Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Is that all for little ol' me???

The following is written retrospectively and NOT in real time. I am currently two years in remission and intend to be so for the foreseeable future...

So the treatment begins (thank god for that, I hear you say, maybe the end is nigh...literally!). I return to the chemo suite where I had my induction. The room is half full with people either waiting to start treatment for the day or in the process of having it. The atmosphere is calm and quite peaceful, although this could seem to be the case because of the whirlwind of the reception area I've just come from!

This is NOT an accurate portrayal of any of my chemo nurses!

I scan the room looking at all the other patients assembled here. I'm wondering if I did the right thing by delaying starting. Maybe if I had started with the other inductees last week I might have a bit of camaraderie about the whole thing. Like we were all in this together instead of feeling like an outsider looking in.

A nurse comes up to me and asks me where I'd like to sit. My mind is whirling and I resist the urge to say "Anywhere else but here, love!". As I look around trying to find an empty seat (who'd have thought this was the place to be!) I decide on a spot on the other side of the room which seems less conjested. 
It is lovely and bright on that side of the room too and I can't quite understand why others have chosen to sit away from the light (but is something I do come to understand as treatment progresses, but again another tale for another post...) 

There are different types of chairs available. There are armchair types of chairs. There are reclining chairs with padded headrests. There are a couple of what look like massage tables. I decide that the armchair style looks good as not sure I can be trusted in a recliner type as it has a control pad and I am bound to end up pressing the wrong button at the wrong time (which is actually very perceptive of me because yes, you've guessed it, there is a future post about just such a situation...). I am intrigued by all these different types of seating. Who uses what and in what order? Have I chosen the wrong chair, will I regret my choice of chair, are all those sitting on the other side there for a reason? Are they all exchanging knowing glances with each other silently acknowledging to one another that I've made a terrible choice. While this ridiculous dialogue is taking place in my over active, over thinking and completely over the top mind the same nurse comes back with a clip board and thankfully breaks me from my crazy meanderings. 

She asks me to confirm my name and date of birth. She then asks me what I am there for which completely throws me off centre. I resist the urge to say a pedicure or to respond by saying, "Well if you don't know how the hell am I meant to." I then start thinking, "Is it a trick question or do I have a choice?" Oh god. I want my brain to just switch off. Suddenly I can't start this treatment quick enough if it will slow down my 'runaway-train-which-is about-to-crash-brain' and stop the persistent unanswered questions swirling around my head. I tentatively answer with more of a question, "For chemotherapy?". She smiles and I suppose ticks it off her list of questions. There is no explanation as to why she has asked me what seems to me to be a bleeding pointless question so I come to the conclusion that for legal purposes she needs to confirm that I am really not expecting a pedicure! 

She then passes me a questionnaire which consists of a series of questions about how I am currently feeling. Over the next 16 weeks I am asked the same set of question to see how I fare under the treatment. However at this point I speed through the questions. I'm feeling fucking fantastic I want to write so you've all made a monumental mistake because if I had this cancer thing you all insist I have surely I would feel it and all these questions would make more sense. However this isn't how this cancer thing works. It's not sitting on my left tit in a high-vis jacket with a beacon strapped to it's head. No it's nestled away causing havoc underneath the surface so that right now none of us can see it. My friend is chatting away trying to maintain an air of calmness like we are just hanging out. I'm trying to concentrate on what she's saying and mentally preparing myself, however my mind wanders off. I start thinking what a really beautiful sunny winters day it is. Too gorgeous to be here. However before my mind starts drifting off completely the nurse comes back with a trolley full of drugs. 

She takes one of my hands and looks at it intently, she tells me, to see how good my veins are as she needs to put a cannula into my hand. I am sure all of this was explained to me at the induction, but I can't remember a thing and as I allowed a week to pass I cannot even begin to raid my memory bank for any such information. I was so much in denial about all of this ever happening and that at the last moment the oncologists were going to run into the chemo suite clutching a piece of paper saying they'd got it wrong or they'd mixed up my results with someone else's!

However this isn't the case. It's now very real and there is no turning back. I've got to be a big girl and just get on with this now. The nurse suggests that I put my hand in some hot water as that helps to bring up the veins and makes the process of inserting the cannula much easier. I walk numbly to the sink and and do as I am told. It all feels very surreal. Little do I know how quickly I will adapt to these rituals and do them automatically without even questioning them or being nervous of them. They will become part of the process for getting better. However this first time feels overwhelming. I am trying not to cry and wishing I could hold on longer to this last minute before my life changes forever, but I can't. The chemo suite is getting busy and the nurse is leading me back to my seat. 

My veins are, according to her, looking good. "Thank god I injected into my groin when I was on heroin!". I actually have no idea why I said that. It was like some cancer induced Tourette's! It was an incredibly weak and probably highly inappropriate attempt to lighten the situation, but I couldn't help myself. If I didn't try to laugh I knew I would just break down. However she then starts to look really confused and picks up my notes so I quickly have to tell her I was joking. She smiles weakly probably wondering what sort of cretin she has before her. 

However she continues in her professional and efficient manner. She inserts the needle into the back of my hand which hurts more than I thought it would. I squeeze my friend's hand, so grateful she is there with me. I thankfully have never been needle phobic and thought it would just be like have an injection or having a blood sample taken, but it's not. It hurts and is uncomfortable for a good five minutes. However it does start to settle as my hand gets used to this invasion into its veins. She then rolls the drugs trolley nearer to her. She begins to explain what is going to take place (am saving the detail for my next post or I will never finish this one!) I'm trying again to take it all in, but it's not really working. I am transfixed by all the drugs on the trolley. I keep thinking how does she knows whose is whose. Also I am confused as she is injecting the drugs into me herself. I assumed I would be attached to a drip like you see in the movies. Why is she doing this? I obviously really missed all this at my induction or maybe they gave me something to read which I have failed to do, but I am more confused than ever (which is not that hard these days)...

I hear my disembodied voice start to ask the nurse questions, "Is it normal for you to be injecting me?", to which she replies yes and explains why. I then ask her about how she knows which drug is for who. She looks puzzled and I say that the syringes look huge and there are quite a few of them so I take it she has drugs for more than one patient and it must get confusing who is for who. She looks at me again rather puzzled, but reassures me that each trolley has all the drugs for one patient's chemo session. The drugs cannot be put onto the trolley until they are ready to be administered. I must look horrified as she quickly reassures me that the whole process might look daunting, but only takes about 30 to 40 minutes then I'm free to go and enjoy the rest of the day. I am still stuck on the fact that so many drugs are going to be pumped into my body. This from the person who has only had up, until this point, had to take an antihistamine for hay fever, the contraceptive pill and an asthma inhaler from time to time! That's as toxic as I've been - well on non-recreational drugs anyway!!!

I cannot get my head around the fact that all those drugs that look like they should be administered to an elephant or at least a large horse are actually just for little old me! What the fuck am I going to feel like with all that swishing around my body? And after 8 sessions I am going to be well and truly medicated! I am stunned into silence. I feel powerless and scared, but I have no choice. I don't want to die, but I also don't want to be made to be so ill that I can't function and there is no way I am going to breeze through this with that amount of stuff in me. I feel so stupid that I didn't do enough research on what was about to come. But it's too late now. I swallow back tears and close my eyes still clutching my friend's hand. The nurse asks if I'm ok and I nod my head keeping my eyes closed. I am exhausted from the rollercoaster of emotions that I have felt since my diagnosis, but I need to stop fighting and trust that everyone involved, my cancer entourage, know what they are doing and that all I have to go through is going to make me better in the long run and hoping, with everything crossed, cancer free. 

"I'm ready.", I say to the nurse and within seconds I begin to feel the liquid coursing through my veins. The next stage of my gap year is well and truly underway...

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