Things that make you go uuuuughhh….

Posted: August 7, 2012 in The Big C
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve really struggled with writing this post. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I find it easier to write when I feel like crap. The emotionally charged, my world is ending, high-octane drama just pours out. When nothing is happening it’s much harder to come up with something newsworthy.

I realise I’ve been slacking so decided it was time to put pen to paper again. I’ve also realised that I miss writing. Apart from keeping family and friends in the loop, it’s very cathartic. It keeps me sane.

I had my third cycle of chemo last Friday and after a couple of days grace the nausea & fatigue have hit with full effect. I can’t decide if it’s getting worse or if of my brain conveniently erases all previous chemo memories. I really hope it’s the latter.

I talk about chemo assuming that you all know what it involves but I’m guessing most of you aren’t personally acquainted.

It goes like this. I sit in hospital once every 3 weeks for around 1.5 hours while I have 3 drugs, the FEC combo, pumped into me intravenously. I don’t feel much at the time although one drug makes your pee red and another gives you a nasty ice-cream headache. If a nurse is on hand, she’ll water it down with saline to soften the blow.

The nurses in the oncology unit are lovely and always makes me feel like this whole cancer thing isn’t such a big deal. Cancer brings out the darkest humour in people and there have been some comedy gold moments in the oncology ward. One nurse in particular, Nurse P, is very funny:

On being asked if I would be happy to take my GCSF injection home to inject myself:

Me: “mmmm, no I can’t even look at the needle when you’re doing it”

Nurse P: “neither can I, I just close my eyes and hope for the best!”

After 1.5 hours, I’m sent away with a cocktail of drugs to ease the worst of the symptoms. I usually feel a bit groggy afterwards, but the worst side effects don’t usually kick in until 3 or 4 days afterwards.

I can’t think of any other way to describe it, other than feeling like you’ve been poisoned. Your body feels toxic, you have an unquenchable thirst, you feel sick, you lose your appetite and did I mention your hair falls out!? Then there are the stomach upsets, constipation and blinding headaches. I also had hideous mouth ulcers on the first cycle but these have lessened since getting the GCSF injection. Think the worst hangover and you’re half way there.

Fatigue is one of the biggies and physical exertion is a big no. I tried doing a wee hill with my mum a few days after my last chemo session and I felt like I was going to collapse, which was pretty scary but found out this was probably due to anaemia (not enough red blood cells). So, no mountains while I’m having chemo.

Chemo does weird things to your brain as well as your body. As well as the general ‘chemo makes you feel like shitto’, there’s chemo-brain and chemo-glow. The brain-fug is slightly disconcerting. A few examples: trying to make a phone call on my make-up compact and trying to withdraw cash from an ATM using my Boots Advantage card. My speech becomes a bit dyslexic and words get all mixed up which does have its comedy value.

Another weird and wonderful side effect of chemotherapy is that it makes your skin look great. The week after chemo I wake up looking all sun-kissed and healthy in a Scottish kind of way: the infamous chemo-glow. My skin has never looked better and my eczema has pretty much cleared up too. Every cloud.

The delightful side effects usually dissipate after around a week, when your body starts to repair the damage done. I make it sound horrific, and it’s not great but I did expect it to be a lot worse. Considering every cell in your body gets annihilated, it’s no wonder your body reacts in the way it does.

I joke about the physical side effects of chemotherapy & the mental cloudiness that accompanies it, however I am anxious about my treatment and my prognosis. I’m half way through my chemotherapy but at this stage they can’t even tell me if it’s working and this won’t be confirmed until I’ve had another MRI scan in a month’s time. If it’s not working they will bring my surgery forward. It’s on my mind 24-7.

On the upside I got my new hair last week. I was really losing hope with wigs until I tried on Stevie (all the wigs have stupid celebrity names). She’s perfect, nearly the same colour as my hair and she looks pretty natural, at least I think so. It took my brother at least an hour to notice I had hair, even though he’d seen me bald the weekend before, so it must look pretty convincing. In other hair news, the tiny bit of baby hair remaining on my head is growing and my eyebrows, which I had threaded before starting chemotherapy, are still exactly the same shape. With any luck I may never have to get my eyebrows shaped ever again.

I’m now half way through chemotherapy and the end is in sight. Three down and only three to go.


  1. loulouctee says:

    I want to meet Pamela Anderson. You write very well with brain fuge Kath xx

  2. Veronica Voiels says:

    Just read your blog now Katherine, and realise what a horrific journey this chemo ride is . It is killing healthy cells as well as sick ones . You can write with power and clarity even if your chemo brain kicks in . There is no real compensation for all this, just massive or slight readjustments to your mental and physical state all the time . Meditation might be useful to fully savour the moments when you feel nearly normal . Being in the present moment and finding the deeper real you inside which no chemicals can destroy might help for some transitory and elusive moments. I have had several women friends who have had breast cancer and all have said how dreadful the chemo journey is and would never wish to repeat it . However all except one are now thriving with lovely hair and doing even more good in the world.
    My brother’s condition has worsened and I am just about to make another mercy dash to southport because he has fallen again and now in hospital where they are going to reassess his needs . The said thing about his situation is that he knows he is not going to get better. So I cannot wait to get there again and give him a loving hug.
    Lots of love, Veronica

    • killerkath says:

      Thanks Veronica, meditation is one of the few life-buoys I’ve been clinging to. I feel so grateful to have joined your class when I did, it was great preparation for what was to come. So sorry to hear about your brother, I can’t imagine what it must be like for your family. I hope he takes some comfort in knowing that he is loved. Will be thinking of you both and sending lots of metta. Much love Katherine xxx

  3. Kerry says:

    Kath, that was really helpful writing about chemo as previously didn’t know much. Have only saw a photo of you with Stevie on so can’t wait to meet Stevie in person and see you again in the flesh! What you going to do with it when all your beautiful hair grows back?

  4. killerkath says:

    I’m sure Stevie will still be part of my life…..she’s the most expensive thing I own aside from my house so she won’t go to waste!

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