Chemo holiday

Sometimes you should be careful what you wish for because it might just come true.

In my last blog post, I wrote that momentary I considered giving up but soon afterwards I realised that I wanted to continue. How ironic.

I’m now on a chemo holiday. It wasn’t my choice to skip treatment. This is an enforced break.

Last time I listed all the chemo cons. Well, there was one that I forgot to add. I had a nasty rash on my arm that itched like hell. It looked like a big patch of eczema, something I used to get as a child. It didn’t seem too serious. But when I turned up at hospital this week, my doctors thought it was.

Looking at it with them I had to admit it did seem quite red and angry. They don’t know what caused it to suddenly flare up however they’re sure there is a chemo connection.

After putting up with all the awful side effects I can’t believe that a stupid rash has postponed my chemo cocktail. Hopefully it’ll be better by next week and I’ll be able to have the five remaining sessions.

I should feel happy that about my chemo holiday but I’m not. I’m very disappointed.

Mentally I was all ready for another dose of the toxic drugs. I just want to complete this course of treatment. I’m so annoyed at the delay. Ever since the start of the year I’ve been working towards the end date in mid-May. I thought I had less than a month to go. My chemo has now gone into extra time and the final date has moved a bit further away from my grasp.

Also I don’t like my routine being disrupted. When you have cancer your life is changed for ever. At times it seems to spin out of your control. There are big question marks against all the things you thought were certain.

And yet there is one thing you can reply on. The regularity of your treatment. The chemo sessions and all the other associated appointments are comforting. Having a medical schedule gives your life shape and it gives you back some control.

After wondering whether I wanted to continue with the anti-cancer treatment, I’m more sure than ever that it’s what I want. Thanks for all the messages of encouragement and support, sorry I’m too tired to reply to everyone. I loved the way that after saying that I’d briefly thought about giving up, there was a massive noooooooo from the internet!

This chemo-cation has made me even more determined to carry on. When you’re told you can’t have something it makes you want it even more. I know that I’m lucky to still have options and I want to make the most of every moment. I’m more confident than ever that I have the strength to continue.

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.