Today has not been the best of days, partly because I had to get up at 4:30am for my flight from Dublin to Manchester and partly because I just signed away the next 8 months of my life to cancer treatment.
I went to see the oncologist this afternoon and he confirmed that I will need to have 5 months of chemotherapy treatment, followed by 3 months of radiotherapy. The chemotherapy is a type called FEC-T, which I am going to rename Fecked, in light of how I feel about my current situation and my teenage love of Father Ted and all things Irish.
Joking aside, FEC-T, or Fecked, comprises of 6 cycles of treatment, each one involving an intravenous injection (into my hand, not my bum, as a friend told me this weekend!) of a cocktail of drugs that will then make me puke my guts up, lose all my hair within 10 days and walk around like a zombie for the following 3 weeks until I’m just about well enough to begin the next cycle. Other possible side effects include anaemia, the need for a blood transfusion, loss of fertility, sore hands and feet… the doctor’s list went on as I felt the colour gradually drain from my cheeks. That said, all drugs come with a list of side effects longer than my arm, much like the acne medication I took that promised possible liver failure, nose bleeds and suicidal tendencies and I got away with little worse than dry skin and permanently dry eyes.
Before receiving this depressing news, I did have a very jolly old morning in the hospital café, whiling away the 5 hours between landing in Manchester and having my oncologist appointment. Being at the Christie is a bit like being in Coronation Street, with all these Mancunian accents and the gossiping and chinwagging. I managed to set up camp in the café with WIFI access and subsidised Starbucks and worked for a few hours while observing my fellow in- and out-patients.
The Christie is a specialist cancer hospital – the best in the UK, according to many. However, by my guesstimations, the average patient age seems to be at least 50, and most of the patients are probably 30 to 60 years my senior. Being The Youngest Cancer Patient on the Ward gives me a certain celebrity status, and people seem surprised to see me there, like I’m there to visit my aging grandparents. All the consultants I’ve seen over the past months have begun my referral letters with something along the lines of ‘Laura is a very pleasant young girl.’ (In fact, the beginnings of these letters are not unlike some of my school reports…) I can see why people are shocked that someone so young has cancer, but they needn’t feel sorry for me. I’m younger, fitter and healthier than someone twice my age so surely I am better equipped to fight this battle? I know people feel for me as a young, single girl, but I myself feel more sorry for the older women in the hospital who are going through the same thing and are far less able-bodied and take much longer to spring back. I suppose everyone feels it’s worse for other people, because you feel so powerless to help. Maybe I’ll make some cancer friends while I’m there.
In other mildly graphic news, I am pleased to say that the glue has started coming off my scar and underneath it you can barely see the scar at all. So the old silver cancer lining is that my boobs have come out of this practically scot-free and unscathed, whereas the impending baldness is probably going to have a bigger effect on my appearance, albeit temporary.
Finally, during the oncologist’s inspection today, the nurse remarked that I still haven’t been able to remove all the blue dye from 2 1/2 weeks ago.
“Yes,” I said, “it’s rather hard to get off.”
“You’ll still have that in another 6 months!” exclaimed the oncologist.
I do hope he was joking…