My “Chemo Holiday”

So, last week, I finally completed my first block of chemotherapy and was all set to begin my “chemo holiday”. This 3 month period is to give my body a rest from treatment and to recover. I had planned to post on the evening of my final chemotherapy cycle, full of excitement and relief, as it was something I had looked forward to since Christmas. The gemcitabine and cisplatin I receive, which is standard treatment for Cholangiocarcinoma, was beginning to take its toll and I longed to have time to heal my body in order to feel strong and healthy again.

I was lucky to tolerate chemotherapy pretty well. My main issue was a reaction to the steroids given before the chemo itself, resulting in puffy eyes and face. Other than that, some fatigue was as bad as it got, which given the amount of toxicity pumped into my body each time, I count myself very lucky.

*Note: If you experience a reaction to the steroids, you can ask them to administer it at a slower rate. Nurses gave me 8ml over 8 minutes (sometimes 10) and that seemed to lessen the effects.

The last couple of chemotherapy sessions were slightly harder going than before but as I was recovering from Covid-19 that’s hardly surprising.

So, when the nurse removed the last cannula I’d thankfully see for a while (my veins have all but given up!) I genuinely thought I would hop, skip and jump out of hospital. THIS was the day I had been waiting for. 

Feeling The Fear

But, over the next few days, I began to feel fearful of what could potentially happen during these 3 months.

What if my main tumour increases in size?

What if it spreads further than my liver and left lung?

Having made so lifestyle changes in order to support my treatment,improve my overall health and of course, beat cancer, the realisation that should there be a progression in my cancer during the next few months, I would probably have to accept that my chances of a longer life really are dependent on chemotherapy. This terrified me (and still does) as the damage chemotherapy causes could lead to organ failure and my immune system becoming so beaten down that i am left weak and at risk of all kinds of infections.

I have put so much time, effort, money and hope into the alternative and natural approach to treatment that the fear it may all be for nothing became overwhelming.

It took several days of reminding myself why I decided to tackle my cancer from all angles and thankfully, the fear began to subside and my faith restored. I realised it won’t all be for nothing as i have, 6 months on from my diagnosis, felt healthier than ever before, especially in comparison to the last 10+ years.

This, as i am learning, is yet another example of the ebbs and flows of this journey. Cancer does this to you. One minute you think you’ve got a grip on it all and next, you’re crippled with fear.

*Edit…..Two weeks on from this post and I’m feeling well and more focused than ever to use my “holiday” as an opportunity to heal. Not only to recover from the effects and damage undoubtedly caused by the chemotherapy and not only in an effort to deplete my body of cancer cells currently invading it, but to heal emotionally, from past traumas and the stress a cancer diagnosis has on you.

I see myself stronger, both physically and mentally. I see myself well.  

I can now, finally, look forward to making plans (once Covid restrictions are lifted)

……now, would somebody please pass me the sun cream?

I would love to hear your experiences during a break from treatment.

Are you or someone you know on a break from treatment?

What impact did your treatment break have on you?

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!