So…in 2 days time I will be climbing Ben Nevis.
When my timehop reminded me that this time last year I hadn’t even finished my chemo it made me realise how quickly things can change, for the better and for the worse. When I was diagnosed with cancer I was focused on the fact that “this time last week, life was normal” I couldn’t believe how quickly I had gone from a healthy 36 year old to a full blown cancer patient. Surgeries were coming thick and fast, then the dreaded chemo, then more surgery. It was just a whirlwind.
But here I am, less than one year later ready to take on the highest mountain in the UK!
As things move on, I’ve forgotten (or forced from my memory) the experience of chemo. But as more and more reminders pop up, I decided to read back over my blog. I started the blog in the hope it would help other people going through the same thing. It was honest. Propbably not the most optimistic, but honest. Now I feel I owe it to people going through cancer to show that things can get better. I don’t recognise the person I’m reading about. I could never have imagined in those dark days that I’d feel well enough to take on this challenge.
In a blog post from September last year I said “The weight is dropping off rapidly. While this would usually be very welcome, now it just makes me look and feel more weak and frail. I promise myself that when I can use my body again I will be joining classes and getting my body strong and fit. No ditching glorious food for a skinny waif look and no boring workouts just to drop a few pounds, I want to actually be fit and strong.” I meant it at the time, but as with all the things you say in the depths of despair, they don’t always come to fruition! But I definitely have not been ditching glorious food and have piled the weight back on. And although I get more tired than I used to, I can handle it.
The reason I’m doing the challenge for Kicks Count is that even though the cancer was tough, really tough, it didn’t compare to how hard it was to lose a baby. So it only seems right that I use whatever strength I do have to prevent others suffering that pain. If you would like to support my trek you can sponsor me here: Justgiving.com/fundraising/missybennevis
Here’s a look back at what was happening this time last year…
Chemo 1- It was the day of chemo and in true Cinderella style, as the clock struck midnight, my stomach turned from a respectable organ to a volcano spewing out bile lava! Luckily this time we were
prepared. I had my bucket. I knew lying on the cold bathroom floor helped. My mum had her phone switched on (miracle!) so I could text the word “help”. Although she was so on the ball she heard me get up so she popped up like a jack in the box just as I hit send. Heart attack. Just what I need! I knew what I needed this time. Last time I was asking for random things, trying anything to get the taste out of my mouth, settle my stomach and not offend my wayward taste buds.
Chemo 2 – Sunday I was a bit tired but on the whole feeling pleased as punch I wasn’t suffering as badly as before! Then Monday hit.
And I mean HIT.
Like a 2 tonne sledgehammer. I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t lift my head. I couldn’t get out of bed. Kids needed to get to school but luckily they were being picked up. I just had to get them dressed. So from my bed I shouted out a shameless bribe “If you get yourselves ready, you can have biscuits with breakfast!” They went down and made their own breakfast and I could hear laughing and merriment coming from the kitchen. To this day I have no idea what they ate for breakfast. And I really don’t care. They ate and got to school. Job done.
As the day wore on my body got heavier and heavier. Like my blood was turning to lead. I wasn’t awake for much of the day but when I was awake I couldn’t move. I was thirsty and saw a bottle of water next to me on the bed. But I couldn’t lift my arm to get it. I just stared at it…for hours. Literally hours. My parents also came for a visit. Not that I really knew anything about it. I was asleep and occasionally heard pottering downstairs as my mum sorted out the havoc that had been created by 3 days of immobility. When I did flop down the stairs like a drunk slinky my mum was impressed I was dressed. I shamefully had to admit I hadn’t ‘got’ dressed….I was too tired yesterday to change so just slept in my jeans and tshirt. What she was seeing was Monday’s ‘getting dressed’ effort!
Chemo 4- It was bed from day 1. I had very limited use of my legs but could get from the bed to sofa once a day and back again at night. Unfortunately I couldn’t hold my head up so needed to stay horizontal at all times. It was also very different to the feeling after EC, I didn’t have the brain fog I had with that. My brain still seemed to be functioning. Which was strange as my brain wanted to do things but my body wouldn’t let it. It was amazingly frustrating. I didn’t realise how beneficial it was having a non working brain while recovering from Chemo!
As it was my brain was working overtime, worrying about things, thinking about things, getting in a right state about all thats gone on and all thats to come. All things considered to this point, overall it wasn’t better or worse than the previous rounds. Just different.
Then day 3 happened.
The pains started. A pain I couldn’t really describe, it kind of felt like thousands of elves hammering at my bones. It would run all down my back and through my legs. I tried to take pain killers but my throat was killing. After having to take around 20 tablets a day, the inside of my throat felt bruised, trying to get anything else down there was like trying to ram a cherry down a straw. I tried topical creams, hot water bottles, heat pads, massage belts, nothing worked.
For several days I laid in bed in pain, too tired to move and too tired to speak. My sister came to visit and we just sat side by side watching modern family, I couldn’t really speak but it was nice to have her there! I would lie in bed feeling so miserable. I hadn’t been able to move properly for nearly a week. I had been lying in bed or on the sofa, usually in the dark as I couldn’t open the curtains, contemplating life, feeling very sorry for myself, reminiscing about 6 months ago before any of this started. I couldn’t for one second imagine doing this again, let alone twice more. Everyone around me is so excited I’m half way through chemo whereas I can’t believe I’m ONLY half way through. Feeling like this once was like a hell I couldn’t describe. Anyone that says I “only” have 2 more clearly is not listening to me.
After a week of feeling like death, this was supposed to be the time I started to feel better. Unfortunately something I didn’t think possible happened….I got worse. I started to get fevers and shakes to add to my repertoire of horrendous chemo symptoms. I still couldn’t hold my head up and started to worry about going to sleep. My breathing had become so laboured I was worried if I wasn’t consciously breathing my body would give up!
As I’m lying in bed the elves hammering at my bones bring out another weapon….liquid nitrogen. My entire body feels like it’s frozen from the inside. I start to shiver which makes the aches even worse. I cover myself in as many blankets as I can reach but nothing makes me feel warm. Then suddenly out of nowhere it feels like I’ve been set on fire. I start sweating and can’t cool down. Sweat starts pouring from my head and down my back. I frantically kick off all the covers and spread out but nothing. I take my temperature 39.1. I reach to my pile of pills and take 2 nurofen. My head feels like it’s going to explode, I can’t take it any more. Following Dr’s orders I ended up in A&E that evening (thank you Sarah!) begging for something to be done.
I couldn’t hold myself up to check in so was sent straight through while my mum gave my details. I laid across the chairs making strange whining noises. I don’t know what the noises were achieving but if felt like the pain just had to get out somehow. They ran tests, took X Ray’s and admitted me for the night. Sadly nothing. They believe I’d developed an infection but couldn’t pinpoint where. After being wheeled from pillar to post, pumped full of drugs and used as a pin cushion, I was allowed home the following day but I still felt no better. I was able to be pushed in a wheelchair which was progress from having to be permanently horizontal I guess but not much!
As soon as I was home though it was back to the horizontal sofa position with a 7 day prescription of anti biotics, more tablets to try and squeeze down my bruised throat! And they were the size of horse tranquillisers! The children were back from their holiday and I desperately wanted to be back to normal or at least be able to speak to them. I tried to fake it as much as I could but I just didnt have the energy. On Sunday things started to get worse again.
I couldn’t believe this was 10 days post chemo and I was still in so much pain, still couldn’t move, breathe, eat. It was back to A&E where I continued to baffle them with what was causing the fevers. I did however discover the beauty of IV paracetamol! For the second time this week I was admitted into hospital for tests and IV drugs. My biggest fear at this point was delaying the next chemo. The last 6 months have been gearing towards the last chemo day. I want it over as soon as possible, the thought of delaying it just fills me with more dread.
There is only a week until the next chemo is due and at the moment I don’t see how I’m going to make it. After another 24 hours of antibiotics my oncologist comes to see me. Despite feeling like death my white blood cells show I should be able to go ahead with the next chemo. Now its just a battle to try and get some good days in before the next onslaught.
I interspersed reflecting on cancer with reflecting on my life in general. What was important to me? How much time was I wasting on things that didn’t matter to me? What was I neglecting in my life? I realised the things that mattered to me were Kicks Count, family and friends (in no particular order!) Having taken a step back from the charity during treatment, my passion behind kicks count was reignited when, just before my last chemo session, my dear friend tragically lost her baby boy. Being back in that world, even only as a visitor, I felt the pain all over again. The pictures, the house full of flowers, the tears, it all reminded me how horrific stillbirth is. I may have been lying in pain but it was physical pain, a walk in the park compared to that emotional pain. It fired me up and made me feel like I could conquer the world, save even more lives!
So here I am, heading up to Scotland to do my bit. I’ve got to take the opportunity while I can because as I can confirm, you never know whats just around the corner.