Friday, 5 October 2012

A double whammy

It's been well over a week since I last updated you on what's been going on, and you may have guessed that it hasn't all been a bed of roses at this end. I'm lots better now, but last week I don't think I have ever felt so ill, or so hopelessly miserable. Both came as quite a shock. Having come through the first chemo relatively unscathed, I expected to sail through this one too, but the chemo monster came knocking, and wanted paying for the first lot too I think. I was OK for the first day or two, but by last Wednesday, 2 days post chemo, I honestly thought I was going to die, and worst of all, I was too sad to really care. A bit of a double whammy, and having been mostly so relentlessly upbeat about things for months on end, I just didn't see the low, sad, deep pit of despair coming, and it absolutely knocked me sideways.

I felt sick, but wasn't. I had stomach cramps, which materialised into 6 days of  the evil runs. The lining of my mouth and throat and nose became covered with ulcers, and my tongue felt like it had been pebbledashed.  My head hurt. Everything hurt, and the wailing, despairing floods of tears just wouldn't stop. The tiredness too.  Getting off the sofa felt like doing a heavy-duty gym circuit. In short, I was totally pathetic, and probably bored the pants off everybody I know. Eating and drinking and even talking hurt like hell, but it didn't shut me up from 24 hour continual whingeing and wailing.

In the middle of all of this I got a call from the Hospital. They had managed to get my CT scans and X rays from the local General Hospital I spent a horrific 9 hours in with the chest pain they thought was a Pulmonary Embolism. It wasn't, but spending a whole day believing I had a whole extra life threatening condition on top of breast cancer wasn't much fun at the time. Anyhow, back to this call, about the chest pain that had bugged me for three weeks. Finally they have diagnosed the cause - I have a partially collapsed lung. Even in the depths of my misery I wanted to dance around the kitchen, because they were also able to tell me that the Consultant Oncology Radiologist had confirmed that there were no visible traces of cancer anywhere in my lungs! The longer the pain persisted, the more convinced I had become that it was bad, sad news about cancer spread. So although a collapsed lung isn't really anything to celebrate, it feels like it really should be. 

I think that phonecall was the turning point, and slowly but surely, over the next few days the despair lifted, and having been convinced a few days ago that I was bound to be dead by Christmas, I'm now fairly sure it will be Christmas in about 40 years time. 

It's taught me a lot, this total blanket of sadness. I had started to believe that I was dealing with my cancer so well, so positively and in such an upbeat way, that I was fairly immune to the miseries. Now I know that I'm not, and when that blanket descends, it completely takes you over and feels so real. A few days ago, I honestly believed at the negative thoughts and feelings were real and would last forever. So no doubt the miseries will knock me over another time when I'm least expecting it, but hopefully I'll remember that they will pass, and I'll bounce back to happy cancer land all over again. 
I'm also very lucky that this chest pain means that the Radiologists have had an unscheduled look at my lungs. It was two months between the bone and body scans that showed no sign of cancer spread and the start of chemotherapy, two long months where, in my darker moments when my imagination works overtime, the cancer cells were happily building tumour towerblocks while throwing wild parties throughout my body, almost certainly starting in the lungs. So its a hugely reassuring bonus to have someone take a sneaky peek at my lungs when that normally wouldn't be on the cards at this stage in my chemotherapy. 

On Monday, my hair looked like the remnants of a sad 1970's middle-aged man with a comb-over, so WM and I decided that the rest had to go. WM bravely shaved the rest away, and so I'm now as bald as a coot, whatever a coot actually is. My darling youngest son is a bit freaked by it, so I have to wear a hat at all times I'm not wearing a wig, even to get up to go to the loo in the middle of the night. I have to admit I do look a bit scary, and it's a bit of a shock whenever I see this mad-looking bald woman staring at me from a mirror, but strangely I'm quite OK about it. 

On Tuesday, I wore the wig when I collected son No 1 from school to go to the dentist. It's a bit scary wearing it for the first time, and I felt more than a little bit self-conscious. The lovely staff at the school were so supportive about it - thank you Debbie, Andrea and Jackie, you all made my day by your reassurances and compliments. On the way to the dentist, the wig was getting very tight, and a headache was developing, so between traffic jams I whipped it off and replaced it with a bright pink turban hat that sort of shouts "Look over here everyone, this woman has cancer". But who cares when it's so comfortable. Later I discovered that the wig isn't tight, it's the wig cap you're supposed to wear under it that is basically a mishapen popsock, that had been trying to prevent the blood supply to my brain. So if I wear the wig on a naked head, it doesn't hurt. It still feels funny though, but I can wear it for a couple of hours at a time now, so I'm building up tolerance.

I've also pushed the boat out and bought about 10 brightly coloured hats to wear as well. All very jaunty and lots of fun, and having spent a squillion years believing hats didn't suit me, now that I'm a woman of a "certain age" they absolutely do. I even bought a purple hat so I can be the like the old crazy lady in the poem. 

Tonight I went to our drama group in both a hat and a wig. Long story, but I had promised Alice I'd show her the hat that matched my mad  turquoise shoes and handbag. Everyone was very complementary, but afterwards, Sheree, our fabulous drama teacher came up with an amazing proposal that has just about put a further spring in my step and made me want to dance all the way home. Just a thought, but what if..... at the Brighton Fringe next May we present a dramatised version of this blog? ! How exciting is that! So right now, my mind is working overtime and I'm about as happy as it's possible to be after midnight on a school night.


  1. Eeeh!! Through the wringer and back again, huh? I've been filling your quite quite justified silence with lots of (hopefully positive) thoughts and sending them flying your way. I so want to come and see you... knowing you haven't been so well and my own little mini dramas have kept me away... not good!!! When you are feeling properly better for a while, let me know so that I can pop over and make us some lovely herbal tea, or a soup or salad or soemthing xxx

  2. I thought you were making what is another extremely difficult situation look altogether too easy - and all the last week has proved is that you are human - there is nothing wrong with letting it get to you and no-one thinks any the worse of you for it...we all love you and it's re-assuring to know that you need us as much as we need you to pull eachother through things (kicking and screaming if need be!). Baby S is waiting for cuddles, so have your hat or wig or both at the ready - can't wait to see you xxxx