Secretly hoping chemo would give me superpowers
There is no sugar coating what cancer patients have to endure, which is why I think it's important to show what a day in the chemo chair looks like, well for me anyway.
I had my chemo every week for 3 months, with another treatment every 3 weeks. The second part of my treatment, chemo was given every 2 weeks for another 3 months.
It is not just sitting in a chair, the build up to receiving chemo is also a process.
I want to share the day of my first ever chemo from start to finish:
Tests - Can I have it or not?
I had blood taken 3 days before my chemo was due to ensure my blood cells and neutrophils where at an acceptable level to be receiving the chemotherapy.
This time they were ok as I hadn't actually received chemo at this point. The tests were for my white blood cell count, red blood cell count and liver/kidney functions.
Going forward I had to have these tests every week and sometimes I couldn't have chemo because my blood count was too low and could put me seriously ill in hospital (happened a few times).
D-day - Morning
As you can imagine I didn't sleep much the night before, I sat on the end of my bed just preparing myself for what my body was about to endure.
What if I have a reaction, what if this kills me on my first go, how will Nevaeh take it?
I can honestly say I cannot remember the particulars before we made our way to the hospital but I do recall having a maccies breakfast and thinking, this is my last one for a while!
The things you remember!!
It took me a while to get out of the car and felt like a lifetime to get from the car park to the entrance of the lilac centre. The pressure of knowing you have to have this to save your life but it could potentially kill you was immense. I had no choice, I have a family who depend on me, I had to walk over that threshold.
Anyone who has had treatment will know the waiting times to actually get your daily dose can be hours. Your appointment could be at 9 in the morning but may not be seen until lunch time. The staff are so busy and the volume of patients they have to fit in one day is ridiculous. I waited roughly an hour, which during this time I put on a brave face for my husband and the women around me but inside I was a mess. Remember when you were a child and you lost your mum in the supermarket, the initial shock is enough to send anyone over the edge but I felt like this all morning.
I did eat half the bowl of sweets on the coffee table though. My excuse was I had to curb my sweet tooth, so needed to get it all in before!
Moment of truth - chemo cocktail
I was called through to one of three rooms to receive my treatment. The chairs were lilac and to be fair were comfy, most of all they reclined.
I always tried to choose a window seat, not so I could have a view but just in case I needed to run!
I was expecting to see women looking really poorly, no hair, head scarfs and just a sad atmosphere. It was the opposite, women laughing and chatting, even a man playing a guitar who was also receiving treatment.
The nurses were so lovely and I felt comfortable even though I was about to have poison run through my veins.
The process for my treatment was a cannula inserted into a vein in my hand (at this stage my veins were in a perfect condition), steroids in a syringe, two anti sickness tablets and saline to flush my veins through. The sickness tablets sent me into trance like state (I took advantage of the recliner), which felt amazing for about 5 minutes but then it was time to receive the drugs that was going to save my life.
I had my flush which lasted 20 minutes and then Lyndsey came over and hung the first bag of chemo beside me (patlitaxol). My heart was racing, I couldn't feel my fingers and I just wanted it over with. She said "ready Luc, this one is for an hour", then pushed the start button on the machine which gives the chemo intravenously through the drip. This chemo was clear in colour but I knew it had entered my veins because it was cold and made my whole arm tingle. I held my breath, waiting for my body to react but it didn't. The only thing I did notice was I must have gone to the toilet about 10 times in the space of an hour.
As a precaution they monitor your heart rate every 15 minutes and temperature to make sure you are not having a reaction.
I sat and read a magazine, laughed with Wayne, spoke with the other women and for a split second I forgot the substance flowing though my body was poison. Reality hit when the machine started to beep, my first treatment was up. I didn't have a reaction so far and I was still alive!
Lyndsey then brought over the other bag of chemo (carboplatin), which was to be given for another hour. The fear of the unknown crept back up on me, what if I react to this one? This chemo was a lot stronger, which is why I was only having it every 3 weeks.
She started the drip, again I held my breath and still no reaction. My hands did turn red for a minute and my toes tingle but nothing major.
I was offered tea and biscuits (these people were volunteers and always made us laugh), I felt at home with these professionals which made my time I spent there bearable.
The treatment finished, the machine beeped and Lyndsey said "your all done". I couldn't believe my body had just taken all that poison and I was still standing. This set the precedence for each week I turned up.
Canular taken out, next appointment booked for the following week, blood form, anti sickness tablets, steroids and off we went to go pick Nevaeh up from school.
That night I was buzzing, I was up and down going to the toilet, couldn't sleep for love or money and my whole body shook. I felt like I had taken a whole pack of pro plus with 20 red bulls. The steroids kept me up all night and did so for a further two nights.
I was expecting to have my head in the toilet all night and feeling rough, however it was the complete opposite, my body took to it very well and even in the morning I felt normal. This did change half way through as my body was receiving a lot more chemo and it did take its toll.
I am very thankful for my oncologist who chose my treatment plan because if I didn't receive this chemo, it may be a different story today. The nurses were amazing and I believe they do not get enough recognition.
Cancer survivors struggle everyday with life after chemo. It was my routine for 6/7 months and when that is taken away from you, it's hard to get back on the saddle. Almost like a grieving process.
Here's to all those who have lost their battle.. to those who still continue to fight.. and to those who have survived.