Sunday, 24 November 2013

And the FEC can FEC off!

So my third and final FEC was on 29 October. I was getting to grips with this now and was pretty confident that it would go the same way as the previous one, as I had the fabulous Emend to help me through again. 

The actual infusion was pretty painful this time though. The chemo is taking its toll on my poor veins. I had a little melt down whilst the nurse was pushing yet more of the pink stuff through. I didn't want this anymore and my body (and mind) was starting to protest.  What to do though, I didn't really have much choice. I was assured that the next lot of chemo was easier on the veins so I just had to get through today and then things would improve.  Suck it up sister.

It was a relief when it was over. I was celebrating a milestone today - halfway through chemo!  THAT was a good feeling.  I celebrated in style, with a glass of water and a good sit down on the sofa. That made a nice change!!

Thankfully this FEC followed the same pattern as the last. I think I felt a bit more wiped out by it but I guess the effects are cumulative so it was not really surprising. I also started to feel a bit low at this point which I had been warned about. I was just getting a bit fed up with the whole ordeal to be honest. I wanted it to be over. No real surprises there!

This round of chemo coincided with a busy time for Will at work.  I didn't see much of him for about 10 days.  He would leave the house before I got up, and arrive back in the middle of the night.  But it kind of suited me, as I just wanted to sit quietly.  I'd get out everyday for a walk, usually up to greenwich where I would sit in a cafe looking, I'm sure, pretty vacant. A hot chocolate would bolster my energy for the walk back home. 

Eating seemed to help with the nausea and by day three or four my appetite was back with a vengeance. I guess that was the steroids talking. I got into the habit of having two breakfasts!

The heartburn was still a constant companion but didn't seem quite so bad this time. I'd been for an acupuncture session and the therapist, who was also a nutritionist, had advised me to try following a more alkaline diet. This meant cutting out grains and eating as many raw greens as possible. She said if I couldn't manage doing that full time, at least to try it on the three days around chemo. 
Breakfast was the challenge. I'm a porridge, toast and cereal girl. But I actually started to enjoy the change and began to start my days eating omelettes, avocados, spinach and cucumbers. I also got a taste for spelt pancakes (spelt is apparently less acidic than wheat?) and quinoa salads for lunch. As I say I think it helped a little with the heartburn, but it also just felt healthier and my digestion felt better for it. I haven't gone strictly grain free, but have cut down hugely. 
Loving the spelt pancakes

Day nine was again the magical day when the fog lifted and all was well with the world. As soon as I started to feel better, my mood lifted too and I was back on form.  I had a big day planned, so it was fortuitous that I was feeling so well. 

First off I had an appointment for a wig trim, back at the patient appliances dept of the hospital of course.  A hairdresser visits once a month to do this and she shortened the fringe and thinned it all out a bit. It looked much better. 
After that I had a Headstrong session which is organised by Breast Cancer Care. I had two ladies show me and let me try on a wide range of head coverings including hats, scarves and bandannas.  They also demonstrated a few different ways of tying scarves.  They were lovely and it was a pretty useful session.  I think I'm definitely more of a scarf person than a wig person.  The wig doesn't feel like me.  I still get freaked out when I catch myself in the mirror with nothing on my head.  Who is that cancer patient staring back at me?  It ain't me?  My eyebrows and eyelashes are hanging on so far, but thinning by the day.  That is not going to be a good look. 

Later that afternoon I met up with an old and very good friend Mel who was in London to attend a Children in Need dinner.  We had a catch up over coffee and then a wander round Oxford Street.  We found ourselves in John Lewis and managed to wangle ourselves a makeover at the Bobbie Brown counter.  Now Mel is the last person I would ever have imagined myself undertaking this type of activity with.  She's more of a 'chuck your sports gear on and go for a bike ride/run/swim' type of person.  Neither of us is particularly make-up inclined but she fancied getting dolled up for her evening ahead, and I just fancied looking like a human being.  The lady who looked after us was very patient with our cluelessness and did her best not to make us feel like a couple of no hopers. 

The following week I had to head back to the hospital for some tests on my heart - echo-cardiogram, ECG and chest x-ray.  The reason for these is that I have entered a clinical trial for the sub-cutaneous form of the drug Herceptin.  The NHS has just started to roll  out this method of administration of the drug, as opposed to the intra-venous version used up until now.  But it is not, as yet widely available.  I was pretty keen to avoid the IV route so was very happy to be offered the clinical trial which guaranteed me the sub-cut version. 

The clinical trial is basically to test out side-effects from the administration method.  It is given via a contraption that is strapped to your thigh, which punches a needle in and slowly administers the dose over about five minutes.  Being in the trial does mean having a few extra tests along the way and a bit more follow up afterwards, but I think this is a small price to pay for the convenience (a five minute, pretty painless injection compared to a half hour IV infusion) and also has the benefit of helping others in the future.  The idea is that patients will be able to administer the drug themselves at home.  Considering it needs to be given every three weeks, and some people can be on it for life, I think this will make a huge difference to some people's lives.  But I won't lie, I was really doing this for me.  Leave my veins alone!!!  No PICC lines, no portacaths, no more cannulas.  Thank you. 

Later in the week it was back to the oncologist for my three weekly meet to prepare for chemo number four which would be a different kettle of fish altogether.  I would be starting the Docetaxel.  And good riddance to FEC is all I can say!  My current favourite lady in the whole world, Oncy as I will from now on call her, prepared me for what was to come.  Little to no nausea with this one - YAY! But aching muscles and joints was the order of the day - BOO!  Although, as usual, there is no way of telling how much I will be affected.  Some she said, get very little pain.  Some can cope with just taking paracetomol to relieve the discomfort.  But for others it can be a morphine type pain!  Happy days.  She dispensed panadol, ibuprofen and tramadol to cover me for what I might be hit with.  Also, your finger and toe nails can be affected and slowly peel off.  Well, how delightful!  Can't wait for that. 

We ran the idea past Oncy of going away on a short break in between chemo and radiotherapy.  She said this was a great idea.  We are thinking southern Europe, not too far away but hopefully enough sun to warm the bones.  So that will hopefully be at the end of January. 

Will also wanted to get her opinion on a little idea we've been developing for the end of the treatment (apart from the bloody Herceptin obviously which will not be done with until this time next year).  We are hoping to go off on a little bicycle trip, heading off from our front door in about April and heading to the warmer climes of, perhaps Istanbul?  Oncy's face was a picture!  She clearly thought we were crazy.  But we explained further and she began to warm to the idea.  Obviously, I need to be back here every three weeks for the Herceptin, so the idea is to plan our route via airports along the way so that we can lock the bikes up somewhere, fly back, get the needle, sit on the sofa and enjoy some home comforts for a couple of days, or even weeks if we feel like it and then carry on on our merry way. 

If it happens, it happens.  It gives both of us something to look forward to and I think it will be a great way of sticking my finger up to cancer, getting my body back and feeling like me again.  Travel insurance might be a bit on the hefty side, but I'm avoiding looking into that at the moment because I don't want it to put me off!

After my appointment I had a lovely catch up and lunch with mates from a dim and distant past at college, Lu and Claire.  Joycee and Nic you were missed but that's your fault for living too far from where the action is man.  If there is one bonus to all this cancer business, its having the time to spend with friends who have been long absent in the past, mainly due to geography but also due to lack of time.  I could get used to this not-working business I reckon. 

The other thing I do to pass time when there's no one free for coffee
(these are for a baby by the way, not for me!)


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