Dancing with the Red Devil

Dancing with the Red Devil

It’s nearly February, people. Already!

How is it that time seems to creep by us ever faster each year? As a kid it passes excruciatingly slowly; everything seems to drag. Nowadays, I feel like could practically blink in September and miss Christmas altogether. And boy am I glad that Bakers Delight start selling hot cross buns in January, because I need the three-month heads up or I’d totally miss the flicker of time before Easter!

This year, my fellow high school friends and I get to celebrate 20 years since graduation. 20 BIG ONES! Where on earth did that go?

Ah to be growing old! That’s just really all it is, isn’t it! The minute we start realising that life isn’t getting any longer is when time starts ticking ever faster.

And now that my life is broken down in to three-week chunks for chemotherapy, time has become even more precious.

My treatment cycle at the moment is three weeks. This means, every three weeks, I get to head into hospital and have a great big delicious dose of AC – Doxorubicin (aka the Red Devil) and Cyclophosphamide. Don’t they sound tasty? No? How about this:

“For you madam,…will it be the AC blend this evening? Delightful choice! I think you’ll find it most satisfactory to your tastes. Fused in only the best local laboratories, AC is hailed as one of the world’s most notably noxious remedies: bold, pungent flavourings with a surprisingly acrid after-taste. Very sharp on the nose too, madam…Er…actually, on second thoughts, best you don’t go popping it too close to your nose. In the veins will be just fine.”

I’m quite the chemo connoisseur!

In truth, I’m sitting here on this perfectly lovely Wednesday, counting down the days until I dance with the Red Devil again. Last time wasn’t much fun. This time, I’m hoping my oncologist decides to bust out ALL the anti-emetics he can find in double doses.

Besides extreme nausea, in my first round of chemo, I lost almost a whole week to sleep. I’m not sure I can properly describe the level of fatigue that falls on you after chemo. It renders you helpless and barely able to manage even the simplest of tasks that we all take for granted; things like eating, showering or talking. At one point even opening my eyes was a stretch! Oncology doctors have drugs to counteract most of the delightful side effects of chemotherapy, but there is nothing out there for exhaustion; you simply have to sleep it off.

In week two, I found myself in a sort of half-life haze. I wasn’t held hostage to severe exhaustion, but my stamina was still pretty average. Being inexplicably tired and breathless after a minute walk or trip to the supermarket is incredibly frustrating. It is like my head and my body are at odds with each other. Nothing feels in sync. Week two is also when my immunity is at its lowest. I’m meant to avoid crowds, and stay away from anyone who is sick.

This week is the best of the three. My energy levels have risen, my immunity has recovered and I’m back to feeling almost normal. But just when things are looking up, this morning my body gave me a teeny little reminder I’m still a cancer patient…this morning my hair started falling out.

While I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and preparing myself for the inevitable, nothing really prepares you for the actual process. Hair follicles that normally secure each strand firmly in place have been killed off by chemo. With a slight tug, the hair now falls painlessly away from my skin. It is at once astounding and confronting. Pretty soon, I suppose I’ll be as bald as a baby.

I actually think I’m quite okay with the idea of losing my hair. It is just hair, after all. But I am still clinging to the hope that the scalp-cooling cap I wear during chemo treatments will help some of it stay. Nothing screams ‘CANCER’ quite like a bald head., so I’d love to get through this treatment with most of my head hair intact. I guess I just have to wait and see!

Kate x

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