A week ago today, Thursday 28 June 2012 I had my first dose of chemotherapy, which is Avastin and Irinotecan.
So far the plan is to have a dose of each type every three weeks for the next twelve weeks. I’ll have four sessions to start with. Then after that I’ll have some radiotherapy and a scan to see how I am responding to chemotherapy. There’s a chance I might need further chemotherapy, but that’s something I’m shelving for now, at least until the scans are done.
I arrived at the chemo ward for 8:30am as instructed by my team and was shown to my room where I’d have my treatment. This time wasn’t in the chemo lounge, but in my own room. Apparently it’s because of the type of chemo I’m having. Not too fussed about being on my own, at least it means I can have some privacy when needed. It does mean though that my Mum manages to get total control of the remote control. Jeremy Kyle is bad enough on a regular day…
First task of the day was a urine sample to check my protein levels. All done and sorted and OK because then just before midday a nurse appeared with a heat pad and wrapped my hand in it. A cannular was put into my vein on my left hand just across the top of my wrist and was told kick off would be any time soon. To start with I had a blast of Dexamethasone which is a steroid to help with sickness. Then my IV was hooked up and suddenly the nurse had let Avastin and a bag of fluids run free through my veins.
Towards the end of the Avastin IV (1 hour) I started to feel very sleepy and fell in and out of naps, but unfortunately every time I was about to drop off I felt like I was falling so I’d wake with a start. Then suddenly the bleeping was going off and I knew it was over. First dose of Avastin well and truly in. Quick break then it was on to Irinotecan. An old enemy. I was given more anti sickness in the form of Emend and then another load of anti sickness through IV. Half an hour later the nurse was back to give me an injection of Atropane in my arm – stung like a bitch, but apparently it will help keep my stomach calm because the Irinotecan could send things a bit mental.
Then I was wired up to Irinotecan and an hour later it would all be done.
Felt reasonably OK for a bit, but did notice my stomach stir a little and a heat wave did pass through me. My feet started to sweat and suddenly it was like I’d just got out of the bath. Lovely. Towards the end of the IV my stomach was awake and indigestion had set in. Mint tea seemed to ease it, but there were definite waves of nausea happening.
Once the cannular was removed from my wrist and I was free to leave it was then I noticed just how woozy I felt. I felt drunk. I was slurring my words and just about managing to keep a grip on reality. I swear I floated out of the chemo ward. Once in the car the nausea really started and that remained until about midnight that night along with a stinker of a headache.
What other side effects have I experienced? Tiredness, but the sort of tiredness I’d forgotten about. It’s like someone just pushes my eyelids closed and I have no say over it. My original surgery site/where my rectum should be constantly hurts. My eye sight is suffering – I’m struggling to focus on things which I’d usually see just fine. My eyes feel gritty and cloudy. I’ve been told this will go and not to waste money on eye tests. Shall just live in specs. I’ve started waking during the night with night sweats and hot flushes – this will be the menopause. Nausea, constipation, bad stomach, sweaty feet, bleeding when going to the toilet, feel like I’m being surrounded by a chemical like smell which I can’t escape. In my mouth, nose etc. My mouth feels slightly metal like, and at times numb. I’ve not lost my appetite completely – but I’ve noticed I can’t really stomach sweet stuff. Have been making sure I eat though. Have lost 5lbs in weight which I’m not too happy about.
Compared to last time, things seem a bit better this time. I’ve just got to take each day as it comes. My biggest struggle at the moment seems to be what’s going on in my mind.
I’ve completely withdrawn myself from people and I’m really struggling to say how I feel. I feel like I don’t want to bore people with my “not feeling too great” replies and things, so I tend to just say I’m OK. I don’t want to admit I feel quite so rough all ready and the thought that there’s weeks of this to come has hit me a bit.
Someone pointed out to me the other day that I very rarely admit how scared I am or even just how upset I might be, that’s probably because of how I’ve been brought up. We aren’t a close family or particularly big on talking about our feelings. Since finding out my cancer has returned I’ve had one hug each off my parent’s. Then life went back to normal. I guess we all have ways of coping.
Last time I just got on with it, probably because I didn’t have a clue about what was to happen. This time it hurts just a little bit more. It hurts that I’m going to lose my hair again. My eyelashes and my eyebrows. It hurts that I’ll be left unable to have children and it hurts even more that they can’t cut this cancer out of me this time. It hurts that it’s fucking with my life again.
I didn’t want this to be a depressing post but then again you aren’t getting positivity out of me tonight. I’d actually just like to be allowed to be unhappy, upset and heartbroken without worrying about what everyone else around me is thinking. I don’t want to be called strong or brave. I don’t want people to say to me “You’ll get through it, you’re strong” – what I’d actually like is someone to just say “That’s really shit, Hannah” and give me a hug.
Rant done now. Normal service back soon. Maybe.