by Jo Taylor
CHEMO 5, 6, 7 AND 8 – IT’S BEEN A HARD YEAR
Incredibly I felt fine when I turned up at Christies for chemo the day after my 60 mile Manchester to Blackpool bike ride for The Christies charity. The 7 week break inbetween the first 4 cycles and the last 4 cycles was great and I was able to train three or four times a week and get ready for the bike ride. Now that was over and completed it was on with the last 4 cycles of chemo. Bloods fine and it was back to the usual 3 week regime of chemo, feeling ‘not too bad’ four days after chemo, then going down hill feeling rough, ending up in bed for a few days and then finally picking up. Number 5 was OK, everything went to the usual ‘plan’. It all went wrong with number 6 chemo.
The children had finished for the 6 weeks summer holidays and the week after this I had Chemo number 6. Everything was ok and the Friday I unusually felt fine whereas I normally started feeling ill but then something hit me on the Tuesday. I had caught a sickness bug from the children. I was so ill, I didn’t move from my bed for 5 days or even go downstairs. Headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea. Jeff was off work the whole week as I couldn’t even look after myself, let alone the children. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. I was in bed feeling very cold, very ill and missing all the sunshine. I rang the chemo line, I didn’t want to go into hospital but needed to know what to do. They prescribed various drugs, but by the Saturday morning I was still very poorly. I rang Go to Doc and they told me to come into see them. I was able to sit in a side waiting room away from other people so that I wouldn’t catch anything else as they knew I was on chemo. The Doctor I saw was fantastic. She checked me over, completely understood everything I explained and she prescribed tablets and rehydration sachets as I just couldn’t keep anything down. 12 hours later I was feeling so much better. I must have been getting to the point of dehydration but the sachets finally stopped me from deteriorating any further. I soon felt more like myself again.
The next chemo came around quick due to me having such a bad time last chemo and not really having much of a break from illness. Number 7 chemo was upon me and apart from a 2 hour delay (yet again) at the hospital, all went ok. I had been delayed THREE times now with basic human error being the main issue. All due to someone not taking the chemo off hold and then this caused a delay as the chemo then needed to be made up ‘fresh’. As I wasn’t too ill this time Jeff was able to go back to work. He then finished work the Friday after as he had booked 2 weeks annual leave.
On the Friday we had booked a mini holiday to Devon glamping (glamorous camping lol!) with the children. We stayed in a camping pod in a field on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea and the shore. It was better in a pod as we didn’t have to put the tent up especially if I wasn’t feeling too great. The weather was good and we visited local places, had BBQs outside the pod, spent time on the nearby beaches and went crab fishing with the kids on the pebbly beach below our pod. It was a few days out of the hospital routine. We came back early Friday morning after driving through the night so that I could have my blood test so that I wasn’t delayed with chemo on the Monday. After bloods, I went to the chemo unit and asked them to check the results of the blood test and to make sure that everything was in order. At 4.45pm I, in addition, rang the ward asking them to do the same.. AGAIN so that we didn’t get delayed on the Monday.
Monday I was delayed. They forgot to take the chemo off hold yet again. This was totally unacceptable. I complained and various messages went back and forth on twitter with me complaining and with messages of support from friends and followers. A Duty Manager was sent to see me as apparently some of the Executives were aware of my complaints – the power of twitter. The Duty Manager was full of apologies but I didn’t want apologies I didn’t want this to happen yet again. Information given, she would investigate and get back to me.
Chemo was a hard one and the pain that I felt in my right foot with the cold socks on was SO bad it made me cry. It was like severe frost bite for about 10 minutes. I writhed in pain, it was terrible but thankfully over and only one more chemo to go. Again, the chemo side effects weren’t too bad but I could now feel that I was getting neuropathy in my feet and fingers even though I wore the cold gloves and socks.
The next day was another mini holiday was booked to go to St Davids Bay in Anglesey with friends Jayne, Steve and Thomas. This time we were camping with our tent. The camp site was small and lovely. It was a windy start but we finally got the tents up. Jeff had holidayed as a child on Anglesey and he didn’t have very good memories so didn’t know what to expect at all. It had a lovely restaurant and bar on the site. It lead directly to the campsites own private beach, it was beautiful. After setting up the tents we went for a walk along the sand. It was very picturesque. We had a lovely couple of sunny days and enjoyed the company of our friends. We visited a few places, walked along the cliff path to the next bay and explored. We really did have a great time, lots of laughs and memories. The 3 days were soon over and we were packing up and heading home. I had started to feel a bit ill from the chemo now being 4 days post treatment. No extreme illness this time but still off for a few days before I picked up feeling better.
And lastly I was at the big finale – number 8 chemo – I made it to the finish line. It was hard but I’m hoping that it’s been worth the pain. No pain no gain as I’ve said before.
My next scan was on the 24th September and I thankfully had the same result as last time that I’m officially in remission. No more lumps in my neck and the 2 spots in my sternum were ‘healing’. I saw a Radiologist and in his opinion radiotherapy wasn’t needed. I was disappointed but yet understand that they may need this in reserve if the situation changes in the future.
And so it continues… a ‘new normal’ as some call it. I will still continue 3 weekly drug infusions of Herceptin and Pretuzumab (Perjeta) which is now my ‘maintenance’ treatment, basically they will keep the cancer at bay for as long as possible. I will continue on them for the foreseeable future. As long as they do their job I will do whatever I can. Unfortunately, remission does not mean ‘cure’ it is an incurable disease I have. I am living with this disease and hoping that it does not progress for a long time. I am ‘stable’ and no signs of cancer at the moment. This is now my life as a secondary breast cancer patient. Scan, treat, repeat.
My hair is now regrowing and I have not worn my wig since New Years Eve. I think I will have a ‘burn the wig’ celebration with friends seeing as I don’t need it any longer. Having a night out with friends to celebrate finishing chemo and finally having the good news of being in remission was quite emotional to think how far I’ve come. It’s been a hard year.