If there is such a thing as fear of chemotherapy, I have definitely developed a mild case of it.
(Note to clever Googling people, I have just looked up “Chemophobia” and I am aware the word actually refers to “fear of chemicals,” but let’s just ignore that for now and pretend I coined the term. (Or at least the hyphenated version)).
A week or so ago, I asked my mum to stop saying the words ‘chemo’ and ‘chemotherapy’ because every time I hear them and think of the needle going into my hand and staying there for two hours, I feel slightly physically sick. I am aware this is an entirely psychological reaction but I’ve got myself a little worked up about it and I don’t have the mindset at the moment to correct it.
I just need to start associating the drugs with something nice. Food would be the obvious choice, but unfortunately I’ve already associated the Christie hospital’s delicious homemade cakes and toasted sandwiches with the sickness and I only have to picture them to feel nauseous, so that won’t work. The other association I have with my last chemo session is the Brownlee brothers winning their Olympic triathlon, but unfortunately the Olympics are over and tomorrow I’ll have to watch some horrendous daytime drivel like the utterly detestable Jeremy Kyle Show.
I know! What if I could get the Brownlee brothers to come into the hospital and entertain me for a couple of hours? I’m sure they can’t live far away and they must be bored of resting by now.
Other than that, friends have suggested having some sort of spa treatment before chemo so that I associate it with that, but I’d have to have it at 6am to be able to get to the hospital on time and I don’t think I’d enjoy it that much knowing I’m about to have a few litres of toxic drugs pumped into me straight afterwards.
No, there’s only one thing for it – positive mental attitude. Or maybe hypnosis. After all, the bit where they put the drugs in really isn’t that bad. It’s the after-bit that’s bad, and strangely enough, I’m not dreading that. I’ve just got to convince myself it’s going to be a pleasant experience.
Cups of tea, cups of tea, cups of tea… A pleasant thought that could potentially get me through it. (Yes, I’m happily back to my 5-10 cups a day habit now).
Associations of the mind are a curious thing. A few years ago, when I lived by myself in a grotty old studio flat in London Bridge, I had a mice infestation that first made itself evident when a mouse found its way into a plastic binbag and spent the night tormenting me by rustling away in the plastic bag, chewing its way through a slice of pizza and eventually the binbag itself. Ever since then, I twitch and shudder whenever I hear the sound of a plastic bag rustling and unfolding. (As a side note, I am forever indebted to the ex-boyfriend who rid my flat of the baby mouse family that lived in my kitchen and cleaned up the mouse shit from behind my fridge, all the while patiently tolerating my pathetic shrieks as I stood on the sofa, Tom-and-Jerry style, arms wrapped around my own body in fear.) (In my defence, I did have reason to develop a mouse phobia [also known as musophobia, according to Wikipedia], given the fact that rodents appeared in my own flat, my corporate housing and the drawers of my very own desk at work, all in the space of a few short months that fateful spring in London.)
So, a summary of my Pavlov’s Dogs-style associations:
Plastic bag noise = vermin.
Christie hospital sponge cake, toasted sandwiches and the word ‘chemo’ = nausea.
Come to think of it, maybe I need to see a shrink?
Well, tomorrow is the big day: chemo round two. As I said, the nurse told me to paint my nails to prevent them from going black from the drugs, so I’ve had a little fun and gone for a colourful, vaguely patriotic scheme that’s bound to provide a talking point at the hospital mañana.
I’m going out for my ‘last supper’ now, to load up on the good stuff before my weird, chemo-induced food habits set in again in 20 hours’ time.
I have been advised not to write my blog as soon as I get home this time on account of the fact that using my computer may have contributed to the migraine-like symptoms that followed last time, so you may not hear from me for a few days now. Consider this my out-of-office reply.