Half-Arsed Haiku – Thu 12 February 2015

Epirubicin aka The Red Devil (c )Mark Auger

Epirubicin aka The Red Devil (c )Mark Auger

On Starting Chemo (again)

You take what makes me
to the brink and back, see which
cells survive the cull

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I had my first chemo session today – a combination of epirubicin and cyclophosphamide.  Epirubicin is an amazing bright red colour (as will your pee be for the first 12 – 24 hours!). I always think of chemo as the old sledgehammer to crack a nut analogy.

In order to try and wipe out the cancer cells the drugs will have to be indiscriminate and destroy lots of other types of dividing cells too. It explains all the delightful side effects form chemo- hair loss, skin problems, fatigue, stomach problems, nausea and vomiting, constipation, nails dropping off, weakness etc etc   The hope is that these cells – from you hair, gut, intestines, skin, bowel etc will replaced and repaired whereas the wee cancerous buggers, that divide so much more rapidly and can’t repair themselves and will die off.  Obviously they can be crafty and are continually changing and evolving and not being affected by treatments and not all of them will be killed off.  In the really full-on chemos, it’s almost as if patients are being taken to the brink of death but not quite – to be resurrected again hopefully minus their cancerous cells.

Mine will hopefully not be as bad as that but won’t be a walk in the park.

I have read about fasting being a positive thing to do – a couple of days before , then during and then a day after your chemo apparently allows the chemo drugs to target the cancer cells more effectively while being kinder to healthy cells and minimising side effects.  I have managed just over 60 hours on water only (with a sneaky miso soup when i got wobbly) but it didn’t help that the lady in the chair opposite me in the ward was given a Mars bar or that later on some lovely ward helper was offering me and the last remaining guy in our section coffee and biscuits.  Had to restrain myself from wheeling over my chemo stand and ripping the packets from his hand.  Still not long to go…I am already planning my post-fast first meal. Dreaming of squishy toast and peanut butter, probably not the healthiest option but go with what your body tells you (although I am ignoring its suggestions of piles of chocolates and cakes…although whose to say what happens when I get unleashed in the supermarket…). So far my side effects have been fairly minimal but we are only on day 1 – lets hope this red devil is a bit more of an angel on this occasion…

So, this whole cancer thing…

Weirdly, at this point in my life I think I feel happier and more content and less stressed than I ever have been, and more accepting of my faults and flaws (of which there are many!). But it has taken something pretty major to put things in perspective and make me appreciate what I DO have. This blog isn’t going to be just about cancer, it will mostly be about FAR more joyful stuff but I can’t really avoid the subject given I’ve been living with this stupid disease for over five years.  I’ll get it all out the way now though so it puts everything in my blog in context and I can start posting about other things!

The story so far…

I was diagnosed with both primary and secondary breast cancer (in my bones) in a delightful double whammy in the summer of 2009.  I underwent a mastectomy and radiotherapy and was on hormonal therapy. The cancer decided not to behave though and, last year, spread to my liver…not so good.  Then I had eight months of chemo to try and shrink the tumours. It did and I’m back on hormonal therapies to hopefully keep things stable for a while.

If you’re lucky enough not to be au fait  with the whole secondary or metastatic cancer thing, basically when cancer spreads beyond the original site in the breast it’s not generally considered curable…it is Stage IV cancer. There is no Stage V. Your treatment is designed to contain it…to stop it spreading.  I know this will work for a while, then at some stage when we’ve exhausted all the options,  it won’t work.  I don’t know when that will be so I just have to pack in as much living as I can into the time I have left and try to focus on the now. I hold true to the words of Maggie Keswick Jencks, the founder of the wonderful Maggie’s Caring Cancer Centres, when she said “The thing is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”.  I’m reckon I’m doing pretty well at that at the moment but I am lucky in my unluckiness in a way. So far my symptoms have been fairly minimal. At the moment I’m not in much pain, I am mobile, I can get on with things.  I just have to keep focusing on the happy…keep seeing the beauty in the broken – the beauty in me and my life. The same goes for all of us with scars, visible or not. They don’t necessarily define you…you may think they are ugly, that you are a bit broken but like Kintsugi maybe you are all the more beautiful for them…

Anyway, on with the nice stuff now…

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