For years my mother had regularly quoted some or other source claiming that the year 2012 would be the end of the world, December 2012 to be precise, well as precise as you can be when you are predicting that type of thing! I have really no idea whether she actually believed this or just enjoyed the drama of the conversation, but as I walked into the hospital on January 4th 2012 I remember thinking I that I would be pretty pissed off if I got through 6 months of chemo just to be vaporized in December!!
Armageddon or not, here I was with overnight bag in hand about to join that sadly not so exclusive club of people who have faced chemotherapy. To be honest I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to needles, yes I know it's not painful, but in the last few months I felt that I had more than my fair share... I remembered visiting a friend in hospital a few years earlier, who sadly had also joined 'the club' also, ironically, for a blood cancer and was having her own blind date. I spent the whole visit trying not to look at her outstretched arm bandaged at the elbow, with a small thin tube disappearing inside.....yuck.
So, having seen some of the effects of treatment first hand, you would have thought where they stick the needle would be the least of my concerns....not so, in fact it was one of my first questions. Mystery over as apparently my team preferred hands...and I had lovely veins, so my regular 3 weekly dose of drain fluid would alternate between the 2. So which hand to start with? It's a more important question to consider than you may think, particularly as you will be ‘hooked up’ for the best part of a day if you’re lucky…..longer if you’re not.
As I am right handed I opted for the left hand, it turned out to be a good first choice, as given there is a considerable amount of liquid added to your system either by drip or endless cups of tea or coffee; bathroom trips were frequent. Ah the bathroom trips, what an adventure! Just me, a drip that beeped continually when unplugged and what seemed like miles of clear plastic tube linking us together. Strangely considering where I was and what was happening I was actually embarrassed about needing to visit the bathroom every twenty minutes, and the loud beeping that began the minute I unplugged the drip from the mains felt like an announcement… “yep she’s going again”
The first treatment was particularly embarrassing as each time the beeping started the nurse would come back to my room to check I was ok and that the drip was not blocked. From inside the bathroom I would re-assure her that I was fine…just going to the toilet….again. To be honest, before my treatment even started I had spent a great deal of time staring at myself in the bathroom mirror… wondering what to expect, wondering how I would look, would I lose my hair, eyebrows or both? I remembered laughing with my friend during her journey, she had lost her eyelashes, but had hairs on her legs that rugby players would envy!!! I had never even considered the thought that I could lose my eyelashes… so now I was standing in a hospital bathroom wondering whether the eyelashes that had faithfully been attached to my eyelids for 47 years would still be there the following morning.
All this aside I was ‘apparently’ a model patient, although I don’t mind admitting I was so scared walking into the room on day one, I am amazed I managed to put one foot in front of the other, let alone sign a whole load of consent forms and even joke that I could come back if they were busy!!
Read more about Wendy's experiences of treatment
Find out more about treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma