It’s 1am and the whole house is shrouded in silence. Next to me, Mr C sleeps peacefully. I can’t close my eyes, my whole body is wired. I am wide awake. I realise now that my first chemo infusion probably contained steroids. I lay in bed, waiting for the sun to come up. In the end I give up and tiptoe out of the bedroom and downstairs into the living room. I pull back all of the curtains and wait for the sun to rise. It’s with some relief when I finally greet the morning and the world starts to wake up. I made it through my first night.
Forcing Food Down
I feel washed out and I force some food down me before I take my next round of chemo tablets. This will be my new pattern, a combination of chemo drugs, steroids and anti-sickness drugs in the morning, steroids at lunch, followed by anti-sickness drugs and chemo drugs in the evening. After 78 hours I will come off the steroids and anti-sickness and I will just be left with the chemo drugs.
Channelling My Inner Mariah
Due to the side effects of the drugs I find it hard to open anything. I have what feels like really bad pins and needles coursing through my body, which makes it impossible to grip and open anything. I fiddle with opening my bottles of water; trying to undo my tops or skirts becomes some fiendish puzzle. I end up becoming frustrated with myself and start demanding that everyone becomes my personal opener and undoer. I’m sure Mariah Carey has a similar set-up, just without cancer.
I’ve also discovered that I can’t get anything from the fridge or touch anything that is remotely cold without my gloves on. As for my drinks, they all have to be tepid or warm. If I drink anything that is slightly cold it makes my voicebox vibrate and I feel like I am being strangled. The same thing happens when I step outside with my mouth uncovered. All over the house are bottles of water balanced on radiators as I wait for them to warm up.
The day passes in a haze. I spend the day lethargically watching the television. It has to be something that is easy to watch and short, my chemo-addled brain can’t cope with any complicated storylines or anything that is longer than 30 minutes.
The postman arrives with cards and parcels for me. It almost feels like Christmas, except there is no childhood innocence and you can’t tinsel over cancer. I excitedly read the cards and unwrap the presents. It lifts the soul and I feel better knowing that I have the support of so many. Waiting for the post becomes my new normal. On my bad days I wait for the postman like a rabid dog. Hanging around my letterbox, hoping for a card from friends or family, for contact with the outside world, something that will make me forget how I am trapped in this nightmare.
As we get closer to bedtime I start to struggle with vein pain in my left hand. You can actually see my vein throbbing. I can’t help but cry as nothing seems to relieve it. In the end a hot water bottle helps to make it more bearable. That night I fall into bed and I sleep really well.
The next day passes much the same way. On the third day (Sunday) I feel well enough to have a shower. However, the water stings my body and I have a quick wash before I get dressed. By now cabin fever is really setting in and I’m desperate to get out of the house. However, I don’t feel well enough to go for a walk. Plus, it’s too cold and the wind makes my voicebox vibrate. I ask Mr C if he can take me out for a drive but he informs me that he is watching football and he will take me out afterwards.
I pace the house, impatiently waiting to get out. Next Mr C informs me that football has gone into extra time and perhaps we could do the car drive after dinner. By then it will be dark and I selfishly want to get out while it is still light. I make my feelings clear and Mr C agrees to take me out. However, he clearly isn’t happy about it and I’m not happy that he puts the football before me. We end up having a massive argument and sitting in stony silence. I’m seething that cancer is doing this to us. I hate that I have become a needy wife who has to ask her husband to take her out.
Nothing Says I Love You Like A Tepid Drink
Later on, Mr C apologises with a tepid drink and I say sorry too and explain how I am feeling. I realise that we are going to have to be really honest with each other if our marriage is to survive this cancer.
Day 4 – Monday and Mr C is back at work. I manage to make it out of the house for an exciting trip round Waitrose. Just walking down the aisles exhausts me and I end up having to sit down on a bench as I wait for my parents to finish the food shop.
A Bad Day
Day 5 and I have now finished the anti-sickness drugs and steroids. I wake up feeling horrendously sick and I can’t move from my bed. I know that I will be sick if I move but I need to get some food down me before I take my tablets. My mum brings me some toast and I nibble on it before I gulp down my chemo tablets. It’s not a good day. I manage a shower before I get changed back into clean pyjamas. I spend the day in bed feeling nauseous, in pain and sleeping. However, I know that this will probably be the worst of it and that the next day will be better.
It does get better. I still have the odd day that isn’t ideal but on the whole, I feel a lot better. By the time I am at the end of my second week of chemo drugs, the symptoms are lessening and I am getting outside for a walk most days. I am relieved that I have escaped the mouth sores and bleeding gums. My hair is definitely thinning but that’s okay. I’m also suffering from a seriously fuzzy brain, my skin feels very dry and I feel permanently exhausted. However, they are all very manageable.
I have a week off the chemo drugs before I start my next cycle and I enjoy the break and apart from the tiredness, I feel fairly normal. I cram a lot in. We go to restaurants, the beach and enjoy the sunshine. It feels like we are a family again; Mr C and I are getting on like the old days. Although I feel we are no longer living in the shadow of cancer, I am very aware that it is hovering on the horizon. It almost makes me dread starting the next cycle again as I don’t want the sense of normality to end. I soak it all up and I try to really enjoy my chemo free week.
Ready For Cycle 2
I did it, I managed to get through cycle 1. I’ve learnt that I can’t rush the process and that I need to take each day as it comes. I have to accept that there will be some bad days, but I also have to remember that I will get through it.
If all goes well, I should be starting cycle 2 this Thursday. Wish me luck.