The first of my six chemotherapy sessions went by today without incident. Each chemo cycle lasts three weeks and consists of a morning in hospital followed by three weeks of recovery. There may be further trips to hospital in the mean time, depending on which side effects I get from the long list of ailments that may afflict me over the next 18 weeks or so.
We arrived at the Christie Clinic in Manchester bright and early and settled into a spacious room in the private outpatients’ clinic. I had a few blood tests and a cannula (plastic tubey thing) inserted into my hand for saline solution and the chemo drugs to be infused later on. After a check-up with the oncologist, I eventually sat down to about two hours of infusing red and clear drugs and saline into my arm. (See left for the drugs in question.) The sensation of the drugs going in was unpleasant but not painful – rather like giving blood for two hours, only you feel less faint by the end of it. (Did I ever tell you about the time when I had to run for a bus after giving blood in London and somehow fainted in the road at the bus stop and had to be rescued by a kind Brazilian stranger? (These Brazilians, they get everywhere!)) The drugs are very cold so I had a warm water bottle on top of my arm, which caused a mix of sensations that felt a bit like an ache.
Fortunately, being a private patient paying out extortionate amounts for drugs and comfy chairs means you do get a lovely, airy room with a TV and plenty of free cups of tea and freshly made cake. I wasn’t expecting him, but Sebastian the lovely Polish chap who brought me cake after my surgery a month or so ago, made an appearance just before the first drip went into me today and offered me a lunch menu. As you know, I am not one to refuse a free meal so I delightedly chomped through my cheese and ham panini and Victoria sponge cake throughout the proceedings. I am not sure how the lovely nurse Dawn felt about me dropping cake crumbs on my hospital chair while she fed my other arm with all manner of drugs and steroids, but at least it kept me occupied.
Also keeping me occupied throughout this morning’s proceedings was the Olympic men’s triathlon. The two British brothers, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, accompanied me during my first journey into the land of chemotherapy by swimming, cycling and running their way to win gold and bronze medals, respectively. They timed their victory wonderfully so that the medal ceremony took place just as the last needle came out of my hand, and my mother and father commemorated the occasion by rising for the national anthem, which seemed fitting. According to Wikipedia, the Brownlee brothers are from Dewsbury, which is just around the corner from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, where I am from and where I am currently situated. I am reliably informed that if Yorkshire was a country, we’d be 10th in the medal table, what with the likes of Jessica Ennis and the Brownlee brothers. Yorkshire rocks!
There was another lady sharing my chemotherapy room this morning and she was having an infusion of drugs for secondary bone cancer, which is as bad as it sounds. From the little I spoke to her, I thought she looked remarkably well and had a brilliant attitude. It’s humbling to see how many people in that hospital are battling cancer with a terrific approach and amazing energy.
So far all I feel after the chemo is tired and fuzzy-headed. The effects are likely to take a few days to start kicking in. I am on so much anti-sickness medication and steroids that I’m unlikely to vomit just yet, but I have buckets at the ready if I do. My hair should start to fall out in about two weeks, so I have a little while to live with the pixie crop which, judging by all your reactions, I obviously should’ve had a long time ago! After having green pee from my surgery, I now have red (or ‘Tizer-coloured’) pee for a little while due to the red drugs. I wonder what I could do to get bright blue pee?
Finally, I am loving this cat that arrived in the post all the way from São Paulo, courtesy of Flavia, Luis and Nina. Leaning back on the cat with its batteries inserted provides a lovely, relaxing massage. Rest is the order of the day so from now on I will be mostly eating everything in sight, getting cat back massages and watching Yorkshire own the Olympics!