Patricia Brown Clinic

'LIFE' Blog

'LIFE' Blog

Where The Enemy Becomes The Friend

Posted on May 28, 2016 at 4:25 PM

Ok, so I might of walked into the hospital feeling quite confident, but inside to put it politely, you are pooping it! This gets 10 times worse when you sit in the chemo chair, at least they are comfortable. All chemo wards will be slightly different but on my hospital's chemo ward, it was a large, bright room with different sections named pods. These were just a number of chairs set out in different areas. For the patient you have a large blue leather recliner chair, a table and a spare chair for whoever you have bought with you, for my first chemo, my partner and mum came and my dad came to us after work. Given what goes on in that room, its actually a very relaxed, warm, friendly atmosphere. But to be honest it is wrong of me to say 'what goes on', this is feeding the drama, I could describe it all dramatic but in actual fact, take all emotion away it is a room with people sitting in chairs. Some people sit for a couple of hours, some only 30 minutes, people come and go all day, when one leaves another takes their seat. People chat, eat, drink and wait for it....even laugh! Yes, they laugh on a chemo ward. A lot of people are sitting their to save their life, some are sitting there in the hope of prolonging theirs, but everyone has something in common, they aren't there by choice and it is their reality, their normality.

So there I was in the hot seat, waiting for my assigned nurse to come. The cold cap was all set up waiting for me, I eyed it up, like it was a living enemy, as if I was weighing up my fighting partner. This was another reason I was so determined to use the cold cap, with the needle issue, the thought of how painful the cold cap would be, distracted me from the cannula part of chemo. I knew I was fighting cancer, but in my head my main goal for that first chemo, was to beat the cold cap, to not let the pain defeat me. Its funny really, as I was relying on this to save my hair, but that day I saw it as the enemy to beat. Unfortunately needle time had to come first :(

My nurse for the session came over, didn't like her at first, nothing personal, just the fact she was going to insert a needle into me was reason enough. I should probably say now, it isn't just needles I hate, but I cant stand talking about veins. A conversation about veins makes me feel woozy, sick, dizzy and I could easily pass out. So to prevent this situation, I decided to call them 'Tunnels' and made clear to the nurse she should do the same. Also when I'm nervous, I talk, a lot. It might as well be verbal diarrhoea, its endless, sometimes doesn't even make sense, just constant talking. Before chemo they go through all your details, tell you about the chemo you are having, how long it will take. A tray is bought over with your chemo drug bags in it and then comes the cannula.... the first one was a huge, hazy blur. I'm sure the nurse was scarred for life, but put it this way, I sweated, she sweated, I swore, she probably swore in her head. I constantly repeated this "I don't like it, I don't like it, I don't like it!" People who hate needles too will get this, I know it might be hard if they don't bother you, but when its a phobia the fear makes you seem, well, probably quite deranged! But then it was in, I had a towel over it, because I couldn't stomach looking at it in my hand. I then spent the next four hours of my chemo, asking my nurse "is it ok?" I don't know what I expected, but I needed constant reassurance that my hand was still there.

Then came the cold cap, bring it on, even though I was bracing myself for how painful it would be. My nurse sprayed my hair with water, as your scalp needs to be wet, then she massaged in my conditioner as this works like a barrier to the cap freezing to your hair. I had taken my painkillers, so I felt prepared but I knew the first 10 minutes were the worst, if I could just get through them I could do it. I had blanked out that the cap would need be on for nearly 4 hours, that is a hell of a long time if you are in pain, so I focused on them first 10 minutes, I had to get through it. A silicone cap went on next and we tried a few different sizes to get a good fit, then came the helmet over the top. So there I sat, dripped up, cold cap on , looking like a jockey without a horse and I braced myself again as the nurse switched on the Paxman machine. I heard a whooshing noise as the water went through the tube that led from the machine to the hat. I had a few minutes of looking like I was in pain, I wasn't, I think it was more a dazed confusion. It was a surreal moment, you don't expect cancer and you don't expect to sit in a chair having toxic drugs pumped through you and a helmet on that is going to freeze your scalp, reality hit. I felt my head go slightly cool, it didn't give me a headache, it didn't make me feel cold, to be honest it wasn't painful at all. Its hard to describe as I really didn't feel anything. This sent me into a panic, it cant be working! So I spent that four hour session asking if my arm was ok and if the cap was working right. I couldn't believe after everything I had been told, the awful image of it I had pictured, the reality was nothing like that.

Then came the fun part, food. You probably wouldn't think of eating while having chemo, don't see that on the adverts do you? But yes you can eat and lots of people do. There is a hot drink trolley, a sandwich trolley that comes round with snacks and cakes on there too, if you are there for the afternoon you have a choice of hot meals. You can also take your own things up, which I did too. I talk when I'm nervous and I eat, so I got through Pringles, chocolates, sandwiches and other snacks. A family friend sent a gift bag full of little presents for me on my first chemo, and then went on to send me a little present for every session, thank you lots! In my first bag I had ice cream in a cool bag and strawberries so I had this too. The mixture of food I had should be enough make you feel sick, but maybe there is something in it to eat constantly during having the chemo, as I didn't experience sickness as a side effect. The chemo bags are changed when needed, I found I went a little bit sleepy on my last bag, maybe it was the drugs, or that I had just exhausted myself with my own dramatics.

Soon enough the four hours is up, the cold cap is switched off and I was left to 'defrost' while I had my last saline flush bag. Then out comes the cannula, far easier than the going in, and you get a plaster, I do like a plaster, bigger the better. The helmet and silicone cap came off and I had a frosty look over my scalp, but this is the result you want. My nurse had told me to drink lots of water the night of chemo to flush out all the toxins and that your urine can be a pink or orange colour for a few hours after. There it was done. I went off the toilet before I left and my parting comment as I came out I shouted quite excitedly to my nurse "J**** my wee is pink!" It was, bright pink. Of course I doubt it was the colour of my wee that I was excited about, but the huge relief I felt that I had done it, something I feared, I had got through it. I had made my first step in beating this cancer, I was going to kick cancers arse and I was now on my way to doing it, one down, eleven to go. It had ended up that the 'enemy' of the day, the cold cap wasn't an enemy at all, quite liked it actually! To me it wasn't painful and I had done it. As it turned out me and that cold cap would be a good fit together over my months of chemo and it did save my hair. I bonded straight away with my nurse, I told her I liked her at the end of it (that's my sign of approval of anyone in the medical world, if they got "I like you" they had done good) but by the end of my chemo treatment, she along with my other main nurse, I had complete respect and love for these two ladies, both were amazing and I couldn't of got through it without them.

When I got home, I felt full of energy, literally like I could go out for a run (which I don't do in full health!) But I didn't, I was sensible. I went tired about 8pm that night and thought it was best to have an early night. But before I went off to sleep I messaged those who knew I had been to chemo who had messaged me to see how it had gone. I didn't send a long message, filling them in on every detail, I just kept it simple and said "I DID IT" xxxx


Categories: Cancer and Me

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