Chemo kit innit

A friend just asked me what was most useful during chemo because she wanted to send something helpful to a recently diagnosed friend. It’s a question that has come up too many times, sadly. Not trusting my brain to recall anything that long ago, I googled ‘Chemo Kit’. The results were a mixed bunch, perhaps compiled by office-bound medical staff or well intentioned religious folk. So I thought I’d get the coffee on and concentrate really hard and see what I could remember.

What works for one may not work for all, but some things might hit the slightly nauseous bullseye. The amount of information you get at the beginning is overwhelming but I know it was annoying to find out things that could have been helpful AFTER it was all over.

People may do chemo at the start or at the end, depending on their treatment plan. I have reliably forgotten some things so I’m making this a community operation. Please feel very free to add suggestions, especially my lovely ‘breasties’ out there who have had their own experiences and strategies.

Chemo Kit:

Warm bedsocks
Magicool (for chemo flushes)
Sucky sweets for nausea (sugar free)
Sleep hats
Pretty scarves for headwear (if the person is into doing that)
Wide brimmed sunhat that’s not too scratchy on a baldy head
Sensitive skin suncream
Hat that covers ears and bottom of the head
Easy going books (not meaningless but not too emotional)
Cancer cookbook (sometimes the hospital will have their own but you have to hunt for them)
Unscented Hand sanitiser in lots of different forms (especially one that is automatic for home use)
Boxsets of comedy shows or Netflix subscription
Comfortable and safe/secure slippers
Warm and cosy wrap/cardigan
Little lap blanket
Super soft toothbrush
Corsodyl toothpaste/mouthwash (only use when gums are bleeding as prolonged use will turn your teeth grey!)
Pitrok (natural deodorant because you can’t use the chemical stuff)
Natural, scent free bar of soap
Lipsourcil Expert mascara (if you’re feeling flush, this MIGHT help with preventing eyebrow/lash loss)
Ice lollies (for nausea)
Pocket tissues (the hairs in your nose will fall out too and that means there’s nothing standing in the way of those drips)
Pillbox for medication
Soft neck scarf (to counter drafts)
Comfortable headphones
Tablet/iPad (if you have a ton of cash)

‘Surgery kit’, ‘Hospital stay kit’ and ‘Radiotherapy kit’ in the works..

Out with the old..

The nurse just left. She won’t be back. As I hugged her goodbye, I half jokingly said “Hopefully, I’ll never see you again!” This was my last Herceptin injection. The last of 18 five minute long injections. The last time the drug burns its way through my tissue, causing a sharp intake of breath for the first 30 seconds. The last time it has the potential to stop my heart.

But it’s also the final batch of the wonder drug circulating in my body, restricting the growth of any cancer cells still in me. It’s the final withdrawal of medical services that have structured and shaped my life for the past year. I may never see those wonderful, kind, interesting and caring nurses that have sat with me and chatted for two hours on every visit.

So it’s with mixed feelings that I approach today. There is some evidence that only 9 cycles of Herceptin are actually necessary and as effective. I feel reassured by that. Even if I carried on having the drug every week. Even if my heart could take it, it wouldn’t make any difference to what the future brings. This is what my confusion is all about: the future.

Cancer has a dual nature. It is in one sense a chance set of 5/6 mutations that leads to a perfect storm of change to the cells. It takes 15-20 years to accumulate those mutations and cooperation from surrounding cells to produce a cancer. It’s a genetic disease. Something sporadic yet seemingly irrepressible. Something I can’t really influence. At the same time there are ‘risk factors’ for each type of cancer. So outside things can make the conditions just right for a mutation to be more likely. The biological Goldilocks moment but with less friendly bears.

Not everyone who is exposed to those risks gets cancer though. So at that point there is some level of unluckiness. The Herceptin injections represent to me the chance factor. The drug is working on what’s already there, what I can’t do much about. Lightning has already struck. So it makes me nervous that it’s gone.

On the other side, I went to weigh myself and then off to circuit training this morning. I’ve lost another 1.3 kilos and I felt so strong during the exercise class. This is the risk factor stuff. My cancer is oestrogen positive and fat produces oestrogen so, the fat has to go.

Today was about the two sides of the cancer coin. I will have to learn to live with the randomness. The lack of control. At least there is something I can do though. At least I can do the things I need to do to get myself in or out of the cancer lottery in the first place.

For now, I say thank you and goodbye to the incredible nurses who have supported me for the last year. I wanted to bake them cakes but I’ve become too much of a health nut to ethically thrust love-laden sugary treats on them. Instead I made them funky tablet covers. Another sign of a new life and a shiny new skill to keep me happy and reduce another risk factor: the devil of stress. So it seems those lovely nurses continue to help me, even when they’re not around.