As we draw towards the end of week 3 of my first cycle I thought I would answer some FAQ’s now that I’ve been through a whole cycle of chemotherapy.
What actually happens during chemotherapy?
My chemotherapy cycle lasts for 3 weeks and I am scheduled in for another 2 cycles, so 9 weeks in total, with the hope to finish before Christmas and then it’s a short wait for a scan to review what has happened so far. There are over 200 different types of cancer and who knows how many different types of treatment. Every case is different and everybody reacts differently to the treatment so you can’t and shouldn’t tell someone with cancer that their mate Barry’s uncle down the road had it and completed it like it was nothing because they may have been on a different level of treatment.
What happens during my chemotherapy is that I go to the hospital 3 hours before treatment to have my blood tests done and determine if I am strong enough to take the chemotherapy. I then have an appointment with the specialist consultant to talk about the week before and the week ahead. During chemotherapy, I sit in a recliner chair, put my arm on a pillow and the nurse puts a cannula into my hand that is attached to a drip.
On the Wednesday and Thursday of week 1 I have 5 different bags dripped into me over 7 hours. You can feel a warm sensation going up your arm and with the more metallic drugs you can feel even hotter and you can taste it in your mouth. I must have been for 15 different trips to the toilet in one hour as they flush your system first. In week 2 and week 3 it is the same process but only for one hour on the drip.
You are sat in a room full of 7 or 8 other people getting treatment and they are mostly bald and over the age of 50 and 60. The previous weeks have not been so bad and the nurses are just amazing. God bless anyone wanting to provide that amount of care on a daily basis for the sick. Some patients read newspapers, have visitors, go to sleep, I booked a nurse to give me a foot massage with some aroma oils that just made me think of Christmas for an hour.
What does chemotherapy actually feel like and does it hurt?
During chemotherapy, I don’t feel any pain apart from when the nurse puts the cannula into my hand, this pain is doubled every time she misses the vein which happens quite often and she has to start over again. In the past weeks, I think that the most pain is when the nurses were ripping the sticky tape off my arms and ripping the hairs out like a waxing session. This could be due to the fact I am just a massive wimp. Put me in a boxing ring and let someone punch me in the face rather than a lady ripping my hairs out any day of the week. I have needle marks all over my hands and arms and missing patches of hair on my arms. For cycle two I have shaved the bottoms of my arms and hands because those hairs are not being pulled anymore sister.
What about the sickness and feeling tired?
So far, touch wood, I have only been sick once and that was on the Friday of week 1, Imagine those terrible hangovers when you just want to cry and regret ever drinking that fifth tequila straight after mixing it with a Sambuca and a jagerbomb. That was the feeling except I was being wheeled about in a wheelchair by a nurse who then crashed me into a doorway and got lost in the hospital. I was taking 5 different anti-sickness tablets a day plus tablets for all other things. My mum has been on point with this as I don’t even have to think about what I need; I am just brought my tablets on the hour through the day. However, these tablets all have side effects such as tingling hands and feet, tinnitus in the ears, loss of taste, and a severe joint pain which actually had me asking for the ambulance as I was convinced I had dislocated my hips I was in so much pain. Yes, there are feelings of tiredness and some sleepless nights but I just listen to my body and rest when it says rest and get up a hill when it says I have energy. The chemotherapy kills both the bad cancer cells and your good cells too so during week 2 I have a nurse come to my house every day at 4pm to inject me with a white blood cell booster. This injection also had some crazy side effects and I flipping hate needles.
What do you do with your time and how much television do you watch?
I still break the day up as a 9-5 working day. I usually get up before 9am and I either try and break my record for amount of time spent in the bath (did over 3 hours one day this week), or I spend time doing admin of posting wristbands, trying to sort insurance claims, sorting benefits. Then I take a 2 hour lunch break (because I’ve earnt it), then start ‘work’ again at 2pm which is looking for things to do in 2017 like finding a new job, writing my book, finding a way to travel the world on a budget of zero, seeing friends that come and visit me, or walking up a hill for the perfect sunset picture. After a tough day at the office its time for dinner, a bit of social media and then before you know it it’s time for bed. The television I watch is just Gogglebox and ‘SAS he who dares’ plus a bit of football when it’s on. I’m not into boxsets since watching Lost and calculating the amount of hours I’d spent of my life watching that. If the day is a slow starter then I have discovered that music is sometimes the answer with the same four songs on repeat that get me going. Really hope the neighbours don’t mind Mumford and sons, Coldplay and Elton John.
How am I ‘within myself’?
At the time of writing this I am no different to any other time to be honest, every day is a ten of course. I’m at a time in my life where I have been thrown a curve ball but it’s just a means to an end until I get going again. People keep telling me to be positive which I appreciate but I don’t have to be anything specifically. It’s not a case of looking in the mirror each day and say to myself “come on Af be positive.” If I had this ‘positivity in a bottle’ that I could sell then I would but I guess it’s just who I am, however rather than a positive potion in a bottle I have sold wristbands that say ‘you got this’ which is working for people just as much.
Now whether it is a learned trait I have grown over the years or a natural trait I was born with is an entirely different conversation but I’ll save that amount of detail for the book. I lost my hair this week and for a morning I was looking in the mirror thinking “crap I have really got it now, how the hell did this happen?” I could spend my days thinking why me and why now? I was living 50 metres from Copacobana beach in Rio de Janeiro with this beautiful Brazilian girl (sorry ladies) and about to travel the length of Brazil before heading to America. It was the first time I was unemployed since I was 16 years old and I have no income. I could think damn it I’ve had to have a testicle removed and I have a big old scar just under my belly (they pushed the ball up through and not out my ball bag) and my glorious body has changed for the rest of my life. I could think that, but I don’t.
Now instead of hostel hopping with my trusted backpack on the adventure of a lifetime I am regressing to being 12 years old again as I lay in bed with no pubic hair as my mum brings me pancakes in bed. But you know what, I love pancakes and I really love my mum!
People are inspiring me everyday and who knew the power that three little words ‘You got this’ would bring to people? Some of the messages I have received about this have made me speechless at times. I have realised this journey isn’t just about me, this is about you too. So far it has brought friendships and families closer, given people motivation and an answer to something they may have been searching for.
I’ve had people sign up to running races, go for job interviews, lift more at the gym, ask that girl out for a relationship they wanted, get back out of a relationship they didn’t want, book adventures, shave their hair off, climb mountains and even quit their jobs to pursue new careers.
Yeah it sucks I have to go through this but I know at the end of this it’s going to change everything for the better. What a time to be alive!
Here are the top ten reasons to say You Got This when you need that extra boost
10. It’s free
9. Gets you out of bed in the morning
8. It pushes you harder
7. You will never quit
6. Erases excuses
5. It’s infectious
4. Boosts your confidence
3. Reminds you to keep going
2. You won’t forget
1. You got this