Friday, 20 February 2015

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down...

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

True to the nurse's word 40 minutes later I am on my way out of the hospital clutching a bag of drugs with instructions on how and when they should be administered. A number of them are to stop me from feeling nauseous and are taken as a precautionary measure. I could choose not to take them, but then face the risk of being sick and right now as much as I think I don't want to be more medicated than I need to be I also don't want to be sicker than I have to. I need to believe I can get through this. I need to reassure everyone else around me that I can get through this too. I feel there's a lot riding on this and I'm not about to fall at the first hurdle. 

Also amongst the bag of med's is a number of pre-filled syringes which are used to stimulate the growth of healthy white blood cells in the bone marrow which are to be injected into my stomach over a period of days following each chemo session. It is so that I can continue to keep my immune system intact so that I can get through the next 16 weeks. They explain where and how it needs to be done should I wish to self administer or I could get a district nurse to come in on the days I need to do it if I would prefer. I am also given a sharps box to dispose of the syringes. Do you know as I walk out of the hospital ladened with drugs and drug paraphernalia I'm thinking who would have thought that there was all this behind the scenes stuff I had to be in charge of too. They didn't warn me about this at those first meetings. I'm feeling slightly duped and wondering if this is the cut price version of cancer treatment and this is why I have a supporting role. This is the woman who when on the pill would forgot to take it, would run out of Ventalin just when the asthma kicked in and who even after a lifetime of having hay fever still appeared shocked when the sneezing started each Spring. And now I was being asked to be part of an integral part of this programme that I never asked to be part of in the first place!!! Deep breaths! I must view this as the 'sugar' that will help the 'medicine' go down. "Channel your inner Mary Poppins!", I think to myself. I CAN do this, I tell myself - yet I am not so sure. 

My friend and I decide to go for lunch. We chose a quiet little spot in Hove. I am still waiting for the drugs to start kicking in, for there to be some wave of change to come over me, for me to feel the drugs coursing through my veins. But I feel nothing only anxiety brought on by this waiting game. I feel I am crap company as am finding it hard to make conversation. I can't really concentrate on anything as am obsessed with what's not happening. I thought it would kick in by now, but bar the back of my hand feeling sore where the cannula was there is nothing else. Suddenly I just want to go home and be alone because I can't bear to be in public when something does happen. I need to be in the confines of my own home safe and secure were I can shut the door and hide under my duvet. But I don't. I've honed the art of hiding how I'm really feeling since I was diagnosed. I've become practiced at looking calm and collected on the top half whilst the bottom half of me feels likes it continually treading water just to keep afloat. I have perfected the art of keeping it together for everyone else because I can't bear to hurt them or cause them concern if I go into a free fall panic, albeit that's exactly what I want to do right here, right now. 

Instead I order lunch, make small talk with my friend and joke with the waiter. I then excuse myself to go to the toilet. I can't get there fast enough. Yes I need to go, but in more ways than one.  Yes I need a wee, but I also need to go and run away, to have a little scream or a cry or something. I need to feel something because right now I feel numb. The smile I have had fixed on my face in public to comfort others since I had began to process my diagnosis is making my face ache and for a couple of minutes in the confines of this bathroom in this nondescript restaurant I want to drop the fa├žade and take the mask off. I look in the mirror. Not only do I not feel different, I don't look different either. Why? They've just pumped enough drugs into me that I should have a 'Ready-Brek type' radioactive glow around me yet nothing. As I sit on the toilet, comforted that at least I can still pee, I berate myself for not paying more attention in my biology classes and understanding the basic human biology and how the bloodstream works etcetera. But I didn't and I don't and I'm not going to get a Eureka moment any  time soon whilst sitting on the loo!!!

As I go to flush the toilet I look down and see that my pee is bright pink, the same colour as the liquid in the horse-sized syringe that was injected into me not even an hour or so again. I still feel nothing, but at least I know the drugs are moving through me. This moment in this small cubicle will be the last time I wonder why I feel nothing for as the days and weeks progress everything is about to change including me and how I feel forever...

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