End of chemo

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I had my last dose of chemotherapy last week – and I had planned to write something celebratory, but when I sat down at the computer I found I couldn’t. The truth is I’m tired and fed up.

I had expected to find this cycle easier somehow – thinking I’d sail through the side effects on a tide of elation that this was the last time I’d suffer, but actually it’s been really tough. I struggled to get out of bed at all for a few days and when I did I was hit by waves of nausea, fatigue and grief.

There has been a lot of crying this week. Perhaps it’s because I’m now forced to think about the next step of treatment – masectomy. Since diagnosis five months ago I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m not really bothered about losing a breast – because it’s nothing compared to losing a leg.

I mean it’s just a boob, right? It doesn’t help you walk or run or get you out of bed in the morning. It just kind of sits there lumpily, perhaps jiggling occasionally during exercise, but otherwise (in my case) hardly even bothering to add much in the way of womanly curves to a lanky frame.

But losing my leg made a huge dent in my body confidence, and now losing a breast is another blow – another bit of femininity gone. And obviously the feminist within me says, “Geez Sal – it ain’t all about legs and boobs you know – being a woman is about personality, humour, intellect, charisma, spark….” But the problem is chemo has robbed me of that too – I feel dull, dreary, tired…. really, really tired. It’s been five long months of hell, I have a mouth full of ulcers, a balding head and an operation in three weeks.

I know there’s a positive spin to put on all this – I’m making progress, the surgery will rid me of the tumour etc etc, but right now I’m too exhausted to make the effort.

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Chemo round 5

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Having (another) bad hair day with chemo buddy Vicki

Usually I have a couple of days’ grace straight after chemotherapy before I start to feel ill, but this time the side effects kicked in almost straight away – which is why I’ve only just got around to writing about it.  Also, my arm swelled up around the cannulation site, making typing painful – a sign that my veins, rather like their owner, are getting “grumpy’ (the medical term) from the repeated infusions.

The long list of unpleasant side effects seems to lengthen with each cycle of chemo and this time muscle spasms came, uninvited, to join the usual boorish party-goers of fatigue, sickness, dry mouth, lack of appetite, acne, diarrhoea, heartburn, mouth ulcers and hot flushes. Painful cramping in my leg and toes kept me awake for five nights after the infusion.

Apart from that, I was absolutely fine and dandy.

Luckily, I’ve since emerged from chemo hell to engage in activities that don’t involve needles, hospitals or feeling sick. Which is always nice.

This week’s loveliness has included: watching the Tour de Yorkshire in Wetherby and Tadcaster; tea-drinking and gossiping with friends; monster-chocolate-cake-making; scone-eating and bike pootling with the kids.

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Next week is (fingers crossed) my final round of chemotherapy. I’m focusing on that milestone, rather than the mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, radiotherapy and Herceptin injections to follow.

There’s still a long road ahead but we’re making progress – one painful step at a time.