Just one more

Exhausted, so exhausted. But also I was slightly excited that I managed to make it through chemo number five. The end of my cancer treatment is really in sight now.

For the previous sessions friends have come over for a chemo coffee on the ward with me. I was too ill for that this week. Although I did have a cheeky chocolate muffin before it started. Then all I could do was to lie in bed.

Not only do I want this to all be over but so do my veins. They’re beginning to give up on me and I don’t blame them.

They appear normal but once a needle goes anywhere near them they seem to disappear. During my emergency stay in hospital last week, it took three people to get just one blood sample and some rather spectacular bruises.

The chemo is delivered via a needle that has to stay in a vein all day. My evil chemo cocktail is so toxic that the nurses wear gloves when they’re handling the bags of liquid. If the drugs escape from my veins into the surrounding tissue this could be really dangerous. So the nurse has to hit a good strong vein.

One way that I cope with this is to play the alphabet game. I look away from my arm and silently name countries of the world from A – Z. Usually I get to Egypt or France. These days I end up in Kazakhstan, Libya or even Mexico.

And that wasn’t the only pain. I’ve been persevering with the pink cold cap. The hat with a rubber lining that’s frozen to -5c and helps to stop you from going bald. I love my new wigs but I’d still rather have my own hair even though it’s very thin now.

Of course the more exposed your scalp is, the colder your head gets. Normally the frostbite feeling gradually subsides but not this time. This time it hurt so much. After two hours I couldn’t stand it any longer. I gave up.

So that’s it, there’s no real chance that I’ll keep my hair. It was a sad moment but I was too tired to get upset.

That’s the best thing about being so shattered all the time, you don’t have the energy to worry about much. You just focus on getting through each day. When I had chemo before, it was this period between the fifth and sixth session that I found the toughest. It seems like your body is screaming at you that it can’t take any more of the poison and yet you know there is still one final dose to go.

Since the chemo on Wednesday, all I’ve done is sleep. Mostly just waking up to be sick, take tablets and eat. My life is almost completely on hold but I’m hoping that the Olympics will help me to feel a little bit better.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, maybe before I even had the disease, I got tickets for London 2012. This Sunday I should be there watching show jumping and basketball but the Sunday after chemo is normally my worst day. However I’m determined to make it. Even just for a few minutes.

Not only that, I’m going to wear one of my new wigs for the first time. While I won’t be going for gold, I’m quite looking forward to being blonde and proving that I won’t be beaten by the chemo.

Soldiering on

I thought I had it all sorted.

I have the chemo; James Bond kills the remaining cancer cells. I’m slowly poisoned as I imagine my own personal army of special agents blasting away at the enemy inside me. I try to carry on as much as normal while I visualise the 007s carrying out this covert operation for me.

But it turns out that I’m at war too.

Following my scary setback last week I had to see The Professor. Despite being totally exhausted, it wasn’t quite as awful as I felt during my emergency stay in hospital. With the infection launching a full on assault, my immune system dropped so low it was almost non-existent. Even he had to admit that it was impressively bad.

As I chatted to my consultant in a small clinical looking room I could hardly think straight. I was so shattered. It was such an effort just to sit on the plastic chair. Really I wanted to have a nice lie down on the medical couch that I could see behind a flimsy curtain. It was so inviting.

I had the appointment with The Professor at my usual hospital yesterday as I’m due to have chemo today. I had to convince him that I was ready to take the battering that you get from the drip of dangerous drugs.

Luckily the blood tests confimed that I was well enough. I’m so glad that it’ll continue as planned even though I still feel shockingly ill.

This will be my fifth session of chemo. After today, I’ll have just one more to go before it’s all over. The Professor reassured me that what I’m going is awful but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m not sure why but having someone else acknowledge just how horrendous things are somehow makes you feel a bit better. It was a welcome boost.

It’s not that I’ve been feeling down. It’s just that I have little energy to do much more than focus on finishing my cancer treatment.

It’s incredibly traumatic, it’s as if I’m in a warzone, my consultant explained to me. For six months now I’ve been under attack both physically and mentally. There’s the pain, the fatigue and the fear. You’re not sure if you’ll make it out alive. The last time I was anywhere near a warzone as a BBC foreign correspondent it was pretty stressful and I was only there for a week or so.

It makes sense – this is a fight for my very survival. While I think of myself as battling this killer disease, I’ve never seen myself as an actual soldier on the frontline. I’ve left that part to my gun-toting troop of James Bonds.

To be honest the fog of tiredness has meant I’ve considered myself to be more like a zombie but I must change that.

It’s much more positive to imagine myself as a solider and a successful one at that. The Professor took great delight in telling me that according to the very latest test results I’m still clear of cancer. So I’m already winning the war!