Not My Cup of Tea

“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminished by a nice cup of tea” — the wise words of Bernard-Paul Heroux, according to this card I received from my amazing friend Sarah a couple of days ago.

Under any normal circumstances, I would whole-heartedly agree with Mr Heroux, but it seems chemotherapy is quite the only thing on the planet capable of putting me off my tea and therefore this time the phrase does not apply. Yes, Laura Hetty Price, she of at least eight cups of tea a day and one or two coffees, has gone off tea.

Chemotherapy really does change your tastes. Fortunately, my appetite is as hearty as ever, but my wants have completely changed. All I am craving is beans on toast, pasta in tomato sauce, bacon sandwiches and basically anything savoury and tomatoey. I haven’t eaten a sweet thing since Wednesday morning. I attempted a cup of tea once but it tasted like dishwater. Smells have become much more apparent to me too – I can’t bear the smell of wine… or Windolene, for that matter.

I’ll never forget the confusion on the faces of the good people of Palmas, Brazil, many years ago, when I mentioned that something just “wasn’t my cup of tea.” I had tried to translate the idiom literally into Portuguese. (“Não é a minha xícara de chá” was my choice of phrase, for the amusement of the Portuguese speakers among you.) Oh, how they laughed, those Brazilians with their knowledge of us Brits and our regular afternoon tea breaks. I learnt that day that the equivalent of “Not my cup of tea” for a Brazilian is “Not my beach.” But of course! How could it be anything other?

I do have to wonder how much of the fact that I feel like I’m half-dead is down to the chemo drugs and how much of it is actually due to the extreme, sudden, complete cold-turkey caffeine and sugar withdrawal. Perhaps Sarah’s card was right after all and I should force a few cups of brew down me.

The trouble with choosing the middle of the great British summer to be taken down with the nasty effects of chemotherapy and lie sleeping during the daytime with open windows for an entire week is that all the neighbours in the village will absolutely have chosen that very same week to vacuum-clean their cars, mow their lawns, trim their hedges, set off their car alarms and obviously do a great deal of drilling, soldering and building work. It has been a very noisy week. I am at least told that a very nice wall has been erected at the end of our road as a result.

I did manage to get out of the house to attempt a very short, five-minute walk to the post office with my mother on Friday, thinking I may have found the strength to get all the way there and post back some unwanted wigs. Unfortunately it turned out to be one of the hottest afternoons of the Yorkshire summer and I almost passed out on arrival at the post office, my heart throbbing loudly in my head.

Apparently it is not unusual to let one’s head hit the pillow on the day of chemotherapy and not arise again for five days or so. I certainly feel spectacularly knocked out, Not Myself, incapable of anything much at all. It has been too much to even watch a DVD, let alone pick up a book, and pretty much the only thing I’ve done this week is sleep, eat and watch a bit of the Olympics (and even that had to be switched off several times when the cheering got a bit too loud, though I did manage to watch Mo Farah’s amazing victory yesterday even with my Dad shouting so loud into the TV that not only could Mo hear him cheering down in London but so could his original neighbours back in Mogadishu).

Nurse Molly, the cat, has taken on accompanying me in my week-long chemo-induced sleepathon as a full-time role and has raised her level of commitment in the last few days. She managed to puke up the fur-ball a couple of days ago and has since thrown all her energy into sleeping 20 hours a day. I will leave you with a picture of her watching Tom Daley’s diving Olympics heats yesterday, which she particularly enjoyed.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m just going to sleep for a few more days.


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