Monday, 22 October 2012

Tumour on board

Actually there's at least 4 tumours on board. 

I am constantly bemused by how similar my cancer/chemo symptoms are to those of pregnancy. The heightened sense of smell, a constant feeling of slight nausea (during post-chemo week) that is only resolved by eating vast amounts of carbohydrates, the consequent weight gain (also steroid induced) and bloating, various skin issues, bleeding gums and tiredness. Obviously there are a few obvious differences, the lack of congratulations and associated gifts (hard to believe I know), I don't get offered a seat on the train and there's staggering different objectives in mind - basically I don't want these little parasites to grow.

A predictable cycle of symptoms

Unlike pregnancy my symptoms have a nice 'easy' pattern that I can try and follow, aim to anticipate and that actually help remind me that there's improvement on the horizon. I can even map their progress in a PowerPoint chart (apologies to Bryan Scott and Linda Grant for the poor visuals).

The Sunday after chemotherapy

The first indication that I am in the post-chemo zone is what I now call my 'chemo cold'. This consists of a constantly runny nose, sores inside my nose and several small/tiny nose bleeds a day.


For the first 2 days directly after the pump is removed there is the post-chemo and steroids tiredness. A bone aching weariness that finds me propping myself up against tables when I am standing and leaves me with precisely no patience when it comes to dealing with 3 kids and 2 dogs. Apologies to the small and tall residents of Slyvan Way.

Tuesday onwards

The spots start multiplying this week too but they are so much better since I've upped to the antibiotics, that compared to everything else they are really quite minor irritation (the scalp ones are still pretty itchy and awful though).

Monday to Thursday

My levels of indigestion and stomach cramps start to increase from Tuesday culminating in my regular Thursday morning attack of terrible pain and vomiting. The bucket and I are reacquainted and the cold sweats and cramps make for a hideous but regular diary entry. I now have this marked as a meeting in my work diary so I can be late if required. However once it's done I take a loperamide and it's over for another 2 weeks.


The Nadir

The Saturday (8 days after chemo) is my immune system's nadir. My immune system is at its weakest and apparently I am very vulnerable to infections. I've yet to experience this in an obvious way but  this is when the mouth ulcers kick in. Lining my tongue, lips or inside my mouth. They pick their position and bed in for at least 5 days. I have a great new mouth wash that leaves the inside of my mouth completely numb and helps hugely.

One week after chemotherapy

My skin also reaches new levels of dryness this weekend. Patches appear on my eye lids, round my nose, and across my cheeks. Again it's all pretty manageable and now I have the antibiotics skin issues are signifcantly less of a challenge.

10 days after

It all starts improving. The chemo cold is pretty much over by Wednesday, mouth ulcers have disappeared by Tuesday, my gums stop bleeding on Thursday, my skin starts is clearer and less dry towards the end of the week and my energy levels return; just in time for it to all start all over again.

2 weeks after - like poor old Michael Finnegan it's time to begin-again

7 hours of hardcore drugs pumped into my arm in the cold grey dull space that is the Chilworth Day Unit.

I am lucky (although getting cancer itself isn't that fortunate), my chemotherapy symptoms are more of a series of staggered niggles  rather than the complete wipeout that lots of people experience. I am able to work pretty much full time and cope with everything with support and help from Al, my mum and Battersea all of who are being amazingly wonderful. A lot of people, especially those with more aggressive cancers, are sick constantly, lose their hair and find the treatment as tough as the disease to deal with. I am not one of those and I am very grateful.

In terms of the pregnancy likeness of it all, I am also aware that, as I am fairly regularly reminded, that apparently I whined a lot more when I was pregnant. Now there's an irony.


  1. You're a wonder. All this and you continue to go to work. Mum, xxxx

  2. That might be the best powerpoint chart you've ever done #everycloud. I'm very proud of you xxx