On Friday 17th June I finally began the next part of my treatment, the part that everyone knows about and is often the first thing people think about when cancer is mentioned: Chemotherapy. If I was to have someone see into the future two months ago and they told me I will be on Chemotherapy at this point in my life, I’d have seriously laughed and brushed it off. It’s bizarre to think how far I’ve come already with my treatment when I was only actually diagnosed 16th May.
My treatment plan consists of Cetuximab and Oxaliplatin through a drip every fortnight then six tablets of Capecitabine a day for nine days after having the medications through a drip. So arriving at Clatterbridge at 10am on Friday morning, I was fully aware of the day I had ahead. I wondered, if I’m honest, how long it’d take for them to find a vein to put a cannula in before I could start my drip but it just so turned out that they hadn’t yet heard from my oncologist on whether I should be given a Picc Line or not. Now a Picc Line is a permanent line put into a vein to keep constant blood flow available and a constant stream for any fluids or medications if and when needed, these aren’t permanent but they can last up to 6 months whilst Cancer patients are undergoing a drip form of chemo (Diagram below).Since my oncologist hadn’t heard anything about me or my situation with my weak and thin veins, my opinion on the matter was asked. To cut a long story short, after a brief discussion and me expressing my favour towards wanting one so I’m not getting stabbed all over trying to find a vein, I was sent down almost immediately to get one fitted. It was a simple procedure, I could wear my own clothes while I rested on a bed with sterile sheets covering my top half. My nurse practitioner, Simon, walked me through everything so easily and made me feel so much at ease, he first used an ultrasound to find my vein and then gave me local anaesthetic which completely numbed the area from any pain. The only thing I actually did feel was a strange pop (which I don’t have a clue what that was as I couldn’t actually see anything with the sheets across my top half) and then when he took my blood to check it was working. Overall, as strange as this would sound, it was quite an enjoyable procedure. I spoke pretty much all the way through it to my dad, Simon and Zoe (a lady who came in half way through to assist Simon) which left me at ease and definitely made it worth, especially with the thought now that I’ll never have to wait around while doctors look for a vein able to support a cannula, they can literally just take my bandages off and hook it up to the machine.
Upon returning to my room, my chemotherapy wasn’t ready, leaving me with a bit of an anxious wait but one that was eventually broken up with a visit from two girls from Teenage Cancer Trust who came to introduce themselves. They let me know all the support groups they have for our ages, made me feel more than accommodated with explaining the ward to me, telling me about the gaming systems, kitchen for all my toast is making needs and different outings that are available to us. They got to know me and I got to know them and I felt quite welcomed, as if I had joined a club rather than just been given an automatic role by having the unfortunate diagnosis of Cancer. Eventually the conversation came to an end as it was time to get down to the serious stuff… The chemotherapy brief. In this I was warned of all the harsh realities, what to expect, how it would work and, of course, all the side effects. The major ones that were relayed to me where the side effects that affect people on Capecitabine, the side effect on which the cold makes your throat close up and your toes and fingers have (rather excruciating from my experience) pins and needles. Already I have experienced both these side effects and it certainly isn’t a laughing matter, especially the throat issue as it genuinely feels like my throat shrinks to more than half the size and is lined with sandpaper and bumps, making it extremely uncomfortable to swallow and drink. To soothe this, I was given the advice of hot drinks and a scarf wrapped round my mouth, which I have been doing religiously since Friday although today the cold didn’t affect me that much and I was able to have a small cold drink. The list of side effects went on, as well as a list of precautions we all need to take whilst on these drugs. When the conversation finally came to an end and I received all my informative books, it was time to start the Chemo… Or so I thought.
For some reason unknown to me, my chemotherapy hadn’t been mixed down in the pharmacy leaving me to wait indefinitely. I was knackered, eyes rolling in and out of consciousness as I battled to keep awake till finally, at around 4 they came and hooked me up. I can’t remember much as my fatigue caused me to not pay attention the whole time I was having treatment, in fact, I’m unsure if I muttered a word till it finally finished its course at approx. 9:30. Everything was pretty fuzzy during my discharge but I’m aware we got a McDonald’s drive thru on the way home and a hot chocolate. It was only come 2am I actually started to feel somewhat alive, as strange as that sounds.
So far since my start on Chemo, I’ve been feeling relatively alright with just a few side effects that I’ve been able to handle although now, I’m left extremely lethargic, feeling rather sorry for myself sat in bed. I feel weak and drained with the addition of a bit of nausea but what can I expect when I’m on Chemotherapy. I’ve been trying to get on with life as normal, which to be honest, I think I’ve accomplished so far but I think I’m going to take it upon myself to stay in my pyjamas all day tomorrow and have a long rest day, seen as everyday since my chemo I’ve been up and out walking about.
I don’t have much else to say other than what’s written above, not is just a waiting game to see how my body reacts to this Chemotherapy. With hope, this will at least shrink the tumours in order for me to be able to have a second surgery, that’s all I want, I’d do anything right now just to ensure that I can live.
Thank you for reading yet again, I hope it’s been informative and especially helped with anyone else who may be going through this and feel alone. More updates when I have them ☺️