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.

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.