My first day of chemo. I put on the warpaint and my lucky pants. One of my friends who will no doubt read this will know all about lucky pants (you know who you are 😘).
Before I left the house, I saw that one of my eyebrows that I'd pencilled in was wonky and uneven. Ah, bugger it. No-one will notice.
Cancer and coffee
I arrived early with my husband for my appointment in the Bridgewater Suite of Belfast City Hospital and was given the old TGI Friday buzzer. Heck, I needed a coffee first and so made a beeline for the coffee dock. The teas, coffees and biccies are free but they have to be paid for by someone. That's where the Friends of the Cancer Centre come in as they provide them but have to rely on donations. Dig deep, folks!
I plumped for a coffee and, trying to be healthy, I resisted the biscuits.
Nearly an hour later, I still hadn't been buzzed. I was getting edgy. I went and got a book out of the little library within the Suite. I kept nipping to the loo. I moved seats. I went and got a cup of tea. I asked a nurse if I had missed something but she told me that my treatment hadn't arrived in the Unit. I knew I was being a 'fuss-arse', as my dear old dad used to call me.
Damn it, I couldn't resist any longer. I succumbed to a packet of fruit shortcake biscuits. They must have been magic biscuits 'cos the next minute my buzzer went. At last!
The Treatment Unit
A lovely nurse greeted me in the Treatment Unit and took me to a chemo bay. In it were eight comfy chairs with four on each side, with pillows and overhead TVs. I sat down and waited.
Now, even cancer patients can get a bit territorial apparently. It seems that some regular patients have their own favourite chair in the bay. It's not unknown for dirty looks to be exchanged if someone else takes a favourite seat. Rumour also has it that some regular patients had worked out that if they sat in the first seat on the left hand side they would get treated first. This was because they saw that the nurses went round the bay in a clockwise direction. However one of the nurses told me that she had cottoned on to this and so would go anti-clockwise to keep them on their toes. How hilarious.
Even when getting chemo, it seems us cancer patients can still be bloody competitive.
Getting stuck in
I settled down into my chair and then had my blood pressure and oxygen levels checked. They were fine. Then another wonderful nurse turned up to do the deed. She had been reading up on my notes and was getting the treatment all prepared.
I had a decent vein just above my left wrist which the nurse stuck a thin tube (a cannula) into which she could use to connect the drug filled syringes. I was hooked up to fluids as well. I knocked back the steroids and anti-sickness tablet.
So far, so good.
So far, so good.
As the drugs are extremely toxic, the nurse had to wear protective clothing and plastic safety glasses (which she referred to as her gorgeous Gucci ones).
The first drug to be injected was the red coloured one called Epirubicin. That's the 'E' in the FECD/FEC-T regime, plus it's the one that makes your pee go red and makes your hair fall out. Three syringes of the little charmer.
The nurse injected the first syringe slowly into the cannula, then the second one, then the third. My forearm started to get a bit chilly so I was handed a heat pack to keep it warm. Aahh, that was heavenly.
Around came tea, coffee and biscuits. Ooh, another cup of tea? Yes please. And some biscuits too? Don't mind if I do. Oh bugger, I needed the loo. I was going to have to hang on.
After the first three red syringes, I got the other two drugs: Fluorouracil (F) and Cyclophosphamide (C). Again, they had to be manually injected into me very slowly. I think the only side effect at the time were some slightly tingling fingers. No stuffy sinuses or runny nose - another possible side effect - touch wood.
The nurse and I chatted about loads of things. Like all the other NHS staff I have had the pleasure of dealing with, she was brilliant. After about an hour, it was over and I could go home. I was unplugged from the various contraptions and given packets of anti-sickness tablets and steroids to take home. Oh and I must remember to flush the toilet twice.
I went to the loo before I left. I couldn't resist and looked down into the toilet bowl. My wee wasn't red, it was orange: the red of my chemo drug and the yellow of my wee had mixed together. I'd been Tangoed (look it up, kids).
You know what? The whole experience wasn't too bad.
A bit of nausea
In the early afternoon, I started to feel a little nauseous and rang the Helpline. They were quite surprised that I felt sick so quickly so suggested that I took an anti-sickness tablet at 6pm. I haven't taken it 'cos I feel fine right now.
Fingers crossed for the next 21 days...when I go for my next session.
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