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Thursday, 26 January 2017
Monday 23rd January was the first day of my lectureship in Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy at Leeds Beckett University.
Tuesday 24th January was the first day of my chemotherapy treatment for aggressive locally advanced triple negative breast cancer.
Sooooo you could say not only a week of firsts but pretty big ones!
On Monday it was lovely to just be 'normal' to go to work and sort out timetables, chat to colleagues and do a research interview. It kept me busy with less time to think about what was to come. After work I collected all three children, took the boys to the barbers and had a regular hectic Gilbert evening!
I have no idea really how you prepare yourself for chemo anyway? What was lovely was, on my return, to find a package from someone, ironically who has recently become a good friend....through breast cancer. Not mine, hers.
Having previously been through chemo myself and experienced how hard it was I wanted to help. She called them Care Packages...on chemo days....food to feed the family, comfort food and treats and distractions like magazines or DVDs. I now find myself on the receiving end of the self same deliveries and it really does mean so much....I can't put it into words.
But the package that this particular friend left was full of things I just hadn't known or thought about. A spray bottle to wet my hair before the cold cap, gentle conditioner and a comb. All these things listed here in fact 😀 (Can't figure out how to add pics yet oops!)
Chemo day dawned with the all too familiar recent lack of sleep. But we were up and at it; picking up from diving, dropping at Joe at before-school care, Hope at school and Jack at a friend's...all by 8.30am Then my Bestie, Lorna, arrived, as she had done 25 years earlier, to support me through another hideous diagnosis and treatment for cancer. I don't really think either of us can believe that this is really happening.
She duly drove me to hospital, taken aback by the awful Leeds traffic!
I can't explain how wonderful the staff are at St James' Hospital. Nothing is too much trouble, they never rush you and are always kind and caring. A REAL refreshing change in the current climate where staff and services are completely overstretched and literally there are no empty beds to be found!
We experienced this when I was having urgent surgery on January 6th. On arrival at 7am on the ward we were told my consultant's list had been cancelled but she had fought to get two of us back on. Another consultant's list had been completely cancelled and patients were sent home one by one. Not because there was no theatre space or surgeons, just no beds.
And I wasn't disappointed on Tuesday. Firstly I was lucky enough to see some friendly faces straight away. One of the Mum's from the Coeliac Group I help run is a nurse on Ward 80 and was the first welcoming face to greet us. She had amazingly arranged for me and my chemo buddy Sally to sit side by side. Sally's husband Pete kept us amused disappearing to cock up his shopping visits! Nappy sacks instead of wipes and salads and no forks!!
Seriously though, it made the whole thing less scary. More calm, lovely nurses attended to us and offered tea and sandwiches (sadly not gluten free! Not had much success on that front so far!)
Whoever said to me the Hickman Line I'd had inserted last week would become 'my new best friend' couldn't have been closer to the truth. No needles pour moi! Psychologically that made a difference. The Cold Cap was exactly that, freezing in fact, -5 degrees. And quite frankly almost unbearable at first. The strap was so tight, the 'brain freeze' agonising. It started a pounding headache and even stopped me talking for a good while!! It has been found to work for about 50% of users to retain about 50% of their hair. I have decided to see how much I lose before my next round as to whether I'll subject myself to that torture again! It really is the least of my worries in the whole scheme of things.
I didn't feel anything with all the drugs going in and was glad to get the cap off (only when it had been disconnected a good while were they able to remove it, when the ice that had formed had melted!) I was glad of my new cotton beanie to help warm my head up afterwards!
I was of course lulled into a false sense of security that I merely felt 'ropey' on the day after. I actually managed to go to a 3 hour meeting at work. Which was great, again, not thinking of cancer just research and future plans and see colleagues.
Dealing last night and today with the familiar symptoms has been tough. Overwhelming nausea, diarrhoea and excruciating joint pains (especially in the joints that I've had problems with in recent years - hip, ankle and elbow) is not pleasant. The only hope and way to bear it is the hope then that it's doing it's job, destroying those bad cells that will see me lose my left breast, maybe all the lymph nodes under my left arm BUT I hope enable me to live to see my children grow up. Which right now, in my darker moments, is my biggest fear. This is the reality of cancer.
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