Good cold, bad cold

If you had to pick a time of year to have a chemocation then I suppose autumn/winter is perfect. A chemocation is rather like a staycation. Only this is no holiday at home but chemo enforced time off. And I can’t wait for it to be over.

Thanks to my incredible tiredness I’m still mostly stuck indoors. One of the perks of an A/W chemocation though is being able to have quality time by the log fire at my parents’ house. There are worst ways to spend an autumn afternoon.

But really I’d rather not be stuck indoors. Slowly I’m building up my stamina so that I can spend more time outdoors getting cold and wet.

The chilly weather means that when I do go out I can easily wear a hat over my shaved head and it doesn’t look out of place. I like my new number 3 hair cut but I’m not going to be showing it off in public anytime soon. That would just take too much energy. It’s less stressful to just blend in.

Raquel, Candice and very occasionally Barbarella are also helping keep me warm. I quite enjoy wearing my wigs. They still itch like crazy but over heating is no longer such a problem.

Ten years ago when cancer last made my hair fall out, it was all very different. Back then I told hardly anyone, I was so embarrassed. I didn’t even have a name for my wig. It was identical to my old hair. I didn’t like wearing it and I never realised how handy it would be on my travels.

I’d just moved to Moscow for the BBC and it was the very start of winter.

Snowy sunset from the BBC Moscow Bureau

Russia was properly freezing, exactly how you’d imagine that it should be. I’d wake up every day hoping that it had snowed overnight and often I was excited to find that it had. At times just being outside was painful; as you breathed in, the icy air would scratch your throat and made your lungs feel like they were on fire.

One Sunday afternoon, not long after arriving, I ventured out to a market on the edge of the capital. It was next to one of the furthest stops on the metro. On the way there I sat opposite a pensioner. The woman with dyed red hair was dressed in fur from head to toe. She eyed me suspiciously and then gave me a right telling off.

My crime? Not wearing a hat.

As way of an apology I said that I was English. I didn’t feel like revealing my lack of hair to a random stranger. However she was right to chastise me. It was so arctic outside that within minutes of getting off the metro, my mobile phone had frozen.

Yet my wig was brilliant. My fake brown bob kept my head beautifully warm.

These days I tend to wear hats a whole lot more, even when I’m inside. It turns out that my internal temperature gauge has bust.

I am officially cold.

All those evil chemocation cocktails are to blame. My body thinks that I should be around 35c. Unless I’m in a swelteringly hot room I tend to spend much of the time shivering. According to my hospital handbook, my temperature is a code red and I should alert the on-call oncologist straight away.

Ever since my cancer operation my feet have been a bit numb and never that warm. Now they are like blocks of ice. It’s like I’ve just come in from the cold after a day braving the elements in Moscow. So I wear thick ski socks at all times and I have a selection of hot water bottles which get a lot of use. Sometimes I sit in the living room wrapped in a duvet next to the fire.

But apparently my low temperature is nothing to worry about. The problem should just improve all by itself. In the meantime I’ve been told to wear lots of thermals. Here’s some freaky logic. It may be warmer inside but I tend to shiver less when I’m outside.

Maybe this is my body’s way of saying that I need to get out more as the chemocation is coming to an end.

9 thoughts on “Good cold, bad cold

  1. Just reading this made me shiver. Have you tried heat patches you can stick onto clothes? They are huge in China and Korea and you can probably buy them online.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I will have a look online for them. I have something kinda similar but they tend not to work too well on me. They are good for a bit but then they make parts of you burning hot while the rest of you stays chilly!

  2. Helen, I love your warming gadgets. I’m tempted to post you pictures of my microwavable slippers! I totally sympathise with your feeling cold. I’ve taken to not just wearing my thermal hat around the house but also sleeping in it. …And apparently we’re still in autumn :(

  3. As if actually having had cancer wasn’t enough, you get a whole bunch of side effects from the medications?! These are truly embuggerances. It sounds a bit like what I usually get when getting up at 3.15 for an early shift: for a while I can’t seem to decide what temperature I want to be, and I’m either feeling too hot or shivering; I call it ‘early flu’, and it always goes away before 6am whereas you’re stuck with it! A quick Google suggests you’re not alone with feeling freezy after chemo, though I suppose that’s cold comfort indeed. Beautiful photo of Moscow, by the way. I daresay what you need now, after a summer that failed to be warm, is a winter that fails to be cold.

    • I know what you mean, when I get up for an early I just want to wear my duvet! It’s only a few hours later that you realise you may not have made the best choice. Oh I’m quite confident that it will be cold this winter. Did you see that they forecast a White Christmas – yay!

  4. Hats are very, very handy once the hair makes its exit. I work a black and pink beanie (called a ‘toque’ here in Canada) as soon as the temperature dropped. It was like a security blanket, and I felt like I finally blended in . . . apart from the giant pink pom pom on its top.

    I’m hoping you warm up soon. In the meanwhile, stick close to that cozy fireplace :) ~Catherine

    • Your toque sounds great. I know what you mean about a hat becoming a security blanket. The fireplace is still lovely and cosy thanks :)

  5. Hi Helen,

    I’m joining you in front of the fire, thermostat
    Non-existent. It’s great news that you’re reviving your battery. Planning to head back to London soon?
    I’ve started a new chemo yesterday weekly for 12 weeks. Not too bad in little bursts. It’s supposed to let me carry on with life a bit more. My op is one month after I finish, probs middle of Feb. I’ve started my OU course anyway. It’s good to have the structure.
    I’ll check in on your blog again soon. Good tip about the wig, my head is freezing.
    All the best, hope you’re blogging from London soon. XXX

    • Hi Laura, how lovely to hear from you and have you join me at the fireside :) Hope that the new chemo wasn’t too rough and that it really will help you carry on with life a bit more. I’m spending more time in London as I seem have so many medical appointments. Nothing serious but things I need to sort out now I’m starting to feel better. I think that doing the OU course is a great idea. It will give you something totally different to focus on. Writing this blog has proved to be a great distraction for me xxx

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