Strange as it may sound, I am starting to enjoy chemo day. This has nothing to do with being hooked up to toxic drugs and a saline solution (oh yes, the beautiful saline) or visiting the hospital (third day in a row) and everything to do with the positive routine I have established for myself.
It starts – after a steroid-fuelled restless night – with the baking. Today, we tried out a chemo cookie recipe from one of mum’s beautiful friends alongside an experimental lemon and ginger muffin recipe (complete with ginger and rhubarb jam tucked away inside). Both were topped off with a drizzle of melted lemon chocolate. It always feels good to do something for other people and the thanks I got at the unit today meant the world to me. I know some of the cookies ended up as one nurse’s lunch (she was too busy for a break). I also got a wonderful phone call earlier thanking me for my latest pink heart, so I have pretty much smiled all day long.
Next up is a good walk. By Sunday, I will probably find it increasingly hard to get round Greenwich Park due to the bone and muscle pain, so today is a good day to make the most of my legs while they are still working! In the absence of tastebuds, exercise has been my comfort eating. I do it to feel better and it is certainly does wonders for the waistline and the soul.
People often worry about what to eat before chemo. For me, I like to keep things simple. A bran-based brekkie keeps the constipation at bay and a simple lunch (with an afternoon appointment) means you go well fed, but without having eaten anything you’d avoid for life if you saw it again. My time at the chemo unit is always packed with planned-in treats!
By the time I reach the hospital, I am ready for action.
For those who have never been to a cancer day unit (and I hope if you haven’t, you never will), here is a quick glimpse behind the scenes:
1) First you arrive, book in, hand over your appointment card and receive a hospital wristband in return (printed out of special wristband paper).
2) Next, you wait in the lounge (this time in front of Wimbledon) until the drugs have been delivered and the chair is ready.
3) Once in the chair, the nurse allocated to your zone takes your blood pressure and checks the oxygen levels in your blood.
4) Providing all is well, the anti-sickness meds (Emend and Domperidone in my case) are administered.
5) Once they’ve settled in the stomach, the PICC line is flushed and the drugs are hooked up to both a pump (so they can be released over time) and the PICC tube.
6) Then (with Docetaxel), you get a good hour to eat (lollies and muffins), drink (tea, water and hot water) and chat.
7) Summoned by incessant beeping from the pump, the nurse comes back to do a final saline flush.
8) After everything has been disconnected, the rucksack-sized pharmacy bag arrives, complete with eight injections, and enough pills to make your stomach rattle.
9) Before being released, the last job is to pick up the appointment card. We think mine may have gone home with another Jackie, so I had a nice new one to take home today.
And that’s it. Providing you don’t have an allergic reaction to the drugs, it is a fairly pleasant experience.
Back home, I am happy in the knowledge I have five behind me and just one poison to go. I have started planning my last chemo day (let’s ignore the fact I have radio and 10 years of hormone therapy for the moment) and I am pretty excited. This is the last cycle that ends with another poisoning. And that means the end of chemo (albeit six weeks away) is finally in sight.
It’s been a happy Friday for me. And, I hope it has been a happy Friday for you too!