Chemo #1

I walked into the hospital with a sense of dread. This was my third round of chemo. I wasn’t worried but I just didn’t want to be there. I shouldn’t have to do this again.

There was a big queue to get checked-in. People were crowded around the reception. The hospital reeked of cinnamon, for me this is the sickening smell of chemo. I felt like I was going to collapse from the stress of it all. I wanted to shout, I’m going to faint if I have to stand any longer. Don’t you know I have cancer? But then so did everyone else so I kept quiet.

It was just a small wobble and I had my friend Tamsin with me for support. We drank cappuccinos and talked about happy things, anything other than cancer. Tamsin had brought me some lovely presents including a notebook to write my new List for Living.

The staff on the chemo ward were pretty much the same. Last time I was there I had my own hair. Despite wearing my Raquel wig for chemo#1 some of them still recognised me.

“Hey how you doing? You look well,” one of the nurses in a dark blue uniform said to me with a smile. I wanted to reply that I was only visiting, that I’d popped in to say hello.

“I’m back again for more.”

“Oh…..” Her smile disappeared.

Not much had changed at the chemo cocktail bar. The patient patrons were still mostly pensioners but at least there were some new high-tech reclining chairs.

Setting up the medical equipment, my nurse found it hard to get a vein. The chemo is delivered through an IV drip via an orange tube. My veins are rubbish and seem to run away at the sight of a needle. As my arm was gouged by the nurse, I looked away and towards Tamsin. She offered to pinch my other arm to take my mind off it. Now that’s what friends are for!

The chemo is so toxic that a collection of other things are pumped into you first to prepare your body. I was warned that one of them would make me sleepy. It actually made me feel drunk, properly end of the night and need to go home drunk. And I hadn’t even started on the evil chemo cocktail.

I pressed the recline button and settled back into my chair. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

It was time to visualise James Bond shooting the crap out of my tumour. It seems that I’m not the only one. A woman called Nicky sent me a message to say that when she had chemo she imagined Vera Duckworth from Coronation Street running around her veins killing the cancer with a rolling pin!

I slept almost all the way through the chemo. Now that’s my kind of a cancer kicking work-out.

I was woken by a loud man on the other side of the room who was visiting an older lady. I felt dizzy and disorientated as I came round. I watched the loud man talk to the nurses and other people’s visitors. He alternated between patronising and sleazy. What an idiot. If you’re visiting a cancer ward, then please shhhh, don’t shout. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of someone who’s under the influence.

As soon as the drugs were done, my friend and I made a swift exit.

Like before, I’m recovering at my parents’ house. Last night I slept in my childhood bedroom – the same place that I retreated to after all the previous cancer treatment. It’s very sad to be back in my old bed again because of chemo. But at the same time I have amazing parents who look after me. Not everyone gets that kind of support when they’re ill.

And very importantly I’m lucky to still be alive. I first had the disease when I was in my late twenties, since then I’ve been living under a cancery shadow. There are many times when really it should have killed me. Despite doing this all again I feel so very fortunate. I still have options.

Earlier I walked around the frosty garden a few times. When I’m recovering from treatment I always try to do some exercise. Compared to when I first did this after my massive operation last year, I now have masses more energy. I even jogged the final lap. Just because I could.

Most of the day has been far less energetic. It’s passed in a tired and dizzy haze. There’s a certain type of Ukrainian vodka that makes me feel like this and so I’m pretending to myself that this is just a hangover.

However this is a happy hangover. Getting a third cancer diagnosis was a huge shock but now I feel empowered. I’m back on the chemo cocktails and blasting that tiny tumour.