STORIES Breast Cancer Awareness Back to the chemo The last week has seen 4 hospital visits but nothing very exciting. There was one dash to A&E with the symptoms of neutropenic sepsis which had a hint of excitement, but turned out to be my daughters sikness bug. Cheers for that! It’s pretty pointless telling a chemo patient to avoid germs and bugs when said patient is a mother! Unless I kick my two germ sponges out until chemo finishes I’m afraid germs will feature quite heavily in my routine! 2 other hospital visits were blood tests and a pre-chemo assessment. Definitely no excitement there! Then today was chemo day. There was a slight bit of excitement as I passed a Doctor in the hall who looked more like he belonged in One Direction than a cancer centre but the excitement was short lived as I then arrived at the checking in desk. I was dreading this day! I have been back and forth about whether to try another cold cap. My hair has been coming out in droves, but still covers the scalp. Do I try and keep it another few weeks?? Ive come to terms with losing the hair, Ive got the wig sorted, but theres still a niggling feeling I should try once more. When I got in to the bay I was offered my choice of seat…seat 15 by the cold cap, or 8 without. 15 or 8, 15 or 8. I felt like a wimbledon umpire, my head darting between the two. But as my head was vacillating at break neck speed my legs were marching their way to chair 15. I felt I was being dragged away from a forbidden lover. I so wanted a cold cap free treatment but something was stopping me. Something was drawing me towards the torture device. The vanity is strong. Sitting down with all the painful memories flooding back, I have come to realise cold cap is the cancer equivalent of childbirth. Absolute agony at the time, going through it swearing “never again!” And then as time passes you forget the pain and just see this beautiful bundle in front of you. (Or in this case a slightly thinning mop of half dyed hair.) I was sat effectively conceiving baby number 2. Confident I’ve done it once I can do it again. The pain can’t be as bad as I remember surely?? Then it starts and….oh shit. What am I doing?? Unlike a birth, I wasn’t committed. It’s impossible to say as a baby’s head is crowning that you give up (although I guarantee most of us tried!) I could however have taken the cold cap off at any point. But I haven’t got my stubborn, pig headed reputation by giving up! So my obstinate personality had committed for me. This thing was staying on. Luckily like the actual births of my children, the second went much more smoothly than the first! It still hurt but I think knowing what was coming helped immensely. I was prepared. I put my music on, focused and ploughed through! Unfortunately this time the whole chemo process took an extra hour so my head was really put through its paces! Half way through the second (of 5) syringes, my veins started to burn. As this could be a sign that the underlying tissue is being damaged we had to stop and re site the needle. Sounds nice and simple right? Nooooooooo As I’ve now had the cold cap on for an hour my whole body is freezing cold and my veins are like threads of cotton! Don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get a needle into a piece of cotton but I gather it’s tricky. So first we have to warm up my arm to be able to puff up the vein and get a needle in. I’m left with a warm pad on my arm while the nurse goes to administer someone else’s chemo. By the time she’s done there my arm is toasty and my head is like ice. My poor body can’t know it’s arse from its elbow! An hour behind schedule and the chemo drugs are finally done. Now just the hour and half with the cold cap on to go. No clock watching this time though, I’ve zoned out enough I’m just going to go with the flow. Removing the cold cap, Again, it wasn’t frozen to my head as we’d expected so we still aren’t sure it’s worked. But I know I’ve got my wig at home so I’m not as dejected as before. I’m satisfied I’ve given it my best shot, there’s nothing more I can do. Just wait and see. The wig is poised ready for action! We eventually leave and I feel exhausted but not as morose as last time. I think knowing this will pass and with a few days rest I’ll be fighting fit again mean I’m not as depressed this time. Last time it felt like the end of the world and I had no idea how long this would last. I didn’t know if I’d feel like that for the next 6 months, or forever. It was just all so unknown. This time it just feels like an inconvenience in my weekly plans I think the problem, ironically, was positive thinking. I heard so many stories before chemo about people who had been through it ‘fine’ ‘no problem’ that I went skipping in thinking it would be a doddle. And ended up getting a sledgehammer in the nuts. I think if more people said “it’s bloody horrendous” then actually it wouldn’t have been such a shock. It’s classic sales, ‘under promise over deliver’ (maybe my retail degree wasn’t so wasted!) My advice if you know someone about to go through chemo isn’t to tell them about people you know who had no problems with chemo (remembering there’s a possibility they’re putting on a brave front and lying!). Allow them to prepare for it being horrendous. Allow them to contemplate the side effects and make preparations for them. Let them find out for themselves if its not too bad. While no one will ever know until the first session exactly how they’ll cope, I really wish I’d had more reasonable expectations. Now I’m gearing up for a rough night but hoping the additional anti sickness drugs Ive been given will keep it at bay!