17 September 2020 – Pre-chemo Appointment

Pre-chemo appointments required yet more blood tests. I met my chemo specialist and he was so nice. He explained about the type of treatment he was giving me, but the frequency and type of treatment would depend on my next decision. Would I want a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line which is a tube inserted into my arm so that they could connect me to the chemotherapy drip quickly. If i chose not to have the line, i was warned the side effects would be more severe.

The chemo specialist explained the benefits of what the line provided. I would explain what a line entailed, but I had pre-conceived ideas connected to my Dad’s health earlier last year  and I had already decided I absolutely did not want a PICC line. My choices though are personal to me, I would explain my reasoning,  but I don’t  want to influence  anyone else’s decision, you need to find the path right for you and your lifestyle and be at ease with that that choice.

So the worst case option, Oxalyplatin would be given to me intravenously (through a cannula in my hand) every three weeks and Capeciteabine chemotherapy tablets would be taken for two out of the three week cycle. Side effects that are likely include neuropathy (nerve pain/ sometimes sharp pins and needles) sensitive to colder temperatures, throat spasms, nausea, fatigue, diarrhoea  – I could go on but  those are the common ones. 

Now, a key lesson for anyone else, do not do what I did next! I should have taken notes of exactly the chemotherapy treatments I was being offered and their side effects.  I didn’t at the time, the side effects sounded a little farfetched and I NAIVELY/ STUPIDLY thought that with chemo being cumulative I would breeze through the first couple of sessions. I laugh at how stupid I was now. And it’s daft, because in a professional setting, I would always make notes and ask about the impacts of different options, that is literally my job. It’s another of the downsides to having cancer during Covid… you can’t usually take anyone with you to ask those questions for you, while you are sitting there trying to absorb it all and not collapse. I’ve learned that there is a big difference between the vulnerable me and the professional me and that, as much as I hate and loathe it, asking for help is ok. 

Tip: get the name of chemo treatment and research, planning ahead during your treatment cycle is key to independence.

Next up was a chat about fertility, and would I like to protect my ovaries? This wasn’t something I’d really considered. I’d been in an on/ off relationship (if you can call it that) for a few years but always thought I would have children someday. I opted to protect my ovaries knowing full well that life is a bastard, if I didn’t have it, I would meet Prince Charming (Dave Grohl) and have to adopt kids. 

My chemo doctor said they would give me an ovarian implant, putting me in chemical menopause to protect my ovaries. I had to have this implant (Zoladex) every four weeks consisting of an injection in to my tummy. So, with chemo being every three weeks, it needed some thought as to how I would organise trips to the clinic to get the implant. The oncology unit were brilliant and we managed to arrange this with my GP Surgery to save me a commute to Cheltenham.

I was asked whether I had any questions by the oncology nurse and my first thought was could I get a dog during chemo? I thought it would help with my well-being and was told not to get a puppy – you will not cope during chemo. In hindsight – as you will see during this blog, they were right, I am so pleased. But it did make me think if I can’t get a puppy, I could try an older dog. I was dead set on having a Labrador though as my first dog, Sandy (childhood dog) had been a Lab, and I hit the shelter websites that were still offering adoption during Covid.

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