I cannot quite believe that I have written 22 posts and am only just beginning to share the actual treatment process with you ("We can!" I hear you cry, "Get a bloody move on!"). Talk about procrastination. However there is method in my madness. The idea being that by the time I have finished this tome they will have found a cure for cancer and we all get to have that "even in the face of adversity" happy ending we all love and my blog ends on a Richard Curtis feel-good factor flourish where Hugh Grant with all his fumbles, awkwardness and humbleness still gets the amazing, quirky, beautiful girl against all the odds! And keeping with the Richard Curtis theme what could we call the film version of my blog? "8 Chemos and a Lumpectomy" or "Cancer, Actually". But there I go digressing yet again...
So the journey begins. First on my list of able helpers is one of my oldest (in duration of time known NOT age) friends, Jo. When I sent my round robin email and text request for designated drivers she was the first to respond. Actually I think she even offered before I asked. She was also keen that having experienced this with another of her friends first hand that she would like to come with me to the first one. I gratefully accepted.
And how glad I am to have her with me. We have been through lots together over the years. Our families were friends before I was even born so she is like family to me and like family we've had our ups and downs. We've shared pivotal moments which are firmly locked in my memory bank, but also had times punctuated by fall outs, misunderstandings and downright belligerence! However those were in our younger more impetuous days and because of that shared history right now right here I wouldn't want to be with anyone else.
We come into the chemotherapy suite reception and are greeted by a highly excitable receptionist who is agitated about one thing or another. I use the word 'greeted' lightly as it was more of a look of complete shock and disbelief that someone might be coming into a chemo suite reception intending to have some chemotherapy (maybe even pretending they needed it...) Bizarre that! And the reason I say that is I'm asked whether I'm in the right place, whether I'm sure on the date and a number of other what can only be classed as 'trick questions' - all of this happening when I can see my name clearly on the list. What has flumuxed her is that I am quite early. Jo is a stickler for punctuatilty and it could be said that I struggle with the concept at times so she has factored in a lot of 'wriggle' time for us to proverbially 'wriggle' and not as I would probably do left to my own devices which would be to turn up in a hot sweaty mass of apology and confusion. However our 'wriggle' time is interpreted by our erstwhile receptionist as less 'wriggle' more fucking up the carefully orchestrated list in front of her and it doesn't make her wriggle but actually squirm!
Now I know it can't be an easy job having to work in a stressful environment with very sick people demanding attention, cavalier doctors in a wave of white coats sweeping through the ward throwing out edicts to overworked, harassed and undervalued nursing staff. However that scenario cannot be further from the truth in what is actually an oasis of calm. It's my fevered imagination running off again having glimpsed at one too many episodes of Casualty or Holby City. It really isn't like that at all and in all my time attending the hospital I never once saw a glimpse of any shenanigans between the aforementioned doctors and nurses of a less medical more than friends nature! But who knows what was going on in the private chemotherapy suite above! The only person causing waves within this still oasis was our whirlwind of a receptionist.
However over the next 16 weeks of coming here every two weeks I got use to her and actually found her dramas and angst highly entertaining. I think actually it was all a ruse to take us chemotherapy patients' minds off of what lay ahead. If that was the case she excelled and was NHS money most definitely well spent!
But on this first occasion it is quite disconcerting and a little alarming. However once she has located me on her list and this particular drama has been abated we wait patiently for my name to be called. As waiting rooms go it is actually a really nice one - bright and airy. It also has a really nice selection of hot drinks for which you make a small donation towards the cost. You can even help yourself to the different varieties of ice pops in the small freezer which has proven to be vital to many during this particular cycle of chemo. But I'll come back to that later...
As the waiting room begins to fill up I am soon very quickly surrounded by people at differing stages of treatment and in most cases accompanied by someone. Some are bright, chatty and very funny. Others are more withdrawn, quiet and reserved. Some look really good and it's difficult to know who is the patient and who is the friend or family member. Some people look like the way I imagined and had seen cancer patients look in films or TV - pale, withdrawn and quite clearly unwell. But again in this world of cancer there is no one consistent picture or image. People deal with this differently and each person has their own tolerance levels and in turn will fare differently with their treatment plan. People come and go and suddenly I hear my name being called.
Up until this point I had tried to keep calm and not think about what lay beyond those swing doors. However when my name is called the reality of what is about to happen kicks in and I am suddenly really scared. I know I have to do this, but I am frightened of not knowing what is going to happen to me and how I'm going to feel and if it will even work. All those old feelings of anger, resentment and fear that I suppressed since after those first few weeks following diagnosis are crystal clear and bubbling up to the surface again. This fucking disease. My mind is reeling.
My friend picks up on my anxiety and squeezes my hand tightly as we get up. I want to slow time down to capture and keep this moment before everything changes forever. I want someone to rush in and say there's been a mistake and they've got the wrong person and my naughty left tit isn't so naughty after all and was just winding us all up. But no-one is coming to save me from what's behind those doors. "It's just you and the chemo, kid", I think to myself (and no I'm not referring to a super hero or a cowboy, though right at that moment I wish I was). I take a deep breath, steel myself and push open the double doors.
As I walk through the door I am overwhelmed by all the emotions that I have been feeling up until the point and suddenly I feel like I have turned into Charles Bronson in Death Wish or Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry or better still Arnie Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (all the original ones of course!). Fuck you cancer. I'm coming to get you.
Hasta la vista baby...