Part 4: And so it begins

Something incredible about the cancery journey so far is how amazing I have felt. It’s a cliché that you learn what really matters in times of adversity. But I find myself looking in the mirror and really, really liking what I see. No more – I want to lose a few kilos, hate my wobbly thighs, or wish I hadn’t inherited my Father’s nose. Just thinking that I look pretty good for 48. It’s not that I spend any more minutes than the average woman on these things, but right now I actually feel beautiful. And that is something that I probably only felt on about 4 or 5 other days since I was 18! And this isn’t a massive fishing exercise 😊

So, anyone reading this, take a moment to think about your best bits and tell yourself how lovely you are.

And I have felt great. Enjoyed family time, the warm messages from so many people and having a strong sense that this is all going to be ok… While being naturally apprehensive about what this chemo shizzle will do to my body, health, mind and life.

I have got my ducks in a row at work. The fantastic team has a plan – that involves me either being involved or not. I really hope I can be. And I have explained to the children that for the next 4 months, Mummy will feel varying degrees of ok – and sometimes just not ok. And if you find yourself employed by a company that isn’t supportive when you get a cancer diagnosis, make sure you don’t stay after you’re better. The leaders in my business have been nothing but supportive and told me that it is up to me to manage this my way. A huge benefit to my mental state.

I have enjoyed going the ‘kale/no ale’ route with my diet and in having curry and chilly in case my taste buds and potentially sore mouth mean this is a no go for a while.

Ridiculously glorious

The 26 August arrives and it is a glorious ‘glad to be alive day’. On some of the days when we have had difficult news, the skies have been moody and dark to reflect the situation, but this day is the opposite. I have a lovely morning with Mark and lunch with friends. And pack my bag – work ipad, home ipad, mask, disinfectant, a scarf (even though it’s 28 degrees), airpods, lip balm…

After my blood test, Mark and I see Dr Trojan (my oncologist) and he explains what to expect. It sounds like the biggest concern is constipation… nice? And he hands over anti-sickness meds and tells me I will need to inject something to boost my immune system from day 2-6 after treatment. This may or may not make my bones hurt.

Along, with a number of medical institutes, he has a start-up app that is being trialed Consilium Care. I sign up… the idea is that patients note down their symptoms in the app so the healthcare providers can better treat them (patient reported outcomes).

Plugging in

My nurse explains which bags on the drip are which and that it will take about 2 hours. My port-a-cath has become much less uncomfortable and I am happy that I went through the discomfort. Th nurse asks me to breath in as she puts the needle in and it is surprisingly less painful than the prick to take blood from my finger. I have cortisol steroid and an anti-sickness pouch first and then the real deal. It amused me that the first lot was Aperol coloured and then I could imagine the clear one as gin… I started by meditating for 20 minutes, read a book (not a good one) and listened to a bit of classical music and exchanged texts with family and friends. This is the easy bit. Good to know what to expect…

And then it is so odd – you are waiting to see what is going to happen. What will it feel like? How long will it take and how bad? Do I have a funny taste in my mouth? I think this is the hardest part. The complete unknown. Having spoken to several special members of this non-exclusive, ‘I don’t want to join’, cancer club it has varied from reports of ‘not too bad’ to ‘hit by a truck the next day’…

As I feel fine, I have a walk down to meet the children from the train (lift back up the hill – I am not that daft) and head to Libby’s football match. If this was fiction, she would have scored a hattrick… instead the coach had a crash on the way so they were 3 girls down and lost the 8-a-side 6-1.

First symptoms

On the way home I started to feel a bit nauseous – I guess I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t waiting for it. I managed to eat humous salad and some grapes and exchange several notes with my global crew of well-wishers. I felt quite tired, but wanted to make it past 10pm to go to bed. By 10.22 I was in bed and feeling fairly nauseous with a headache, but I followed my Auntie Angela’s advice to sip no too cold water and that helped and put on sea bands (two colleagues had the foresight to give me these)… I managed to sleep really well (until the bloody gardeners next door started with some machine at 7.05am!!!) And woke up feeling weary, but went back to sleep after the children headed to school and Mark for a cycle ride. When I got up, my symptoms were a hangover (all the Aperol and gin)— and I haven’t had a hangover for ages. I also felt lethargic. I read the not-so-great book for a while and then made myself walk around our balcony – fresh air, mountain and lake views and movement… My legs felt heavy to begin with, but it really helped.

Mark made me scrambled eggs (I only ate them because I read they are good for chemo symptoms)… the last mouthful was a struggle… and then the nausea and fatigue lifted so we headed out for a walk down to the lake (1km), for a leisurely float and swim and a walk back up the hill. And being met by beautiful cards and care packages from my oldest friend Gracie and Auntie Angela just makes my day.

Besides a moment of nausea helped by a few BBQ crisps and ginger tea. I am positively surprised so far… The Dr did say tomorrow could be tougher…

My plan is to enjoy every second when I feel ok and to dig deep and move as much as I can when I don’t.

And the week continued with just very mild symptoms of nausea and occasional fatigue. I was able to do everything as normal – just picky about what I was eating. I can understand when you read that you may put on weight because the nausea is made better by eating – but also that could be raspberries or peach or a drink of something sharp, in my case.

I have enjoyed the process of entering symptoms into the app to see the week progress.

So, for round 1 – chemo 0 – Lynette 1… Knowing that it will cumulatively get more challenging means I remain only cautiously optimistic and as the day of losing my hair looms, I remain respectful that I have a way to go.

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