Tomorrow I go for my second chemo, FEC2. I’m relieved my blood has recovered sufficiently to press ahead as planned. Doubtless there’ll be side-effects but I’m well prepared; they’ll pass right by if I’m patient and give it a little time. If they don’t I can call the chemo-nurses, get some extra meds to control them.
In a funny kind of way I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s a mini milestone. I’ll be one-third through all my chemos and two-thirds through the FEC part. Now that’s progress. But there’s something else that’s making me look forward to tomorrow and that’s the special kind of camaraderie I found in chemo camp. It makes me want to go again, to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow campers, to help fight for all our futures.
Last time I was a newbie. I didn’t know what to expect or how I’d be received. I was nervous about the drugs, how my body might react and whether anything would go wrong. I wondered if my age might make me an outlier; fellow campers have a couple of decades on me. I didn’t know if my courage would hold up throughout the whole four hours or if I’d lose my resolve part way through. If I did what would happen? Would I turn into a gibbering wreck or run away?
Fortunately my concerns were unfounded. I was welcomed like a long-lost daughter and made to feel part of a very close family. I was offered boiled sweets, to help mask the bad taste some chemo drugs leave behind. I was told jokes about ‘sleeping beauty and the chemo chair’ and I heard stories from fellow campers. About their wives, husbands, children and grandchildren, what jobs they did before retirement and how they spend their time these days when they, like me, aren’t doing (legal) drugs.
Tomorrow, if there’s a newbie I’ll help welcome them. I’ll ask Brian (who has leukaemia) if his transfusions helped last time. I’ll check how his wife is doing; whether the pacemaker surgery she was having while he was stuck in camp went well. I’ll take along some boiled sweets to offer my fellow campers and I’ll tell them jokes about frightening our postman. In between times I guess I’ll be having those big syringes again. 5FU, the red devil and cyclophosphamide. Plus some dexamethasone and aprepitant. And after a few hours camping will be over. I’ll be on my way back home for three weeks and I’ll be worshiping every minute. Even the dodgy ones.
You see, the cancer, the chemo and everything that goes along with it is all too real. But I refuse to accept that it all has to be awful.