Food

God, I miss food. Or rather, I really miss enjoying food. I’m still eating, but it’s a process of endurance and necessity rather than nourishment.

One of the most difficult side effects I’ve been suffering with on this chemotherapy regimen (docetaxel and carboplatin) is a sore mouth and throat, which makes eating really difficult. And when you add in a suppressed appetite (I can’t remember when I last felt hungry), nausea and gut gripes after eating (apologies if this is too much information, but what’s the point in sugar-coating it?) and mealtimes have become a battleground rather than something to look forward to.

The same applies to drinking. When you’re having chemo, the medical advice is to drink plenty of fluids so you keep hydrated, and flush out the poison they’ve just pumped you full of. But, when your mouth feels as if it’s coated in fur and even a glass of water fresh from the tap tastes like it’s been drawn from a stagnant ditch, then excuse me if I’m not rushing for a refill.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m the Brew Queen – never far from a kettle and a good cup of strong Yorkshire tea. But now I can’t stand the stuff. And it’s driving me crazy. Because what does any decent British person do in a troubled times? Put the kettle on.

And now I’m not working, I really miss the daily ritual of walking round the corner to the Cafe 164 for my flat white (and maybe an apple flapjack or a chilli chicken sandwich). Now I can’t stand coffee either. Flapjack is too sharp and chilli too spicy.

And the list goes on: bread is cardboard, sweet potato is sickly, breakfast cereal is sawdust, yoghurt is gloopy. Every food I used to enjoy is rendered either tasteless, nausea-inducing or revolting.

So, whilst I still sit at the table at mealtimes and push bits of unpalatable food around my plate, I no longer take pleasure in it. And, I’m not ashamed to admit it makes me sad. I miss you, food.

Changing fortunes

 

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This certificate arrived in the post yesterday – a stark reminder of how far I’ve fallen over the past 12 months. This time last year I was preparing to compete at the Track World Championships in Italy. Today, in my post-chemo haze, it has taken me two hours to have a shower and get dressed. I am shattered.

Shattered, but not yet broken. Whilst I’ve had to shelve some of the sporting ambitions I’d set for myself this year (learning to run and competing in a triathlon following a successful initial try-out with British Para Triathlon), I’ve set myself new ones. They are small steps, tiny targets and would have seemed pathetic just a couple of months ago: get outside every day, even if it’s just to limp to the end of the road; do half an hour on the bike indoors on ‘good days’; keep going to my weekly Pilates and Physio appointment whenever possible.

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My power numbers on the bike are paltry, I can barely lift half the weight I managed before on the leg press, and my arms start to shake after a few minutes at Pilates. It’s a humbling experience – to accept the loss of physical strength, and keep going anyway.

But when you’re at your lowest ebb, there are always people there to scoop you back up. And this week I have to thank my brilliant physiotherapist Elise and personal trainer Alex at Lear Fitness Harrogate for encouraging and supporting me – even when yesterday’s session was carried out with a sick bucket in reach – just in case.

 

 

Hot Valentine’s Date


What better way to spend the day of (commercialised) romance than at your friendly local oncology day unit? 

Free cups of stewed tea, Bourbon biscuits and chemotherapy cocktails! 

Added bonus of nausea/sore mouth/fatigue/rash to follow! 

Trapped in a ward for 10 hours with your loved-one is a true test of relationship strength!

Bet you’re all really jealous xxx

Hair today…

I spoke too soon. My hair has started falling out. There are strands on my pillow in the morning when I wake up, when I brush it (gingerly) and wash it (gently).

Also when the frigging cat decides to sit on my head and objects (clawingly) when I try to remove her.

Serves me right for being so sodding smug.

Oh, and round two of chemo starts tomorrow. Which I’m really looking forward to obviously…

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Note the new purchase of stupidly-expensive silk headband to cover bald spot on top of head.

Nope, it ain’t fooling anyone.

But also note the lack of pimples, which have – thank the Lord – almost disappeared. Although,as my oncologist cheerfully told me today, they’ll “probably re-emerge during the next cycle”. Like some kind of alien skin takeover presumably.

Still – you win some, you lose some.

Hair

This is the point – more than two weeks after chemotherapy – that my hair should be starting to fall out. But so far it isn’t, presumably because of the cold cap, which is great.

Granted, my hair can hardly be referred to as my crowning glory, since cold cap users are advised not to use styling products or hairdryers, or wash hair more than twice a week. My hair may be lank, limp and greasy, but at least it’s still there, for now at least.

But just in case it does start to go, let me me introduce you to Beverley…

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She’s a Hot Hair wig, chosen with the help of my lovely friend Liz, who thankfully stopped giggling long enough to dissuade me from buying one of the short cropped styles which made me look like a 65-year-old dinner lady.

With a name like Beverley (each wig has a name on the box, like a pair of shoes), she probably eats prawn cocktail and black forest gateau while listening to Duran Duran on her Discman. I like to think she’s a bit of a good time girl. I mean, look how her luscious chestnut locks curl gently into the nape of the neck; an effect that can only have been achieved with some Carmen heated rollers. Beverley is ready to party.

Me? Not so much. Although I’ve been feeling much better this week, I’m still peaking at around 70 percent of my usual energy. And that’s after a power nap.

And, just in case you were worrying about the hair on the rest of my body (I’ll be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought), one of my friends (yes, Zelie, that’s you) got me this…

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Friends eh? They’ve got me covered.

 

 

Weekend

It’s not relentlessly miserable round our gaff, honest. 

This weekend, the chemo fog lifted enough to get us all out on our bikes. 

We had Sunday dinner, did homework, swimming lessons and laundry, watched TV… it was normal. 

I like normal. 

Meltdown

I didn’t cry in front of the doctor who told me I had breast cancer.

I didn’t cry in front of the surgeon who told me I’d need a mastectomy.

But I did cry – great big fat unstoppable tears – in front of the dermatologist who told me the ‘rash’ on my face, chest and back is actually drug-induced acne that may take “several months to clear” after treatment.

Yes, it’s vain, and yes, it’s a tiny thing in comparison with the rest of treatment but it really bugs me that I will be spending the next year or more with a face covered in pimples like a hormonal teenager. Except with more wrinkles.

Of course, if I was a less shallow, more spiritual person I would take the fact that I will soon be one-legged, one-breasted, bald and pizza-faced as an opportunity to fall back on my sparkling personality. But my personality (less sparkling, more sarky) seems to have been replaced by a grumpy, insular, humourless arsehole. Even my father-in-law has noticed that I can’t be bothered to argue with him about sodding Brexit. It’s that bad.

I’m wallowing in angst, spending a lot of time sitting in my bedroom alone with the curtains closed, listening to music and browsing the internet for acne cures. It’s just like being a teenager, without the rebellious fun bits.