Eight!

Thank goodness this is getting easier. Yesterday, apart from a tryst with menopaus, went very well. Easy.


Quick aside: If you are unsure about whether to get a picc line, please let me state my opinion (this is in no way a professional opinion and yes, there are also some risks with a picc so please talk to your doctor before deciding): This picc line is amazing! The anxiety of searching for veins is gone, the anxiety of giving blood is gone, the anxiety of hospitalization followed by days worth of drips are gone. If you are having chemo, particularly any chemo known to irritate the veins like AC, and if you generally have small veins – I’d most certainly bring this subject up on your first consultation. Funny this idea is saved until the arm aches from a simple touch; in this case I think preventative medicine is the better approach (i.e. picc line), though of course more expensive to the health care system. But so is chemotherapy, so why not go ahead with what’s best for you? The picc line makes like easier. Show up, plug in, drip, unplug.

Yesterday morning I was punching things out once again, but it wasn’t having the same effect. Okay, yes, I’d feel better while punching, but afterwards the blanket of dread would fall back down. This anxiety lasted all the way into the chemo ward. I wanted to cry, to run away, to panic.

Behind the reception desk was the curly hair lead nurse. “There’s a bit of a wait, Catherine.” They know my name . . . “We’re about 45 minutes behind, so you can wait here or go off for a while.”

Given the choice of waiting in a chemo ward or going somewhere else, I will always choose to ‘go somewhere else’. We went back to the car and ate orange slices. And while I was waiting in the car, still full of my dread, I thought ‘this is the perfect time to cry’ so I spoke with Zsolt about all those sentimental things that I miss (e.g. Balaton bike rides and buying giant watermelons from the market) and let the tears work their way out.

Now I’m not saying this to complain, or because crying was so difficult – exactly opposite  — crying was easy, it was exactly what I needed to do. My emotions didn’t have a ‘reason’ for overspilling, and while poor Zsolt kept asking, “why are you so sad?”, I had no particular response. All I needed to do was cry. Sometimes the best thing a man can do is rub his wife’s back while she cries. Nothing needs to be fixed.

And after the crying I was another woman. The dread was lightened, and with the addition of sucking on orange slices for distraction, it eventually disappeared. I returned to the ward ready for chemotherapy.

In went the dopy drug and anti sickness; down went my head onto the pillow. I lay there for thirty minutes and thought ‘this isn’t so different from my acupuncture’.  Qing, my acupuncturist, often leaves me to rest while the heat lamp works it’s beautiful magic. So I imagined I was on her table with the blankets and the heat, and I did my best to meditate. Somehow that meditation turned into mentally dancing at the club with my friend Catherine – complete with disco ball and smoke machine, but the nurses were playing radio 2 in the background so I blame it on the pop music.

Zsolt sat close by reading Love in the time of cholera (but in Hungarian). And we waited.

Afterwards – drip of saline for five minutes, change of wrapping for my picc, then unplugging and done! Like I said, it was easy.

At this point I think it’s more the aftermath of chemo rather than the chemo itself that needs to be handled. Exhaustion comes and goes, along with my crazy emotions, and there are things to think about like food and cleaning and work – but I’m learning. I miss work if I’m too exhausted, I don’t cook unless necessary, and any cleaning only takes place when my body feels strong enough to manage.

Oh! The appointment with the doctor. Well, guess who is on vacation this week? 🙂 Fair enough, everyone deserve a vacation. Instead of seeing the lead oncologist I visted with another doctor. She’s quite nice, very smiley and wears cool black boots. The curl in her hair often fights back against the ponytails she pushes it into. Let’s call her Doctor Boots.

Not the lead oncologist, but still a very interesting visit. I asked her about my Christmas question and she said of course, they will always recommend the full treatment, but people do stop early and – very interestingly – she used to work at Portsmouth Hospital, and over there someone with my exact same situation would have been given about three weeks less treatment.

But,  as to which treatment is better, she couldn’t say. Apparently each hospital follows whatever approach they think best – but there aren’t any studies comparing the results of Portmouth Hospital’s shorter course of chemotherapy to Southampton Hospital’s slightly longer plan.  She can’t say which is better.

Bottom line once again: Do what you feel is best, because we can’t decide for you.

Well, I wish someone would! Doctors must be tied up in all kinds of legal obligations. They probably need to memorize a booklet called, “how not to be sued”.

Anyhow, no matter. It was an interesting conversation that helped me gain another perspective. Next week when I finally talk with the head fellow, I’ll have better questions to ask.

So there you have it. That was eight. Yay!

Better than 50%

On special request from my grandmother, Lulu, I will attempt to write more often.

alternative cancer treatmentShe put it to me quite nicely yesterday: “I don’t want to bother you, but I worry!”

Well don’t worry Lulu, because I am fine – Je suis tres bien aujourd’hui. J’ai travaille avec ma mere pour etre “okay” avec ma chimio, j’ai aussi commence a faire un menu pour que Zsolt puisse me faire de la nourriture quand je suis fatigue* – and I am writing.

I was just saying to my mother the other day, ‘Who are these people coping well with chemo?’ because I hear of them, but haven’t actually met any of them – nor have I see their blogs online.  So, that started the google search mission. Both she and Zsolt have managed to find stories where people cope with the treatment and do not suffer any treacherous side effects. Mind you, each chemo approach is different depending on the cancer. For instance, one lady had chemo every three to four weeks. I’ll be having chemo every two weeks, later followed by every week. However, I’m trying to ignore that side of their good news and focus on the positive stuff – people cope well, and are able to carry on with their lives.

And on that note, Mom found an interesting website. There was a little boy – three years old – who was diagnosed with a cancer that has a survival rate of about 3%. Now that’s scary. But his parents took it upon themselves to give him every fighting chance possible. Years later he is cancer free. His dad ensured that every possible option was explored – and while there was probably an element of miracle in his great recovery – watching this father speak was a source of inspiration for alternative ways I can better prepare and protect my body**.

But you see, it’s not that I want to turn away from the medical advice provided. The doctors I have worked with are very experienced, specialize in breast care, and know what they know. So that isn’t it. I’m still having the chemo. I’m still having the radiation. I’m still doing the hormones. But . . . I still want to do more. I want better than 50%.

A long time ago I worked for PWC, and while working there – during a purge of office clutter and clean up – I acquired several pads of PWC note paper. On every page of this notepad it reads: ‘Have I explored every angle?’

Apart from loving to have that sweet copywriting opportunity, I admire the statement.

Have I explored every angle? Not yet, but I’m trying. Today I went to the acupuncturist. In a few weeks I’ll start treatments. A while back my breast was removed. In the meanwhile I’m taking supplements. On top of that I’m lessening estrogen-encouraging food in my diet. Tomorrow I’m going to the shop and buying glass containers to replace my plastic Tupperware (though I do love my Tupperware). Tonight I’ll try to meditate. And all the while my air filter is running, getting rid of mould and mite crap from the air.

Why not fight from every angle, what’s so wrong about that? Nothing.  Not a thing.  Nada.

So, that’s encouraging.  🙂

* Thanks for translating, Mom.

** Watch Bobby’s father describe their efforts to beat cancer and reduce the side effects of chemo treatments. It’s broken into parts. Click here for Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four. You can also visit their website, where proceeds go toward supporting other children in a similar situation: http://www.bobbyshealthyshop.com/