14th of March 2019 – Round 8 of 8 of Chemotherapy- The one that almost didn’t happen. I was given an easy out at the beginning of the week when my oncologist rang to see if I wanted to go ahead with the final round. No way was I bowing out!!
As always, the day before chemo comes with it’s own little routine, getting my room ready in the event that I’m bed ridden – because stranger things have happened and it would not be the first time. The bed gets stripped and fresh sheets put on, try to tidy the mess of my room, which is hard because for the last 6 month’s since my diagnosis basically my whole life has been packed into this one room with me.
I pick up my pre meds for chemo- steroids, pain killers, my injection to boost my white blood cells day one post chemo to help fight against infection.
I pick up little bits of food I think I might be able to eat but you just never know what your body will crave, no two rounds have been the same for me.
That night, 10.30pm I take a tummy protector, wait 30 mins and down 10 steroids closely followed by a xanex for two reasons, one, to help me to sleep, and the 2nd because the steroids heighten any anxiety I have.
Sleep doesn’t come easy as you can imagine and the 5.30am alarm doesn’t be long to come around before I repeat the same again minus the xanex, I wait until I get to the hospital for that.
This time round, instead of a feeling of dread, I am itching to get to the hospital. I’ve been living for this day for the past week, well the past 5 months really.
We arrive, go through the usual questions, almost get sick and pass out getting my line in (usual story with me, I don’t think I will ever get used to that, give me a tattoo any day of the week!).
One noticeable difference is, I’m not worrying, not stressing “am I going to have a reaction?” “Is the chemo going to leak out of my veins this time round” No what ifs. My eye is well and truly on the prize and anything that may go wrong, well it will be handled like everything else.
Time went so slowly. It’s like when you are going on holiday and you are counting down the last hour in work and it just drags. You would swear it was on purpose but it took an age for my chemo to arrive after it had been ordered. The machine kept beeping that there was an air bubble and no matter what the nurse did it wouldn’t stop-i started to panic, thinking they would have to take my line out -my worst night mare but she was a pro and eventually sorted it – changing my line was never going to be an option thankfully.
It takes 3 hours for Taxol to be administered. Those 3 hours feel like the longest hours you will ever put in in your entire life. Constant clock watching. Because I take a xanex when I arrive, I am able to doze off for a very short time feels like hours but in reality its only about 20 mins.
For some reason it did take longer this time round, we are normally out by 2pm, it was closer to 4pm before we finally escaped.
It was a little bit of an anti climax where it was like ” You are done, look after yourself”. No congrats, no well done. But I suppose the nurses see this ever day. I didn’t care. I was finally free of the absolute terror and horror that was my chemotherapy journey.
We skipped and hopped down that corridor and I hope i never ever have to walk that walk to the oncology unit ever again.
The past 5months have been a complete rollercoaster. I have been battered mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I’ve learned alot about myself and of other people.
I would never have considered myself to be weak, but when I was initially delivered the news I would need chemo – which in my treatment plan I felt doing first was the best thing for me, I Still thought- I can’t do this, I’m not strong enough. I’m a baby when I get tonsilitis never mind have poisen dripped into my body for 16 weeks.
28th of November, my first chemo session in wexford and the real beginning of my journey. I could not see an end to it, March seemed so far away. Now looking back, I had nothing to be worried about.
Mam asked me yesterday “was it as bad as you thought it was going to be” Like we had visions of it being like what you see on Tv, lots of weight loss, frail, bed bound -frightening.
I got a bit teary remembering the bad days but my answer to her was, on my darkest of days, when I was so ill and in so much pain, in those moments, I felt like it was never going to end. I felt like this is how I am going to feel for the entire time and I could not see a way out. Everything was black. Except in the very very far away there was a tiny pin hole of light, in that light was my support, my family, my friends, my unicorn army and my own will to fight and refuse to let this horrible thing rule me. I have cancer, cancer does not have me. I have repeated this over and over through my dark days, along with these feelings are temporary, tomorrow is a brand new day. Tomorrow might come, and I might not feel better, but I cant feel any worse than yesterday.
he bad days are a distant memory to me now, because over the last 16 weeks, the good days have far outweighed the bad and that is something I had to keep thinking of.
Personally, I do not know how I pulled myself through this. Stubbornness? Not wanting to let anyone down? Knowing everyone was watching and rooting for me.. especially my son? All of the above?
While I’m on the subject of Corey. One thing I have worried about is him he never really opened up about it all. He knows everything as I have been so open and honest and treated him like an adult by not keeping anything from him, openly speaking about it in front of him, but still he would ask how treatment was not and go off on his way. Yesterday, was the first time I got an insight into his little mind from a little letter he wrote for me.
Kids are so resilient and I am so glad I kept things “normal” for Corey. Our first instinct is to protect our kids but in this case I think protecting him from the truth is something that would have caused more damage than good. Honest and open as possible is the best way forward in my opinion (depending on age of coarse).
One thing I would like to say to anyone reading, who may have a friend, a partner a family or work member going through this is, be mindful of things you say. A flippant comment might run deep with some people.
Don’t not say:
– It’s only hair, it will grow back – yea it’s only hair, yes it grows back, yes we can get fabulous wigs BUT it’s not our choice, it’s being take from us.
– It could be worse – How? Could It be happening to you instead of me?
– sure look how many other people are going through it – At the risk of sounding insensitive – This is ME going through this.
– Dismissing worries and fears with, ah youll be grand, you’ll get over it.
-If you offer to help or visit and get told no, keep offering. I hated asking for help and most of the time didn’t want visitors because it gave me anxiety thinking of the pity in people’s eyes but when I had visitors when they left I was glad they came.
Be sensitive, be mindful of your words and hard as it is imagine yourself in those shoes.
I’ve woke up today – I use that term lightly as I didn’t get a great deal of sleep, I’m still a bit overwhelmed. Yesterday was a whirlwind from being up in hospital all day to arriving home to a group of I’d say 30 of my loved ones all there to celebrate, well , me I guess?
I’ll be eternally grateful to every single person who has been on this journey with me. Family, friends, work colleagues, strangers who have a shared my tears, my happiness and while I may not always reply individually just know every little comment, text, email, private message is all appreciated and without them I think this journey would have been a different one.
My fight is not over yet, I’m unfortunately not cancer free yet but I’m happy to close this chapter of the journey and begin the next scary step.
While this part of my journey is done, I feel I will have lasting damage from it. mainly my anxiety. And I’m ok to admit that, so long as I can stay true to myself and admit when I’m not ok. Mental health is not something I am willing to let take over my life after I win this fight.
The next chapter is going to bring fresh pain of a different kind, new fears and worries and lots of decisions that will need to be made.
For now, I’m going to enjoy a month or so of peace and quiet with the odd hospital appointment for various scans, meetings with surgeons and oncologists while trying to keep my scan-xiety under control.
Thank you all for being on this journey and I hope you continue to follow, support and share the next stages with me.
And to the oncology nurses in wexford and Waterford doing an amazing job under such stressful and tough times I salute you.
Let’s make cancer and breast cancer a non taboo subject.
Please please check yourself – know your body and notice changes – Don’t ignore!!!
As always that is the point of my sharing my story.
Please share to try to reach as many people as possible.
Chemo – 0
As Corey said :
Winner by Ko