Part 6: Reality strikes

Going into round 2 I feel apprehensive, but as positive as you can. When the Dr tells me that my bloods are ‘the best he’s ever seen’, I am proud (and wondering if he tells that to all his patients). The hardest part so far has been dealing with people worrying about me and being angry that this has happened to me. But as I wrote, I have felt very lucky that I haven’t felt as bad as I feared and have felt strong, determined and positive…

The treatment is easy and comfortable again and as Mark is stuck in traffic I bounce along the road to walk to meet him enjoying the September sunshine. After the last round I went for a walk, watched Libby play a football match and managed to get to 10pm before bed. This time I do have a little walk, but by 8pm I am feeling pretty rough and need to get to sleep. The next three hours are less than pleasant. As I wrote I hate being sick and now I realise I hate feeling sick too! But I was really relieved that it subsided by about 11pm so I got a decent night’s sleep.

Next morning, after working pretty much as normal for the last few weeks, I was grateful that I cleared my calendar as I felt completely washed out and had the same low-level nausea. So all in all not horrendous, but just not pleasant. It is like a really bad hangover without the fun and knowing that the last thing in the world you fancy is any alcohol.

Not so positive

The day before round two I met one of the two criteria that Mark lets me head to the office for – a meeting with the CEO! So, on Tuesday morning I dried and styled my hair and saw that it had started to come out big time. Not just normal amounts, but it could just come out by the handful. I didn’t feel too bad about it. I knew it was going to happen… So I just got on with the meetings, enjoyed catching up with colleagues and even had a lovely lunch in the city.

Fast forward two days and the reality really hit. On Friday morning, I felt better – tired, but able to concentrate on some interesting bits of work – and then I thought I should follow the advice and call the wig shop to arrange for my hair to be shaved. So far, I have only cried properly once since the diagnosis and that was went I had the port-a-cath fit under local anaesthetic and a) it felt horrid and b) I realised I was going to have chemo… Having felt soooo positive all along, I also realised it is important to let it out when you feel less positive.

Sorry for the language, but losing your hair is shit. I honestly don’t think women look good with no hair – sorry for those brave campaigners who try to normalise alopecia… A platinum buzz cut on a model is not the same. And I really think it is like kicking someone when they’re down. So, Mrs Jackson, you will feel cumulatively worse during your four brutal rounds of treatment, we will manage the symptoms as best we can and oh, by the way, you will lose your hair so everyone can see that you are dealing with this hideous treatment. I just want to get through this as well as possible and want to live my life. And my life doesn’t involve wigs or scarves or sympathetic looks. The other annoying thing is that it is likely that my hair will grow back brown/grey and weirdly – gee thanks, that really helps me mentally prepare. And it is likely that even this time next year I will have short, weird hair. So yes, I feel fairly fed up and not so positive about the hair loss part.

I am still getting out walking and enjoying the hours when I feel ok. And I am looking at what I am grateful for. My amazing network of friends. My family. My rock of a husband. The members of this not-so-exclusive club who are there with to answer the numerous questions. My colleagues doing all in their power to make my life easier. The fact that it is still glorious weather. That I can go in the lake and feel refreshed, alive and happy.

And something hard for me is when the messages come (literally from around the world) to ask ‘how are you, love?’. I want to say – “great, not bad at all…” But the reality is at times I feel lousy, sick and angry… But overall, still not that bad. Not that can’t keep anything down, lain on the bed 24 hours you see in the films… And my lovely crew tell me I am doing ok – so I believe you 😊

At this stage, the bit I knew would come has come… I knew that I would be able to be strong, but I recognized there would be tough days and hours and they have arrived with bells on. Now, it’s about digging deep and meeting my intention of living through this as well as possible. So, self-pity needs to be kept in check! But listening to my body and resting when it makes sense and screaming or crying is also more than ok. This too shall pass.

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