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Cancer, Chemo & Covid

Ten months after the country entering the first lockdown, it’s likely that many of us will have now been affected one way or another.

For anyone who has sadly lost family members or anyone else close to you from Covid, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. For those of you who have been affected financially, whether that is through losing employment or having to shut down a hard worked for business, I pray for you that things will improve…..and they will!

We all know the strain our NHS has been put under throughout this crisis but it has broken my heart and frankly, left me completely baffled as to why cancer patients have had their treatment cancelled or affected. I count myself extremely lucky that although not diagnosed until August of 2020, when restrictions were lifted somewhat, my treatment and all appointments have continued.

I also count myself lucky not to have been personally affected by this dreadful pandemic UNTIL…..

…….I tested POSITIVE!

There is nothing like a cancer diagnosis to make you face your own mortality and although i have come to learn there are many ebbs and flows with this disease, I had pretty much got my head around everything, had a plan and was feeling mentally positive and physically healthy and strong.

Over the Christmas period, I had struggled emotionally ( see post….link) which knocked me sideways at the time. This was unexpected but I put this low point down to being physically exhausted.

Many cycles of chemotherapy (gem/cis) were taking their toll. I had not slept for more than a couple of hours per night for months and was also having to deal with a chemically induced menopause, apparently common in women receiving such treatment. I also am affected a lot by the steroids given on chemo days, leaving me looking bloated and puffy eyed.

At the end of Christmas Day, I noticed I was a bit sniffly and thought I was catching my daughter’s cold (not unusual given the time of year). My blood work had shown my neutrophil count was low, which made me more at risk of picking up infections, so I wasn’t surprised that I may succumb to our common cold.

However, by Boxing Day evening, I was sweating (but felt freezing) and just felt completely out of sorts. I put this down to the exhaustion that is cancer, chemo and Christmas but wasn’t overly concerned.

However, two days later, when my daughters kindly made dinner for the family, I was unable to taste raw onion in the salsa, at which point there was a collective “uh-oh”. As anyone going through treatment during this pandemic will know, I had to do my weekly Covid swab and the result came through 30th December informing me I had tested positive.

I was shocked and by that evening, completely terrified. I had made so many changes to my life in order to help me heal from cancer. I had done so much work, mentally, to deal with my diagnosis and then suddenly I was looking at the prospect of being wiped out by this. As I have small tumours on my left lung, and the virus attacking the respiratory system, I was overwhelmed by fear.

I now had what my friend called a “triple C Cocktail”

Now, due to the cancer and chemo, I really did think this would prove more than my body could tolerate BUT apart from a lack of smell/taste, I was extremely lucky to not experience any more symptoms. Self-isolation actually proved to be a(nother) positive for me but that’s for a separate post.

Have you or anyone you know, had to cope with both Cancer and Coronavirus?

How did you manage?

Fingers crossed for a quick return to “normality”…….whatever that may be!

D(iagnosis)-Day

Being told you have bile duct cancer

Maybe it’s my age, but my memory is shocking! We all do it….go upstairs to get or do something, only to completely forget 13 steps later, busy ourselves with some pointless task, only to remember the second you get back downstairs what you origianally wanted.

But one thing that will be etched on my mind for the rest of my days, is being told i had cancer. Myself and Richard had sat in the waiting room, on chairs metres apart (due to socially distancing regulations) and i nervously scanned the room which was full of wall displays with Macmillan leaflets. I tried not to overthink this.

At this point, i had been given ultrasound, CT and MRI scans. These had shown a shadow on my liver. As scary as that was, i was certain i had a cyst or maybe at worst, a begnign tumour. After all, i felt fine. I was not ill at all, i was just experiencing pain.

We were called into a room where we sat in front of the Dr and a Mcmillan nurse. I should have guessed from the look on their faces that this was not going to be good news. I was right.

I was informed that the shadow was in fact cancer of the bile duct and it had spread to a prominent lymph node. I was also told that my cancer was already at stage 3 and inoperable.

I’ll be honest, i didn’t really take much in after that. I thought i had but reflecting on that appointment now, i really hadn’t. I do vaguely remember the conversation appeared to move towards prognosis at which point i really couldn’t take it. My brain just couldn’t process any more information. All i can remember, is holding up my hand in an attempt to stop them talking and said:

“Just tell me there is hope. If i don’t have hope, i have nothing”

The nurse simply replied, “there’s always hope.” What else could she have said? Richard was beside me, in bits.

We were asked if we wanted some time out in another room before going home, which we did and our lovely nurse talked us through some things (i have no idea what). I think Rich may have asked some questions…again, i don’t know what. It was the most surreal experience and reliving it here, is actually making me feel very emotional.

I only had one question; “how do i tell the kids?”