This is what happens…..

Dr Bunsen Honeydew demonstrates what happens when I go for chemo....

Dr Bunsen Honeydew demonstrates what happens when I go for chemo….

when I go for chemo.

Dr Honeydew: We are going to give you some expensive drugs today.

Me: Will they have side effects?

Dr Honeydew: A few.

Me: What are they?

Dr Honeydew: Well, it’s tricky. They vary from person to person. You might feel nauseaus. Or you might get ulcers, in your mouth and places. Your stomach could get upset, you know, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, tenderness. Maybe headaches, they’re a possibility.  You might vomit, could go on for a while. Your hand could swell, the rest of you might swell too. Dizziness is possible. Oh, symptoms of menopause could present. And tingling, you might get tingling. Did I already mention sickness? Night sweats. Disturbed sleep, falling asleep, sleep issues in general. Tiredness is a possibility.  You may find you are breathless. Pins and needles. I mentioned the sickness didn’t I? Red. You may go red. Kind of boiled lobster colour.

Me: Anything else I should know about?

Dr Honeydew: Um, your heart might beat fast, very fast. It’s nothing to worry about.

Me: Is there anything I should worry about?

Dr Honeydew: Erm, well, uh…. stay away from crowds. And animals. Avoid raw meat, fish and eggs. No pate. Eat a pregnant woman’s diet.

Me: Is that it?

Dr Honeydew: Yes. Come back  in 3 weeks. We’ll try it again and see if we can raise a few more side effects.  They vary from person to person you know. Fascinating isn’t it?

Me: I agree it has an ‘F’ in it somewhere. Not sure about the ‘ascinating’ though!

Toast (and the oncologist)

Yesterday porridge and maple syrup. Today toast.

Why am I excited by a humble piece of toast? Because it smells as it should (many things don’t), it tastes delicious and it satisfies that empty but not sure what to eat feeling.  The sensation called appetite is attempting to make a come-back.  (It’s ok, you can come out, no-one is going to poison you this week).  It’s reassuring to know my appetite hasn’t taken itself off on a round-the-world cruise, it’s just been hiding under a fall-out shelter waiting for chemo nuclear winter to subside.   Today I thoroughly enjoyed toasted granary bread with the mandatory lashing of melted butter.  Who’d have thought toast would make it onto a top ten favourite meals list?  Forget caviar or truffles, granary toast is the nearest thing to heaven on earth and it gave me that nice warm-on-the-inside fuzzy feeling too 🙂

Now it’s 9 days since I last saw a hospital – far too long to be away from all things shiny, sharp and pointy – so I trudged off to see the oncologist this morning.  Last time I saw him he was running two hours late.  I suggested his waiting room was busier than God’s and maybe he should ask the other guy to lend a hand.  I also asked if I could have a badge for good behaviour – I hadn’t drawn on  the walls or thrown-up in the corner. It was tempting.  I didn’t get a badge but I did get Emend, possibly the best thing a good chemo girl can be rewarded with. (Toast, anti-emetics, I’m easily pleased.)

Today was just a 45 minute wait and there were no sharp pointy things to contend with; always a bonus.  My oncologist is a nice fellow, quiet, studious maybe a little on the shy side.  We discussed drug regimes, side effects and quality of life.  I told him unless I could swing from the chandeliers at 3pm every day, twice on Sundays, I’d have to give quality of life B minus, more effort required  It made him laugh.  So my new mission is to find a way to make the oncologist laugh whenever I see him – he has a difficult job and I’m not sure I could do it.  The very good news from today is that we have further potential to tinker with my drugs regimes so next time might be a little less taxing.  Did I say tinker? I meant fine tune in a controlled and highly scientific fashion.  Anyway, I live in hope and in the meantime I’m going to make the most of appetite’s reawakening 🙂

Things you don’t want your consultant to say and what they really mean

People come in all shapes and sizes and cancer consultants are amazing people. Amazingly well-educated, amazingly dedicated and doing an amazingly difficult job. There’s no easy way to tell another human being one of the worst possible pieces of news they’re ever likely to hear.  My consultant is very, very good but the English language leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to saying “yes you have cancer and this is what it means.”  Here’s a little crib sheet:

Consultant: “this looks highly suspicious”   Means:  It’s a good job you came because I think you’re right, it’s cancer.

Consultant: “the MRI shows a number of anomalies”  Means: you light up like a Christmas tree. It might be more bad news but we can’t tell until we do more tests.

Consultant: “this is treatable” Means: medicine still struggles to cure this one but we will do everything we can

Consultant: “it’s a good job we went for mastectomy” Means: there was a hell of a lot more going on in there than we realised, fortunately your surgery dealt with that too 🙂

Consultant: “Herceptin has changed things but you need chemo to get Herceptin” Means: no-one ever has chemotherapy by choice, you have no choice

Consultant: “Even if you aren’t BRCA positive we should talk about your ovaries” Means: yep, those little blighters will need to go too!

Consultant: “You’re probably aware of some of chemo’s side effects” Means: society barely copes with the thought of hair loss and vomiting, I’m the poor sod who has to tell you the rest……..