A Curious Case of Chemotherapy No.2

 

It’s the first month of 2019, and this year’s very first snow has dropped all over the streets tonight. Watching the snowfall in the garden reminded me of the early months of 2018, where I started the Chemotherapy. So here I am, continuing on my unfinished story of Chemotherapy.

 

Little did I know about the side effects of Paclitaxel, but soon I got to experience them all together.

IMG_3696The day after my first chemotherapy & Herceptin, I had extremely hot red cheeks that lasted a couple of days. Also muscles and joints started aching, especially around my pelvis and down to the legs. I had acknowledged that the physical trauma from the past traffic accident would become worse as a part of chemotherapy side effects before it happened; so it wasn’t much of a surprise. In addition, I felt fragile probably due to the immunity gone down. Though, I was relieved that the symptoms of Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome had improved a lot.
One of the things that I really really struggled with was the fact that I was NO LONGER capable of many things. Being physically unable/restricted led me into some sort of a spiral of negative emotions. I was sad. I was lonely. I thought, nobody truly understood nor wanted to know about the pain. There were a lot of tears and sleepless nights, because of physical pain as well as emotional pain.

 

On Valentine’s day I started losing hair.

I had been checking if I was losing hair during every shower since the first chemotherapy, and the moment arrived at last. I went through my hair with fingers, and unlike the past couple of weeks, clumps of hair fell out in my hands. The scalp became really sore too, as if someone was pulling my hair out. My hair slowly but continuously fell out over the next few months until all of it was gone, along with the facial & body hair.

 

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There were quite a lot of odd/one-off side effects along the way as well.

One night after the chemotherapy, my face went all yellow and my heart felt funny. My suspects were Jaundice and Angina by the symptoms. Much later on the course I had diarrhoea with severe tummy aches and got spots on my face; those random side effects threw me off indeed. Though, I never lost my appetite, which I am grateful for.

Another thing that I struggled with was what happened during the chemotherapy. The chemosuite is absolutely chockablock, I never saw a nurse that wasn’t running around in the suite. Sadly there were always too many patients waiting for their chemotherapy to be done. So a delay by hours was the norm. When I got to eventually receive the medication, I sometimes needed replacing the canula multiple times due to the old one not working or pausing the machine because I had bad reactions.

 

As I got weaker and sadder with chemotherapy,

I became to get angry often with people around me. Their encouragements sounded like empty promises, giving me false hope. I felt like nobody actually knew anything.  I was utterly miserable. I grew sick and tired of endless visits to the hospital and hours of waiting for something that was causing me all sorts of pain. Some days I stayed in the hospital from 8am to 5pm, where I got upset beyond containable.

 

In all this, I only managed to stay sane thanks to those who kept showing their love to me.

There were times that I flashed at Dan for something that wasn’t his fault. There were times that I woke him up in the middle of the night because I was in pain, or simply couldn’t sleep. There were times that Dan gave up on his own desires and plans for me. Without him, I would have been much much worse off.

Also I am really blessed to have friends and family close and far, who helped me through out this dark tunnel of Chemo. I cannot thank them enough for their words, presents and prayers.

Lastly I cannot imagine how I would have passed everyday without my dear dog, Maple. She got me out EVERY DAY without a fail. There were a number of days when I seriously didn’t want to get out of bed, yet I did get out of bed and house. All for Maple’s daily walks- and some fresh air. And most times, I felt so much better out walking.

 

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After 12 weeks on and off medication due to my immunity issue, my oncologist decided that the chemotherapy was doing more harm than good. So my chemotherapy journey ended in May.

Though I am still receiving Herceptin, with the last one coming up on 25th of January. So the other half of the cancer treatment journey still continues.

 

Breast-cancer-ribbon-coloring-sheet-clipartThanks for reading my blog,
and I hope this raises awareness of breast cancer in young women.

If you would like to help more people beat cancer sooner, please click this pink ribbon! It will lead you to Cancer Research UK website 🙂

I will see you in my next blog.

Bless you all!

H xx

A Curious Case of Chemotherapy No.1

For the last few months I have been putting it off to write about chemotherapy. It is mainly because writing about it brings up the unpleasant memories of the side effects. I had put everything about chemotherapy in a box, covered the lid, put a pad lock on and pushed it into a far corner of my mind palace.

Perhaps, however, now is the time to open up this curious case of chemotherapy I went through.

The beginning of the case goes all the way back to the first consultation with my oncologist in January 2018.

 

indiikid curious case of chemotherapy 1

 

Dan and I were in the consultation room listening to the doctor on his plan for me. His plan was a little different from what I had heard from my friends; I would receive a milder version of chemotherapy every week, instead of once every three weeks. And there would be another, rather main treatment called Herceptin. It would be injected in my thigh once every three weeks.

The reason I am receiving Herceptin as my main treatment is because I have HER2 and oestrogen positive breast cancer.

For those who are interested in HER2 and Herceptin, I have a brief explanation taken from Cancer Research UK;

Some breast and stomach cancers have large amounts of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). They are called HER2 positive cancers. HER2 makes the cancer cells grow and divide.

Herceptin is a treatment for cancers that have large amounts of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), such as early breast cancer, advanced breast cancer & advanced stomach cancer
(https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/cancer-drugs/drugs/trastuzumab)

didyouknow2

Giving me a list of the potential side effects, my oncologist told me that most patients had not lost their hair with Paclitaxel: the type of chemotherapy I would receive. So I was quite hopeful then…. or optimistic.

In early February I had my first chemotherapy session.

If I am being absolutely honest with you, I was half anxious and half excited about getting chemotherapy. Mainly because I thought it would be a special experience, something new and challenging; and I would be able to relate to more people around me.

I would be able to understand, what it’s like to have gone through chemotherapy.

 

 

With those emotions hidden inside me,

IMG_3696I successfully managed the first dose of Paclitaxel. It was far more manageable thanks to Dan sitting next to me for the whole time. The nurses let your partner stay with you on your first chemotherapy session- which I found very helpful.

After receiving the Herceptin & Paclitaxel, I became really tired to the level that I couldn’t even sit up on the sofa. I felt so weak, lethargic and too tired to eat or drink. Interestingly, however, I did not feel any side effect; perhaps because I was already in pain with Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome from egg retrieval.

For the next two weeks, I managed two more sessions of chemotherapy, which marked the first quarter of my chemo journey. Sadly, the “no side effect” trend did not last long.

 

Breast-cancer-ribbon-coloring-sheet-clipartThanks for reading my blog,
and I hope this raises awareness of breast cancer in young women.

If you would like to help more people beat cancer sooner, please click this pink ribbon! It will lead you to Cancer Research UK website 🙂

I will see you in my next blog.

Bless you all!

H xx

 

A Little Story About The Op

It felt quite odd when it was only few days left till the operation. I started having a lot of flash backs from my last hospital visit, which had been a life changing experience.

 

To briefly give you an idea,

I was involved in a traffic accident in 2013. It left me with multiple fractures in my pelvis and internal bleeding. I was imminently sent to the Queens Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham and thanks to their care, I was discharged 10 days after the accident.

I remembered having felt very unwell in the QMC, due to staying in bed without mobility and energy to even eat and having to take drugs so often. And of course, the pain… the very sharp memory of unbelievable pain sprung up in my head; which bothered me in my sleep a couple of nights before the operation.

However, the experience also gave me a helping hand in a number of aspects, which all pointed to positivity. Having been through one major surgery before, I felt pretty comfortable with the mastectomy and reconstruction operation. Also being mobile soon after the surgery made me feel more independent, able and confident than I had been in 2013.

At 9 O’Clock in the morning,

I was at the Medical Physics department to get an injection with this radio-active fluid, to track this one lymph node that cancer might have reached before everything else. My surgeon planned to take that lymph node for the biopsy, in order to see if cancer spread beyond my breast. It was not the most pleasant experience, but something that you would just want to get over with as quick as possible.

With my lovely parents in law joining me and Dan few hours later, it was time for me to head to the ward and get ready for the operation. Changing into the hospital gown and pulling up the white compression stockings up my calves, I tried to get myself mentally ready too.

It’s almost there, it will be done before I know, it will be all ok.

 

Watch B:W

 

I think it’s a rule,

that you need a tag around your wrist before going in to the theatre. Unfortunately though, one of the nurses forgot to give me the tag. So when the Anaesthetist was confirming all the information about my op, including my identification, he found out I was on loose.

So the tag hunt began.

The poor student nurse lady had to go everywhere to print my tag while I was having a nice chat about dogs with the Anaesthetist in the waiting room. She came back with one after a good few minutes, but it was a wrong one. Hence she had to go out again to print the right one. After another good few minutes she came back with great frustration on her face. With despair and desperation, she said…

“All the printing machines broke… can I please do hand write the tag?”

The Anaesthetist agreed, as she really tried her best for the last half an hour to get me this identity tag.

So she was back with the hand written tag- but on the wrong side of the wrist band! I could not put the wrist band together without making it so loose that it would fall through my hand. I felt so sorry for the lady. After some banter, the Anaesthetist decided to go with it as the op had been delayed quite a bit already. He told me not to drop the tag as we were walking to the theatre. I think we really had a good laugh there, which helped me relax.

 

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After the op,

I remember waking up in the recovery room. I was still half unconscious, but started talking to the nurse looking after me. I asked her questions like her name and made silly jokes as if I was drunk… embarrassing!!!!

Having my family waiting for me in the ward was my highlight of that day. It was so good to see everyone there.

 

There are few things I struggled with over night, after the op.

First. Sore throat
I couldn’t speak very well for the rest of the evening and had irritation in my throat. I was coughing a bit as well. It lasted about a week which was very annoying. Though, a pack of Ricola from the breast unit was very helpful.

Second. Bladder problem
It was so funny but also frustrating when I really needed to go to the loo, but had no results. Apparently it’s just feeling. It got better overnight as I tried multiple times, I think my body just needed time to wake up a little bit to function properly.

Third. Sickness
Everytime I got up to go to the loo I felt instantly sick and needed the sick bowl by my side. One time it was so bad, I sat by a window to have some fresh air. Then my whole body started to shake. I felt absolutely terrible. The nurses kept giving me anti-sickness injection every few hours over night so I could sleep.

I think they were all due to the anaesthesia and were only temporary. PHEW!

If you get to go through general anaesthetics I hope this gives you a rough idea of what to expect. Mind you, it may be dependent on individual physicality.

 

Breast-cancer-ribbon-coloring-sheet-clipartThanks for reading my blog,
but I hope this raises awareness of breast cancer in young women.

If you would like to help more people beat cancer sooner, please click this pink ribbon! It will lead you to Cancer Research UK website 🙂

I will see you in my next blog.

Bless you all!

H xx

 

18 months to an independence

Long have I waited for this moment; I am a fully licensed driver at last!

It took 18 months from my hubby dragging me to my first driving lesson to my first independent drive. I know it is a very long time, as some of my friends passed their driving test after less than 10 hours of lessons. How many hours of lessons did I need? Somewhere between 30 and 50 is my guess. Oh and I took 3 driving tests.

For the past 18 months, I had to face quite a lot of challenges: small, big, and critical ones.

 

Finding the motivation was the first challenge.

I was pretty happy not being able to drive. I didnt find it particularly inconvenient either as I never had that convenience before. So it was very difficult to find a reason to try; my hubby did find a few reasons though.

Being able to drive means you have more independence, especially if you live in a countryside.

The public transport is very limited around where I live, and I only have a 4 hour window a day to go out because of my lovely puppy. Hence, I needed my hubby for the weekly grocery shops, hospital appointments, vet appointments and so on.

Talking about how difficult it is for me to do all the businesses without his help, Dan, my dear husband, also suggested it would be even more difficult when we have a child. Fair enough, I agreed. So I booked, no actually, Dan booked a driving lesson for me.

 

Tripping over the trauma

The first 15 lessons, if not more, were an intense mental fight against my trauma.

I got hit by a lorry in the past; so driving in front of, next to, behind a lorry was a incredibly terrifying. I screamed a few times, and prayed many many times. Aggressive drivers got my nerves too, of course.

I still do not feel completely comfortable driving around those cars, but at least I don’t get any panic attack anymore. Progress!

 

Walking over my own failure

I found it so hard when I made mistakes during the lessons. Roundabouts, junctions, meets, gears and mirrors… The message “People make mistakes all the time” took a while to properly sink in, but eventually I understood it and learnt to embrace my mistakes.

However, failing the driving test was something else. It is a not a mistake, it is FAIL.

I don’t like taking tests in general; I become super anxious and a little overwlemed by the pressure, especially when I want a perfect score. That’s probably most time.

The first test was horrendous. “Unfortunately, you weren’t successful.” I was very upset and angry, because I thought I could pass! The second test was booked straight away.

The second test was better, but I made the same major mistake. This time again, I thought I could pass so was very disheartened. I also felt ashamed.

Failing once is acceptable, but twice?! My confidence was knocked down. Oh gosh, maybe I am not supposed to drive.

Though I still had courage to book another one later that month.

 

Relatable stories as encouragements

Everytime I failed, lots of people gave me a piece of advice. Some helped, and some didn’t.

Advices that didn’t help me at all were like, “Go for a drive lots, get used to the roads”. I had been driving for the past 18 months, I knew why I failed and how I could improve. I know they gave me adives because they cared, but good intensions do not always come across as good deeds.

It gave me more encouragement when I talked to people who had failed their driving test(s) in the past. “Don’t worry, I took 3 times too.” “That’s ok, most people fail at least once.” “Someone I know took 5 times.”

I have to mention, Dan encouraged me more than anyone in this and he was the one who had closely wathed me progress in my driving. So his words were empowering. “It’s ok, just keep going until you pass.” “I believe in you.” “You will get it next time.”

“You are a good driver.”

After a number of drivng lessons and practices, and 3 driving tests, now I am an independent, fully licensed, driver.

I am glad to finally have closed this 18-month long chapter and opened a new one.

If you have failed your driving test(s), and are disheartened by it… I do understand how you feel… it’s horrible! But remember, you are a good driver. Keep going until you get it. You will get it.

 

Love,

xx