So today is D-Day.
Actually, today is C-Day.
Chemo. A systemic blitz on all the cells in my body that are multiplying rapidly: cancer cells (for the win), but also lovely, harmless little cells in spots like my digestive tract, hair follicles, mouth and bone marrow.
My first chemo regimen, called ‘AC’ (doxorubicin (Adriamycin), cyclophosphamide), will involve four separate doses in 3-week cycles. Besides sounding like high-grade pesticides and definitely not things you want to have sprinkled on your cereal, let alone injected into your veins, these drugs should ‘mop up’ any cancer cells my surgeon couldn’t reach, or unknowingly left behind. So while I’m absolutely dreading the side effects, I’m more than happy to get this chemo thing started.
I’ve come to realise that we humans are a pretty impatient lot. Well, at least I know I am. Waiting for things is always the hardest part…especially when dealing with unknowns. I have found the past three weeks, waiting for the inevitable onslaught of chemotherapy side effects, very harrowing – maybe even more distressing than the process itself will turn out to be. (That’s probably wishful thinking…I’ll get back to you with my verdict in five to eight days time!)
What I do know is that today I am one step closer to the end of my treatment. It may only be a very tiny step in the right direction, but it’s a step nonetheless. Another little win to chalk up.
With the amazing guidance of a few more experienced cancer patients, I have managed to put together a pretty comprehensive Chemo prep list. (Love a good list!)
Here ‘tis, for your viewing pleasure:
- Cut or shave hair beforehand – I’ve opted to cut. I’ve also opted to try something called a ‘cold cap’ which basically freezes your hair follicles during treatment and apparently can prevent hairloss, or minimize it. We’ll see!
- Hair hurts when it falls out – get a soft pillow. I bought gold satin ones. Just because.
- Invest in bucket loads of hand sanitizer. Insist it is well used. Even pop some at your front door. If need be, bath kids in said sanitizer.
- Lemonade icypoles, stat.
- Hairloss is not restricted to the head (obvs). So take great pleasure in dramatically throwing away all hair removal apparatuses, and reminding everyone else how silky smooth your skin is! This does, however, also apply to eyebrows, eyelashes and nose hairs…you’ll need immense supplies of Claratyne. Apologise in advance to all the people you will accidentally drip snot on.
- Get meds for constipation AND diarrhoea. Be prepared for both. On the SAME DAY.
- Swish mouth regularly with salt water to prevent ulcers. Use a soft toothbrush. Go easy on your gums.
- Get your hands on ALL the anti-emetics (anti-nausea) you can find. If any are left over after chemo, sell them to your friends as hangover cures. They will pay well.
- Use plastic cutlery to minimise the metallic taste in your mouth. Strong, tasty food can also help. Mints too.
- Make sure you have plenty of pain relief on hand for aches and pains.
- Be prepared for both severe chills and hot flushes.
- Take your temperature twice a day. Anything over 38 might mean an infection, go straight to the ED. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Keep a hospy bag packed ready just in case.
- Substitute loo paper for something softer, like Aloe Vera tissues, or a baby alpaca if you have one handy. Have some nappy rash cream handy for your sensitive bits.
- Wear a beanie at night…or get a hot husband like mine. (Ahem. I said LIKE mine.)
- Walk everyday. Even if you have to sit down every 10m to catch your breath. Exercise is good for the mind, body and soul.
- Fatigue is not fatigue until you’ve had chemo. Do not fight it. Take the opportunity you always bemoaned you never had prior to cancer!
- Be prepared for any or all of the following: strange skin rashes, dry mouth, oral thrush, and bouts of indigestion…oh and vomit. Probs a lot of vomit.
- Eat small amounts. Drink 2-3L a day (preferably water, save the gin for your remission soirée)
While I hope I won’t need to experience all the side effects mentioned above, I know the next few months of my cancer treatment are going to be pretty darn rough. I hereby apologise in advance for any gloomy blog posts that come your way in my depths of despair. Anyone that knows me well knows I’m prone to dramatic (and awkward) oversharing.
In all seriousness, I do think I won’t truly know how amazing it feels to just be normal until I feel all the shittiness of chemotherapy. So I can’t wait to feel amazingly normal some day soon.
If any of you find yourself in the Oncology Day Unit at Epworth today, I’ll probably look something like this:
Actually, come to think of it, I don’t own any beige outfits quite as spectacular as this one, so probs not.
Bring it, chemo.