Back, back and Forth, forth

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Like the 80s Cameo classic, my stomach has been going Back and Forth. This time in a rather magnificent fashion. At the peak of nausea, there was even a Breaking Bad style head over the toilet moment. Excruciating as it was at the time, I did feel a heady moment of a cultural chemo rite of passage completed. I had arrived at the idea that TV land has of cancer treatment.

Chemo is cumulative so as the drugs build up, the side effects stack. This shiny vom chaos was also due in part to new meds that made me either pass out or upchuck. There will be no further experimentation with meds and I shall stick to the slightly incompetent concoction I had before. The nausea meds work on two places, the stomach and the brain. I don’t know which organ is the main culprit although I can hazard a guess.

I noticed another interesting pattern. Like clockwork on the Saturday after chemo, I get really depressed for a whole 24 hours. I feel like the chemo is never going to end. That I’ll feel like this forever. I get really, really fed up with having cancer. Not angry, never cross, or frustrated. Plain old fed up. The whole point has left the room and buggered off down the pub. I get so down I start to have real and solid understanding of why the right to die movement exists.

Then the next day, it’s like a lightbulb comes back on and it’s gone. My mind lightens and I can see colours again. Everything is doable, all side effects manageable. It’s all possible again. This smidgen of a peek inside the world of depression makes me salute all those with the condition who open their eyes, eat or even just carry on breathing every morning.

By my calculations I have 2 more 24 hour depressions, maybe a couple more vom sessions and 2 weeks of feeling like utter shite in the remaining cycles. So there is an end to this back, back and forth, forth.

Coffee & Chemo

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Here’s my chemo crew for No.4. They’re an awesome bunch. After another challenging vein finding mission, we got there after an hour and half. The nurse was so jubilent she was after some champers to celebrate. She gets a cancer gold star for not randomly poking me with needles.

I’ve also taken up drinking coffee again after reading this in the Daily Fail. I can’t quite believe that I’m taking medical advice from this source but turns out they reported the original study accurately. Who would have guessed this was possible ; p

coffee at chemo

Here I am enjoying a lovely soya latte for the first time since diagnosis. It did feel wrong to order a smoothie in cafes so all has been turned the right way round again in the world of public beverages.

I may disappear for a wee while as I enter Side Effect Hell but I’ll be back with you soon my Bosomers. And feel free to message me. It’s great in the middle of my darkest days to feel loved and thought about.

MRI results

Hi peeps. A quickie to let you know that my oncologist called to tell me they don’t think the lump has shrunk but apparently it’s flatter. To me that’s a shrinkage win so I’ll take it. It was kinda what I had been feeling for myself, that it’s more oval shaped and spikier. Good to know that my untrained hands are as accurate as any machine that goes ping (or clang, bang, pew-pew in this case). I also asked for a different anti-emetic (stops vomiting/nausea) because frankly the other one isn’t doing its job. I have yet to be offered the alleged Gold Standard drug Emend that all the ladies on the forums rave about. If this new anti-emetic doesn’t work, then I may start becoming a pushy patient and ask for the good stuff.

Anyway I had a first meet up with two other lovely womenfolk who have the dreaded disease too and it was very nice. We gossiped about slightly rubbish breast cancer nurses, wonky boobs, chemo curls and one showed us her new party trick of flexing her one boob like Arnie as she got a reconstruction with back muscle. So now she has one boob all muscley and the other was remade with fat from her belly. So when she puts on weight, her one boob gets bigger too! Ah the things I may have to look forward too ; p

So I’m waiting on the arrival of the lovely bosomer, Karen from Scotland. And I think here she is. Toot, toot and a big wahey : )

Rice is Nice

freezer foodRight we’re in full-on prep mode for Chemo No.4 on Wednesday. I just spent the evening filling up a drawer in our new (second hand, thank you Nanny) fridge freezer. Not only do I feel like a proper grown up, it helps to feel in more control of the chaos that is about to be wreaked on my body. When the nausea hits, there’s very few foodstuffs I can tolerate. I feel like the characters in Goodness Gracious Me.. “I’ll have the BLANDEST thing on the menu.” Except I can’t go bland AND stodgy because then, well.. there’ll be repercussions that rhyme with miles ; p

On the menu for this week is cauliflower and almond soup. Who knew you could put nuts in soup? It’s a fricking revelation. Then frozen mango and pineapple for lassis. And Mum-cooked potato gratin. I did have some delicious bran muffins and peanut cookies from the gorgeous Sam but I’m afraid they were too yummy and didn’t make it into the drawer. Also to be cooked is mushroom risotto and pasta and pesto for nausea-lite days. What I wouldn’t give for vegan rice pudding I can just buy in pots though as it’s a pain in the ass to cook in small portions.

I was skeptical about rice, thinking it was all starch and would bung up vital processes. But apparently the stuff is awesome for both runny and stuck poos. It is soluble fibre so works fantastically for contradictory issues. It’s all about rice this week.

 

Take that MRI machine

after MRII made it. The MRI is done, for now. This is moi after it was all over, complete with rather attractive pad marks on my cheeks and forehead. I must say, this MRI was not as bad as the last one. I wasn’t sure if knowing what was coming would work for me or against me. I think it was the former. This time instead of trying to ignore what was happening, I embraced it. I did some mindfulness and focused on the sounds of the machine rather than try to drown them out with Alicia Keyes lyrics coming through my headphones. Actually it turned out to be pretty hard to hear the music anyway. Imagine sounds alternating between a drill, a laser sound effect from a fifties B-movie and (weirdly) a really loud pair of scissors cutting fabric. In your ears, for 28 minutes.

But it did work better and I stayed much calmer this time. And no SNOT! Thank goodness for Benedryl. I did warn the nurses I may leave a puddle of drippiness and they looked so unimpressed with my potential bodily fluid evacuation, that I surmise they’ve seen much, much worse things come out of a human body inside their machinery.

I am supposed to have an appointment with my oncologist to discuss the results. They really just want a more accurate scan to tell if the lump has shrunk as the ultrasound is notoriously unreliable. Frankly the whole thing is a bit of a Dark Art. But the nurse warned me that the scan won’t be reported on (seen by a radiologist) by tomorrow, so she called my doc and I won’t be going in. She’ll phone me with the results, probably next week.

Anyway MRI machine, I have loosened your grip on me. You will no longer keep me awake worrying about being eaten by you, or having previously unknown bits of metal ripped from my body with your magnety powers. I have listened closely to your deafening bangs, clangs and hollers and I am unperturbed. Never will you frighten me again, you big bully of a medical marvel.

 

MRI today

Just about to leave for the MRI to get an accurate lump size. Honestly, I am not looking forward to it as the MRI is the most unpleasant of all scans. Added to it is the fact of my hairless nostrils which may mean a puddle of snot left behind in their million dollar machine ; p Thank you cancer for this new humiliation. Onward.

What’s your poison?

Yew Tree at Skipton Castle, Yorkshire

Having emerged from chemo fog and side effect hell, I decided to research the drug Docetaxel just for fun. I know right, living on the edge ; p Docetaxel is one of my chemotherapy drugs. When the docs call it a ‘chemo’ drug, it just means that it’s a systemic drug that treats the whole body. Other drugs, like Herceptin are targeted directly at the cancer cells. Chemo is the ‘go nuclear’ option. So first I was googling my other chemo drug, Carboplatin, and I found out that at the centre of its molecular structure lies a platinum atom. This for some reason made me feel special and precious. It spurred me on to keep googling.

Docetaxel is VERY interesting. It’s derived from the needle-like leaves of the European Yew tree. Now, don’t all run out and start chewing on yew tree leaves in the assumption that it’ll pre-zap cancer cells. This tree is a deadly blighter. It will kill you very quickly and efficiently if you eat any part of it aside from the tiny fleshy part of the berries. The seeds inside the flesh of the berry will also kill you so sucking the sweet flesh of this tree should be considered an extreme sport. By some magical process inside mysterious laboratories, genius people in white coats transform this poison into medicine.

The first time the Yew tree was recorded to be used for medicinal purposes in Europe was in 1021 but it wasn’t until 1967 that its cancer fighting properties were scientifically formulated. The Yew has a long and important social history and is posited to be the Germanic pagan holy tree, Yggdrasil. The Christians pinched the sacredness of the tree from the pagans. They knew a good thing when they saw one, those early Christian types. The Yew was then planted in churchyards or churches and monastries built around the trees. Or perhaps they knew that on really hot days, the Yew emits a gas that can induce hallucinations. That’s one way to get the punters in and see God at the same time. Yet possibly the reason we have any left is due to the relative safety of churchyards from developers.

The Yew is a very long-lived green thing. The oldest one in the UK is the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire and could be 3,000 years old! Again that tree got to a ripe old age in a churchyard. The tree does seem to have this duality of life and death surrounding it. Being deathly poisonous to living creatures and mostly located in old creepy cemetaries, but at the same time the source for life-saving medicines. My life-saving medicine. It is a tree I would most definitely wish to hug. Funnily enough I once had someone call me a ‘tree-hugger’ as an insult. I remember not being pissed off because of the insult but that at the time it was voiced, I had actually been ranting on about human rights. A much more appropriate put down would have been ‘do-gooder’. I mean if you’re gonna insult me, at least get it right ; ) But for this tree, insult away. Correctly this time. Yews rock!

Films please

Following on from my disastrous encounter with post-apocalyse movies, please post your recommendations for heartwarming, funny, feel good alternatives..

Steady State

snowpiercer

So I’ve been quietly getting on with surviving this bout of side effects. Helpfully two sets of different ones arrived simultaneously, the nausea and flu-like symptoms. Thank you chemo for a new shiny kick in the ass. They all arrived on Saturday on the night I made a huge noob mistake of watching a fairly grim movie ‘Snowpiercer‘ to pass the time. Note to self: do not watch end of the world films when you’re struggling to keep yours on track. My Saturday night was filled with terrified shivering, imagining babies being eaten and too frozen in place to even get up and put my socks on. I had also been on the breast cancer forum reading that day and heard that one of the women who posts there had died. Generally the forum is a huge source of support for me and only occasionally does it throw up this kind of curveball. I was devastated. I didn’t even know her, hadn’t read any of her posts. But hearing this news shattered my Very Useful Illusion that this is all going to be OK.

Positive thinking is my most useful ally right now. It has been shown not just to be woo-woo babble dribbled out by wannabe gurus but has hard solid biological effects on your brain that can help you take action to improve your situation. So it’s really important for me to maintain it. But when side effects have kicked in, real people start dying and Captain America is eating babies, it’s also really important to recognise that some things out of your control are gonna come up. I think it’s equally as important to accept the world as a changing place where your perspective on it can be shaken. If I deny that that night happened and erase it, perhaps it gives it more power than if I faced it and then let those morbid feelings float on up and out. It’s a tricky balance to get right. I might have talked about this in a previous post and it’s a constant challenge.

Change and the striving for balance are fundamental processes driving the Universe in a non-woo way. As with ecosystems, the atmosphere, cells themselves, most things are changing constantly, moving. But they are also seeking homeostasis, a steady state. When an animal population decreases or increases, the surrounding ecosystem compensates to accommodate that change. When more water is released into the atmosphere, the rest of the system will adjust. They are closed systems. (Forgive my lack of footnoting, I will get to that another less vomity time.) What I’m trying to say is that our lives can be seen in the same way. Always changing, being influenced by forces beyond our control but we are constantly striving to find balance, peace, stability. So I guess the lesson in all this for me is to keep thinking this is all gonna be fine while acknowledging when things are going pear-shaped occasionally. And not watching scary movies.

Half-way

Sorry no exciting chemo pics today folks. I couldn’t find anything that inspired me as it’s all getting normalised. Same old problem finding a vein for the cannula. Boring old Herceptin injection. Tedious sitting around with drip, drip, dripping miracle medicine/poison into my body. I guess it’s good that it has all become very ordinary.

I did have a nice visit from my friend Becky and that shook things up a bit. I also managed to blindside the nurse at the end by asking her why loss of undercarriage hair would change the direction and flow of my pee stream. It has been a messy business of late and lots of women talk about this same thing on the forums. The chemo nurse was clueless so either it is imaginary ‘wonky widdling’ or I have seriously violated some taboo or other.

So I’m feeling pooped in a been on a train all day kind of way. I’m now relaxing with Lilah and Jo watching Snoopy. Okay I’ve run out of words. But the most important ones are sitting nicely. Half way there.