticed it thank goodness. The pipe that links it to the machine is insulated but I asked for a towel between it and me to stop my shoulders from freezing. Anyone going to give the cold cap a go I would say wear some very warm and comfy clothes and seriously, brace yourself for that initial half hour, it does get better though.
I spent the 4 hours in my squishy chair reading magazines (all bought for me by friends), a book (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert) and listening to some tunes on my beloved iphone. I had a brief chat with the nurse. This didn’t really go that well though as she asked “Do you have children?” I nodded but was unable to answer properly as my resolve to be strong promptly crumbled and I blubbed into my hands, then searched frantically in my handbag for a tissue. Its tricky to do stuff with your left hand if you’re right handed and your right hand is out of action. I’m having all my drugs into my right hand as they can’t use my left because that’s the side my operation was on, and I’m a lymph node short on that side. It’s okay though, this blubbing was bound to come at some point during the day. I got over it quickly enough.
The room where I was having my chemo is on the 6th floor of the hospital I was born in. All those years ago. The room has large picture windows with a view of the sky, luckily blue on that day and planes taking off from the airport. There were 5 of us patients that morning, receiving our life-juice. I was the youngest there by far. The only other woman patient sat across from me. She was in her 60s I would say and her daughter about my age kept her company. I clocked her wig as soon as I saw her. It looked okay but you could just tell it wasn’t real hair and was quite short and spiky. She was very proud of it and told me how the NHS do great ones (which you pay a £60 prescription charge for). During my first half hour with the cold cap, she was being given her chemo drugs and I heard the nurse ask her if she had tried the cold-cap? Her reply was “No why bother, it’s all going to come out anyway!” I’m assuming she meant to say this quietly but unfortunately I heard. Oh Marvellous! I cried (again) in my head. Why am I doing this to myself?!
The main reason I will persevere with keeping my hair is for my children. I think I’m pretty much okay with the hair loss now, but I just know that my kids are really quite freaked out at the idea of a bald mummy, they mention it every few days and they are definitely worrying about it even though I have reassured them it probably won’t happen. And even if it does, they don’t have to see it.
The hospital staff looked after me very well that day. I had hot drinks and a hot lunch – although the veg had been cooked to death, all nutrients sapped from it and poured down the plug whole with the cooking water no doubt! Why does hospital food have to BE like that?!
They sent me home with a bag of more drugs to take. Mostly to stop me being and feeling sick. I’m on my last day of steroids today, thank god. I am sure it is these horrible things that have made my tummy blow up like a balloon, my jeans no longer fit me! Here with go with another side effect of chemo – weight gain. Oh joy. I am doing my best with being active. I’m under strict orders from loved ones to get out and walk every day. Which definitely lifts my mood, but is rather tiring! I am such a lightweight now. Talking of my mood, this has gone up and down like a rollercoaster. I hate feeling sorry for myself but sometimes I really struggle to just stop feeling like I’m in a miserable black hole. Everyone is being so positive. “Yay, you’re one down – only 5 to go!” Yipp-yarr (dead pan voice) I cannot wait.
The best thing that’s happened in the last 3 days is watching my little family all pull together around me, hubbie and the kids all cleaned the house yesterday and are being so sweet. Also I’ve signed up to do Race for Life on 23 May 2012. This will be one week before my last chemo session, so I figure I’ll be good to go at that point. It’s only a 3 mile walk (I might jog a wee bit if you're lucky)! If you want to join my team or sponsor me, please click the button at the top of the page.
I'm visiting the hairdresser on Tuesday, so watch this space for news of my new do!! It needs to go a bit shorter so that its easier to wash and care for - no hairdryers and minimal styling products allowed. Should I take the plunge and buy a wig, or just hope for the best?!