Post-chemotherapy physical

And finally I can relax. The past few days have been jammed packed, so it’s very good to lay here in bed and talk with you. Outside, in typical British style, the sky is grey. For Canada winter means snow and ice and deep freeze. In England winter means grey and rain and wet. I could take either climate, but my apartment grows mould with too much humidity and that is not fun, nor healthy. Sooner than later we’ll ditch this accommodation.

Anyhow! Good morning! Today I’m doing a body check. It’s been a little over one month since my last chemotherapy treatment. So head-to-toe inventory:

Toes: Still painted and enjoying the result of a post-Christmas pedicure with Mom. The ladies are lovely in their pale green varnish, though if I could go back I’d have gotten a hot pink instead. During the pedicure, despite the tingling that had occurred during chemo, there was no discomfort. And since then no tingling has returned. This is a very good thing for which I’m thankful. Paxlitaxel did not disable my toes.

Shins: Leg hair is sparsely returning, though not as Amazonian and fierce as it once was (it was like a black jungle). Due to winter and my new adoption of legging/tights beneath my dresses, I will not be shaving this season.  But it doesn’t even matter. I’ve now got my father’s legs (what every woman wants), totally bare of hair.

Nether Regions: aka The Lady. Five shots of Zolodex threw me into menopause and took away my menstruation. It’s a dry well. Unfortunate for several reasons (use your imagination) but the greatest worry is that my period hasn’t returned. Right – here is the thing. If chemo knocked out my baby-making abilities, then the periods will never return. If the Zolodex is simply taking time to wear off, it’ll return eventually. Some women get it back immediatly, others wait months – like even up to half a year. I’m not too worried, just sick of the hot flashes.

Belly: Happy. It hasn’t had a needle in over a month. Yay! I’d like to maintain the trend.

Boobs: Or boob. Whatever. Chest. Apart from my bi-weekly meltdown with fear of reoccurrence (something I really need to work on) things are great. At the moment my skin is a rich cream colour, and the scar is still red, and will likely become redder as radiotherapy progresses, but for now things are okay. My left nipple still intimidates me. I try to ignore it.

Hands: Improving daily. The extreme sensation has reduced significantly, and it’s only my thumbs that feel the discomfort. Mind you, my nails have all suffered. Oh they are UGLY. Like rotten teeth. Hopefully this disgusting mess grows out quickly. Although, as a reflection of what happened within my body during chemo, it’s quite revealing.

Face: Smiling. It’s good to be done chemotherapy. Oh, and my left bottom eyelid is essentially without lash, and I suspect my eyebrows have further thinned since I’ve returned to England. Cursed allergies! This apartment has got to go. (or rather, we need to go from the apartment)

Head: Give me a head with hair! Long beautiful hairrr! I get hair-envy, and wonder what Freud would  say about that? I look at people’s gorgeous heads of hair and crave. I crave hair. At the moment it’s thickening up on the side and back, but the top front is completely sans new growth. Hopefully I’m reverse balding, but there is a fear that I’ve simply gone bald at the front of my head. That would suck: Bye bye bangs.  AH! No way! It’s got to grow back.

Overall: I’m doing great & feeling good. Sure I get tired, but this little island between treatments has been an excellent holiday destination.

There you go – body check complete. This is the body of a post-chemo babe, and it’s coming back nicely. Yes, the hair could grow more quickly (and more evenly) but I’m thankful nevertheless.

Have a lovely day and thanks for reading this self-fixated post. Next time I’ll talk about the killer whales, which has a further reaching meaning than stuff like leg hair, pedicures and reverse balding.

Only one left! Ahhha!

Today we picked up a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream cake. It’s all planned out: I have my last chemotherapy treatment on Thursday (December 23rd) at 2.30pm, after which we’ll come home and order a pizza. Following the pizza we’ll have a champagne toast (really non-alcoholic fizzy apple juice) and cake. When asked what should be written on the cake, Mom told them “W-O-H-O-O-!-!-!” Wohoo, baby!Chances are I’ll be a chemo zombie during the celebration – but nevertheless, I’ll be a happy chemo zombie. It may be emotional.  (what else is new?)

Last Friday went really well. I showed up to the Cancer Centre and was shortly thereafter shown to my bed.

Differences between England and Ottawa:

England: I have an easy chair. Premeds are taken in one bag.  Treatment takes 2 hours. I know all the nurses. There is a terrible chemical smell. Someone chances my picc line bandages. No one takes my blood pressure.

Ottawa: I have a bed. Premeds are given in several small bags. Treatment takes 2.5 hours. I don’t know any of these nurses. There is a state of the art facility that does not smell. No one changes my picc line bandages. Someone takes my blood pressure.

The chemo ward in Ottawa is really beautiful. It’s so big and light and spacious – quite fancy. Yet I do miss knowing the nurses and having that familiarity I had so struggled to originally achieve (but which made the process much easier). It’s strange because I can’t quite joke with them, or ask how things are going, or see what’s new from last time. Mind you, so what? Right? This isn’t my life, and I never want to it become my life. Chemotherapy is done (almost) and so those connections would have ended regardless. But I do miss my nurses.

Mom, Dad and I arrived at the Center in Ottawa and Dad had to stay in the waiting room. Only one person per patient allowed. Dr Canada said ‘serious things are happening, so we take that seriously’. He then said it was basically to reduce the amount of chatter. Funny eh, chatter. In the UK the chemo ward was full of chatter. Serious things were happening, but everyone was happy for a distraction.

Apparently in Ottawa it’s policy that with my chemotherapy I’m given a bed. I choose a berth beside their giant window (a wall made of windows) and enjoyed the view. Frankly, it is nicer than back in England . . . I can’t lie – money has clearly been poured into this place and it makes a difference. There were so many times over the past five months that I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to see the sky?’ as they pumped the drugs into my veins. I more or less envisioned a spa-like retreat with cedar flooring, a central fire place, Enya music, people in bathrobes and tempting steam rooms – well, this new centre isn’t exactly spa like, but it’s still quite nice.

There is a difference. I think it reflects funding. But you know what, the nurses are still lovely. I really admire nurses and couldn’t toot their horn more loudly. They always have a smile and a kind word. Cheers to the nurses!

After chemo we came home and I slide into my parents bed. The rest of the day was spend watching Modern Family, talking to Zsolt, eating some rice pita pizza and just resting. It was tiring, but it’s always tiring. Today I feel better, and that follows my pattern. Chemo day, followed by two good days, followed by two difficult days, followed by a better day, followed by chemo again. And so we go – until next week.

What will happen in the weeks to come? I don’t know. Will I be on a high from the freedom? Will I be on a low from the sudden lack of drugs? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, this part of the journey is nearly over; I will cope with the change and move past it.

Goodbye chemotherapy. I hope we worked well together. So well, in fact, that this job never need be repeated. Goodbye.

(Until next Thursday, but after that I really mean it. GOODBYE!)

PS – tomorrow is the Brunelle Family traditional Christmas trip to St Hubert’s. Oh yeah baby! I am looking forward to some ribs, fries and awesome gravy. Yum freaking yum.

Gotta sleep tonight


I’m done with counting up. It’s time to count down. Woohoo!

As of tomorrow noonish, that’ll be SIX, then next week five, then four, then three, then two, than one, than ZERO. Happy new year!

While discussing scheduling with my boss, he said to me today, “I’m not going to stop you going home for Christmas, I don’t think anything could stop you.” 🙂  He’s mostly likely right. The juices are flowing between Canada and England, connections still need to happen but things are looking good. I don’t want to jinx anything by delving into details before they’ve settled – so let’s just say it’s looking good. Will discuss more later.

And speaking of later . . . after chemo come radiotherapy.  My oncologist will be setting up a meeting with my soon-to-be radiotherapist (is that a real term?) At which point they’ll let me know how many treatments I can expect. Because I don’t want reconstructive surgery I should be given less as opposed to more radiotherapy. Fingers crossed that’s true, because I hear it burns.

Way back in July while meeting with the surgeon, reconstructive surgery was brought up in conversation.

“That breast is rotten, it’s got to go. Good news is we can build you an ever better breast.”

No thank you, sir. It isn’t his breast sculpting abilities that I question, it’s my patience level. When given the choice (a choice that doesn’t involve life-threatening growths) I always choose NOT to have surgery. I’m a ‘just say no’ kinda girl. Though I sympathise with women who want to have the reconstruction. Losing a breast sucks and the chance to get another is appealing, but the idea of more scalpels and drugs and pain is not.

So far in this post I’ve talking about counting down, going to Canada, radiotherapy and breast reconstruction.

I’m rambling.


Because it is nearing bedtime in the Samson/Brunelle household, which means if I don’t spill my thoughts now they’ll keep me up tonight. Two nights in the past week I haven’t been able to sleep. There is tossing and turning and attempts at meditation – useless! The only cure for my insomnia is writing. It helps the chatty part of my mind deflate, and after I’ve written three or four pages of ramble, drifting to sleep becomes easier. Poor Zsolt gets woken up by the light and the clicking pen. But what can I do? I’m a writer with urges.

Apparently Paxlitaxel can cause insomnia. I’m not sure if that’s an official side effect, but I’ve read about it on the message boards. Paxlitaxel strikes again, another women has a sleepless night. And then comes morning, by the time I’ve finally drifted off and entered ‘log’ like sleep, well the neighbour babies start crying and the sun starts shining and Zsolt wakes up to wash the dishes.

Frankly I’m getting more tired as each week passes. The night is still a blessed time of calm, but when my mind refuses to shut down it turns into a game of patience. Can I be patient enough to not flip over, to not blow my nose, to not kick my legs. The answer is inevitable: No. I must flip over and blow my nose and kick my legs. I might even do it all at once.

So despite my mounting fatigue, I’m having trouble sleeping. It doesn’t make sense.

Please excuse my rambles, but they won’t shut up without expression. Writing is my preventative medicine to a sleepless night, so hopefully this works. But to be sure I’ll stop typing now and turn to my journal – that’s a whole other sort of expression . . . the page and the pen and the ink, they’re so physical. My fingers ache from the uncomfortable pen shape, and unlike the keyboard, the journal page actually resists my scribbling – writing is an effort in my journal. It’s an exercise. It’s a workout.

Maybe that’s why I’m able to sleep.

Anyhow – to the journal. See you on the other of SIX.

P.S. Oh my word, I almost forgot, tomorrow is my last Zoladex shot.

*Sigh* What a freaking relief. I’m so sick of needles in my belly, if I never have another needle in my stomach I’ll be a very happy woman. After this shot I’ll have one more month of menopause, and then – fingers crossed – my period will come back. Please let my period come back. Bring the flow, bring the inconvenience, bring the PMS if it means that one day I can be pregnant. One more month of menopause . . . until actual menopause, which is hopefully still a long way off. These hot flashes are positively melting me! Sweat drips down my bald head, and I’m forced to strip in public. Off with the jacket, off with the head scarf, off with the sweater, off with everything! Or almost.


Off to write!