Aileen Lamb
Posted by
Aileen Lamb

Chemo - the other bits

Aileen Lamb
Posted by
Aileen Lamb
13 Nov 2015

What’s the image that springs to mind when you think of someone on chemotherapy? A bald, sick, gaunt person? Someone unable to summon up enough energy to get out of bed and do much meaningful stuff? Mine too.

So you can imagine that I went into the first cycle of chemo feeling more than just a wee bit nervous about what was in store for me. I’ll be very honest now and say that I think I’ve been remarkably lucky. I had the infection in my PICC line. For the first 3 days I experienced very spiky temperatures which made me a little bit mad for a few hours (or more mad). My weight went absolutely through the roof – gaining 10kg in about 4 days due to water retention. But really, that was it.

The docs prescribed anti-sickness drugs before chemo kicked off, so I didn’t have any issues with this or even nausea. Now those of you who know me and my appetite will understand how important this was to me. And, given the surprisingly good quality of food at the hospital I was filled with glee that my appetite was maintained.

Hair! Or loss of it. This was pretty likely to happen with the type of chemo I was having. So preempting baldness I asked Lisa my hairdresser to come in and cut my hair short (see picture above) so that when it did start to fall out it would be far less traumatic. In the grand scheme of things (I think at least) that loosing my hair for a while is relatively minor. And on the plus side I’m saving about £20 a week on products and half an hour a day on washing and drying. It was all shaved off about 10 days after chemo finished and I can report I’ve actually got quite an attractive shaped head!

HEnergy was another area that I was worried about however as my visitors will attest I was still able to stay awake through most visits. (and if I did nod off it was because your chat was mince!) I did get what friends in the know have described as ‘chemo brain’. My generally decent levels of concentration fell right down – one chapter in a book, or 30 mins of a film were about as much as I could deal with in one sitting. This from the girl who could previously easily devour a whole book in one sitting!

However, I’m pleased to report that 3 weeks on from the end of my chemo, concentration levels are back and books are once again being devoured with gusto. I think that the process of remembering and writing all this down for my blog has re-sparked my brain too. Which makes me even more inclined to agree with the premise that attitude and approach contribute just as much as medication to positive outcomes.

I’ve believed from day one that I’ve got a role to play in my recovery which is about grabbing my cancer round the throat and looking it square in the eye. I’m not the disease and it’s not me. I am more powerful than it and I will move it right out of my way. It’s simply a ‘bump in my road, an obstacle which I will overcome. And dealing with any of the potential side effects of treatment fall into the same category.

Ask me this again if I’m feeling really rough at some point and I sincerely hope that I will still have the same will to fight. I think that I will.

Comments

18.11.2015

Absolutely brilliant blog Aileen.

I, too, went in to chemo apprehensive and with all the preconceptions and fears that you described and was similarly surprised (in a good way!) that the reality was far less difficult than the preconception.

Lethargy and inablility to concentrate (I fell asleep during the FA Cup Final) were my main issues and I was very fortunate to have such an attentive team of nurses there to give me anti-nausea and pain relief drugs whenever I needed them.

Taking pre-emptative action in regards to the hair loss by getting it cut in advance was a very good idea and something that I did too on advice from the nurses. I subsequently found out that hair loss occurs because the chemo that they use targets fast growing cells and is, as yet, unable to distinguish between your hair cells and the cancer.

Hope all is well with you and keep up the good work with the blog which is on the money and really useful for others currently going through treatment.