six. I can hardly believe it.
T dropped me
off at the hospital in the morning, and when I checked in the receptionist
smiled and said “it’s your last chemo!”. Yay! My
nurse greeted me with “it’s your last chemo!”.
Yay! I just had 7 hours to get
through then I could go home. K, H and M
sent me good luck messages for my last treatment.
All went as
normal through the day, and my last bag of meds went in. I knew then I just had a 3-minute flush
through and I’d leave the hospital. At
last, I could hardly believe I’d got to this point. The nurse set up the flush through and almost
immediately I got the most terrible pains in my hand and up my arm. I called her back, fully expecting her to
say, oh, it’s okay, and to make a minor tweak and things would be fine. But instead she got a look of panic on her
face. She switched off the machine, took
the drip bag and tubes to the floor and made me hang my arm down. She asked more questions and examined me and
then called another nurse. More
questions, more examination and then she put a needle in the canula and started
drawing out fluid from my arm. I was
slightly in shock, and so doped up from the meds that I just watched
blankly. After a while they agreed they’d
need to call the consultant. He came
over and further questions and examination followed. He said I’d need to stay a while longer under
observation. In the meantime T arrived,
having expected me to be waiting outside.
“There’s a slight delay” I told him. It turns out I had a collapsed
this last minute turn of events completely took away any elation I would have
had at finishing chemo. All I could
think of was thank heavens this happened with the final flush through and not
with the meds.
consultant agreed I could go home, but had to monitor myself for any changes
etc. and so we left the hospital.
Sometimes with chemo side effects it is difficult not to get paranoid, and find the balance between what really needs attention or what might just need further monitoring. Over the course of treatment I became a bit more relaxed about some of the issues, but remained nervous about others. Needing to call the Accute Oncology Services was a stress in itself as, through no fault of their own, they were so over-run and it was hard not to feel you shouldn’t be taking up their time.
So my final chemo is done, but the story is not over. It has been a crazy eight months from the time I first went to my GP to this point. Due to a combination of shock, medication and side effects, time took on a different aspect. I found it hard to know which day it was, weekdays and weekends all flowed into each other. Eight months – where did they go. I can pretty much write off the rest of this year as Dr D has told me to allow a minimum of 6 months for all the effects to wear off before I return to my base level of normal which leaves me with my chronic pain.
My experience is, simply that, mine alone. What anyone else may experience over this process could be similar or completely different. Even if we have the same stage, grade and cell type cancer and the same chemo dose and drugs, our experience could be different. It has been an education for me, in terms of learning about cancer, my body, what I can (and can’t) survive and cope with, other people’s knowledge (and lack of) and behaviour. I have documented my experience as a therapy for myself as there is only so much you can dump on other people, and one can only go for so long saying “it’s not too bad” or “yes, thanks, I’m good” before you have to acknowledge no, it’s bloody awful. I am fully aware that many people have a far worse experience of treatment than mine, and many have a far better experience. It is what it is. I am in awe of those that have survived in the past, the progress with research and increased knowledge has made treatments far more sophisticated and targeted, the knowledge of different cancers has helped treatment. Things that weren’t known then, and weren’t possible years ago. How much more difficult it was for patients then.
tried at times to see the funny side (dark humour mostly, because let’s be
honest, not much is funny) of this process.
But in all that there have been some desperate, horrible lows, both physical
People say things with the best intentions and it is difficult not to be frustrated at times. Ultimately I believe unless you have gone through the process yourself, you can never fully understand. It is important not to assume, not to be patronising, it is important not to treat the person like a total idiot, it is important to acknowledge – not deny – what is going on with someone. If you truly mean it, offer support and be there for it, don’t just say “I’m here for you” and walk away because that is not helpful or supportive. Don’t change who you are – have normal conversations, the ups and downs, be yourself. It is so hard to have bits of “normal” during this crazy time, and if friends won’t talk to you other than to ask how you are, it makes any conversation difficult.
Those who love you are going through a different part of the same battle with you. They can be easily forgotten in the process. Hold on to those who love you, they are your lifeline. Don’t forget to stop, and breathe.