Chemo#4

It’s not even Valentine’s Day but already I’ve been struck by chemo’s very own Cupid’s arrow. There’s now something very close to my heart. I’m the proud owner of a PICC line. For a cancer fighter like me I’m going to get a whole lot more pleasure from it than a dozen red roses.

It’s become just too painful to have needles forced into my hand every week. The veins on my hand are difficult to find at the best of times and the chemo is making them worse. To solve this problem I’ve had a permanent line put into my upper arm where the veins are a lot more juicy.

I went to get the PICC line the day before treatment. Simple, I thought. I had to go into a side room of the chemo ward and it would soon be sorted.

Wearing a beautiful silk blouse, the hospital’s vein expert arrived for the small op. As she was wearing such a lovely purple top, how bad could it be? When she put on a blue surgical gown, I realised I’d lulled myself into a false sense of security. Even then I didn’t quite realise how gruesome it was going to be.

The consultant selected a big vein on the inside of my right arm. After some local anaesthetic she made an incision. A thin plastic cable more than 40cm long was inserted and gently eased into the vein in my arm. Bleugggh!

The tiny tube travelled through the vein up my arm, across my shoulder and then down until the tip was pointing right at my heart. There it will stay for months, until the chemo is over. The other end of the cable now pokes out of my arm but most of it is covered with a clear dressing.

It means that I can’t play netball, swim or have a proper bath. I can carefully shower but I won’t be able to have long hot showers. That’s a real shame. Showers are the perfect place for a good cry. Although I don’t seem to have so many emotional showers these days. I still get upset but I have far less of the raw grief that seems unstoppable. I guess that I’m coming to terms with my new reality.

The restrictions of this chemo Cupid’s arrow are a small price to pay. It’s lovely to say goodbye to the needles plus there’s no need for any more friendly threats to pinch me. The PICC line will be used for chemo to go in and blood for tests to come out. If I get an infection like before and have to go into hospital in an emergency, it can also be used for an antibiotic drip.

The next day and chemo#4 was a breeze. It didn’t hurt at all. Just like last time, I only had half a dose of steroids. It seems I’m not the only one who gets a rush from this medication.

I had a comment on my last blog post from a woman called Janice whose husband who was being treated for tongue cancer, telling me how the day after hospital he’d be out in the garden from 6am wielding a powerful petrol strimmer. She said he was as high as a kite and worked like a dog for two days and nights. Their garden had never looked so good!

The past week has been much better. No steroid high, followed by a crash and burn. Instead I felt good but incredibly tired. I was wiped out. Now I’ve lowered the dose my mood feels more stable.

As always once the drip started the chemo cocktail virtually knocked me out. My consultant, The Professor was visiting the ward. I saw him walking towards me but I didn’t recognise him until he spoke to me and gave me a hug.

I wasn’t much company for mum and dad who were with me for this week’s chemo. As always I couldn’t stop myself drifting off. As I fall into a deep sleep I love to imagine my tumour getting a good battering from James Bond.

On the way to my parent’s home I dozed on the train, again I visualised Daniel Craig, I have to admit it got quite violent. I think of the chemo as 007 licensed to kill my cancer. Normally he has the biggest, baddest gun. On this occasion he took me by surprise as he turned up with a rocket launcher! Good work Mr Bond.

Almost home and I woke up, still woozy from the drugs. On the opposite seat – someone joined me for the journey. I’m sure he wasn’t there before I went to sleep. There was something familiar about him and I did manage to recognise this man.

14 thoughts on “Chemo#4

  1. Hello Helen.
    Just read this and found it most comforting. I just found you via a retweet from somebody I follow. It all made sense to me as my oldest friend is just about to have chemo 5. She’s had all these symptoms. We’ve been in constant contact (phone calls, emails and texts) since she was diagnosed. I love her to bits and I so admire the humour with which she manages to cope with what has been the most horrendous few months.
    I wish you well and send a big virtual hug.
    God Bless

  2. Helen

    I had a dual PICC line for my chemo . It was in for 14 months and i can say it was the best thing whilst i had my chemo. I remember my first chemo round was from a normal needle which the nurse found extremely hard to put in. My chemo regime was 6 days on chemo 24 hrs each day then 21 days off . This continued for 14 months and i can say the picc line made it much easier. I am in remission now for a Ewings Sarcoma for the last 12 months so be strong and it is beatable.

  3. I had an infuser port put in…were you able to consider this option? This made life so much easier. xox

  4. Hang in there, Helen! I’m thinking of you lots and sending you big hugs and kisses and lots of love!

  5. Stay strong Helen. Such a shame about the netball and swimming but just keep in mind the lovely Mr.Craig giving your tumour the punishment it needs!!

  6. I feel bad that I look forward to your posts. I really want it to be another boring blog, with someone dull pontificating pointlessly about their completely irrelevent musings. Or I want it to be about a journalist’s life, with all of the craziness and curiosities, because you write well.

    I don’t want it to be about cancer because reading it feels voyeuristic and every night I hope that the next day will be brilliant if the effects are stalled and even reversed (miracles do happen) and that the posts about your battle will have all the excitement of sporting glory.

    Getting the notification of your latest post, however, paradoxically, makes me feel good too. At least you are posting and that you can do so, is fantastic.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  7. The PICC is a vein-saver. I was so thankful when they finally sent me off to get one. As for the showers. . . try wrapping your picc area with plastic wrap (cling wrap). It takes a few go arounds. Then, if you are able, you can put an elastic at the top and the bottom. It’s quite effective for keeping the area try.

    Another PICC tip. When they change the bandages/flush it out, have them stick it to a different area of the arm. Otherwise the skin can start peeling off. But when the skin gets a day or week to breath, it (should) heal up nicely for the next time.

    Take care! Catherine

  8. Helen, like many, I guess, diagnosed with cancer I started my private diary full of witticisms and insights no one else had thought about. One day it would be published as a unique insight into the condition. Reading your blog reminds me why you are a writer and I am a lawyer. Great piece.

  9. oh the joys of a central line hey….i used to enjoy having q lovely funtime bath with my gorgeous baby boy ( 4 months old when started treatment) and was gutted that this couldnt happen…my line went in my neck and out at thr top of my boob…just like a fancy nipple tassle, a cm too high..!! any way someone suggested wearing my swimming cistume so the little hands if a 7month old couldnt see the red and white tazzle hanging down…..that baby is 9 next week….not a day gies by when im not thankful for still being here and woul do it all again in a heartbeat if it neant seeing my gorgeous william and husband davud everyday….

  10. Only a truly gifted writer could have over a foot of tube stuck in her arm and then come up with the Cupid’s arrow metaphor. Once again you tell it like it is, artless and artful at the same time. Can a salute and a hug be done at the same time? If so, both. xxx

  11. Hi,
    I am writing to say keep fighting you are a really trouper. I am having a rubbish time at the moment, insignificant to what you are going through. You are an inspiration to me as you are enouraging me to keep fighting.

    Keep going
    Lots of hugs
    Vicky

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