Evil. Thats the only way I can describe chemotherapy. My second cycle of the treatment was horrific. Not the day itself. That was fine, fun in the usual speeding time with special people chatting, drinking coffee and trying to ignore the drip that was feeding me the toxic cocktail of drugs. No, it was the days afterwards that were hard to handle.

As the steroids wore off, the horrific-ness kicked in. It was one of the worst chemo hangovers that I can remember having. My mood felt as awful as the physical symptoms. The last time I felt that ill was last year when I was in intensive care following major surgery and a brief, unexpected, flirtation with dying.

The only positive thing I can say is that there was none of the nausea of chemo no 1. I didn’t have any projective vomiting yay! Thanks to everyone who tweeted me suggestions about what anti-sickness medicine I should try. The new tablets are working beautifully.

Then it lifted. After almost a week, the nasty chemo symptoms just left me. I’m still tired but at least I feel human again.

Luckily this happened just as I was due to do a day at work. Okay, it was down to more than just luck. I had thought that I’d be recovered by then.

You may be wondering why I still want to do my job. It’s totally my choice to work. I don’t want the cancer, the chemo and the uggggggh feelings to be the only things in my life. Besides, I really enjoy it.


On Monday I was reporting on the impact of the storms for BBC News. It wasn’t feeling ill again that I was worried about but more the windy weather. This was my first day wearing a wig again. Not such perfect timing.

When I was stood outside I had the straps inside the wig on their tightest setting. It was a vice like grip and it hurt a bit but at least it kept my wig secure on my head. There would be no chance that a cheeky gust of wind would give it lift off!

It’s the same wig as I wore on TV before, only my hairdresser Angela has given it a new look. I do have a whole new autumn/winter collection of wigs to wear but I want to start off with something I’m comfortable with.

My hair seriously started to fall out just as I was feeling so desperately ill. Great big handfuls of my lovely, new hair. I almost had a proper fringe. It seemed that most of it slid off at night and onto my pillow. Previously my hair has slowly left me so the speed at which I went bald this time was a shock. It took about a week before all I had was some lonely tufts. It looked as horrific as I felt.

This is one of the hardest parts of the treatment. You understand that you are going to be very ill but it the fact you lose your hair as well is very upsetting. You no longer look like yourself. The chemo takes away your identity.

I knew there was something unpleasant I had to do. A few days ago I had what remained of my hair shaved off. There is nothing left. My appearance has gone from poorly to pop star. Now I look like Jessie J when she shaved her head. Ha! I’m only joking. My head looks all white and weird however it is better than it was. Most importantly, instead of letting the chemo do something to me, I took charge. And this makes me feel strong again.

23 thoughts on “Chemo#2

  1. Hi, reading your article put a smile in my face. I experience the same, currently undergoing chemotherapy but at least can manage to live a “normal” life, less those times after each chemo sessions when side-effects kick in. After my 1st cycle, got hair loss and decided to trim them all, and bought a wig. At first i felt unreal, but soon I felt like a star.. God bless you, and be brave. :)

  2. Hi Helen, good to know that the nasty chemo effects are wearing off. I’ve been trying to decide whether I hated chemo or radiotherapy worst, one of my radiotherapies was particularly dreadful, but of course the truth is that all of these things are hateful. Except in that they keep us going. That is really what I wanted to say – I know it is a personal choice, but for me it has been so important to keep work, and a vestige of ‘other’ life going. I have been a bit grumpy with people who are surprised that I’ve been working (sorry folks), but I am more than a cancer patient – I am me. The me I have always been. Cancer is just an extra load for the rucksack. You are looking great Helen, and doing a great job – as always.

  3. Helen, you look great in the picture and I can quite understand why you want to work when you can. You are a BBC reporter, not a cancer patient.

    Thank you for allowing us to share this journey with you, the good bits and the horrid days. You are a total inspiration

  4. Saw you on the news and was cheering for you. You looked fantastic and did a brilliant job. Helen, you are a superstar!

  5. Go girl! Well done – you look amazing. Keep fighting – give it a big biff from me. Xx

  6. hugs and prayers still coming your way. I both understand and love that you’re still working, as someone who stayed home this entire time it seems like it would be very life affirming to continue with a beloved job

  7. Well done Helen, what an example of getting on with life as normal as possible, except of course it is not normal! not sure I could cope with it, you are to be admired

  8. Helen I saw you reporting on the news after the storm. I thought you looked very well and didn’t realise you were wearing a wig.
    Sorry to hear the effects of your treatment. But from someone who’d not seen you before I thought you looked super, smart, attractive, well put together and healthy.
    Wishing you all the best and sending positive healing vibes your way

  9. Awesome is a very overused word these days, but Helen, you’re awesome. Totally agree with Hazel Shaw, you’re a reporter, why wouldn’t you want to be out there in front of a camera whenever you can, it’s totally where you’re meant to be, making it look easy. Some people just can’t help looking good under the lights!

  10. Helen, I know I keep going on about it, but how is the book coming along?

  11. I have so much admiration for you Helen. Such dignity, humility and humour . You go girl. xxx
    Ps. You looked friggin’ fab on tele.

  12. Your BBC appearance demonstrated to us what a true professional you are. So impressed.

  13. Hello Helen, I saw you on the B B C that evening and I was wondering if that was your own hair as it looked good and you looked well concidering what you had previously gone through.. I was in control of my cancer by shaving my hair all off before it came out. It had just started to come out in my brush. My wig was all ready for me as the nurse who was just given me my cocktail of chemo told me that it would be better to go and get my wig first. It was good advice. I agree with you Helen that loosing your hair is worse than the cancer or the treatment. I looked like the actor Donald Pleasence. All the the lo ve and prayers for you from me. Love Denise Smalley.. x

  14. You looked great on the News. Remarkable really when you consider what you had been through the previous week. I flew from Belfast over to Liverpool on Wednesday to attend the Linda McCartney Unit with my 20 year old daughter. She had found a lump on her breast which thankfully turned out to be a hormone imbalance. As we walked along the hospital corridors you popped into my head and the only thing missing were those Dolphins painted on the walls. I got a sense of the dread that must have engulfed you. After our appointment I think your outlook on life is all the more astounding now than I did before. The inner strength you must have is amazing. I was a wreck and I was’nt even the patient!!! Hope you have a fantastic week. Best wishes. Janice

  15. Heard you reporting on the radio the other day which brought a smile to my face. We don’t care about wigs on radio! Big hugs.

  16. Helen,
    Your determination to fight off the effects of the chemo and get ‘back to normal’ is an inspiration for others. Hopefully you’ll be back to ticking off more of the items on your List for living. Hearing news of your progress gives smiles and hope to many people. You are a magnificent role model and ambassador for living!

  17. You’re fantastic! You’re lucky that you can carry on with your work, I’ve had to give up my work because of infection risks, also because I couldn’t really take one week in three off, but I’m well over retirement age anyway. Keep going, and enjoy as much of your life as possible. I’m also going through nasty chemo, what do you recommend for the sickness? I’ve tried Domperidone, Ondansetron and metaclopramide, the last one having the opposite effect to the intended one. :-(

    • Thanks so much Leo, thats very lovely of you :) I have the middle drug you mentioned, sorry it doesn’t seem to work for you. Its awful when the sickness drugs make you sick!

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