Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Starting chemotherapy (almost)

This morning I went to the hospital to start my chemotherapy.  Or so I thought.  It turned out that I needed to go through some pre-assessment stuff first and then I would start the actual chemo tomorrow.

I went to the Bridgewater Suite at the Belfast City Hospital where I was given a contraption like you get in TGI Friday's (I'll have a full all day breakfast please).  It was actually quite a welcoming place, all bright and airy and buzzing with nurses and doctors. 

I sat with my husband drinking coffee and getting up and down to go to the toilet.  I must confess my nerves were a little on edge.  I was like a cat on a hot tin roof.

The TGI Friday buzzer

Blood and heart

I didn't have to wait long before my TGI Friday buzzer went off.  I went through to the Assessment Unit where a lovely nurse sat me down and took two vials of blood.  This was so that she could check things like my liver/kidney function, white cells, platelets etc.  

I also had another ECG to check my heart's rhythm and electrical activity.  It literally took five minutes.  My heart rate was 'excellent' apparently:  51bpm.  I was recently told I must be fit to have such a low heart rate.  Yeah, right.


I had a chat too with a breast care nurse who explained about chemotherapy, its side effects and what to do if I felt unwell at any time. The overriding message - which she and everyone else I spoke to today kept drumming home - was that I absolutely had to ring their 24 hour helpline if I had a temperature or didn't feel well.  They would honestly shout at me if I didn't.  Even if I had any doubt about whether to ring the helpline, I had to ring it.  There could be serious consequences if I got an infection and they would be able to help me quickly if I contacted them.  

Side effects

The oncology doctor also came to see me to sign the consent form for treatment.  She explained the side effects again just so that I was absolutely clear about what to expect. 

Hearing the side effects hit me quite hard, even though I'd heard and read about them many times before.  There are three side effects that are certain: hair loss, fatigue and sickness.   They can give you medication for the sickness thankfully.  But there are other possible side effects too.  For example, there may be a risk of blood clots, blood cancer, weakened heart muscles, death from infection and other equally cheerful ones.  In my case, the benefits would outweigh the risks.   

One of the more light hearted side effects apparently is that my pee will go red as one of the chemicals is a strawberry colour.

My stomach was in knots as I signed the consent form to proceed with treatment.  Oh crap.  In for a penny, in for a pound I suppose. 

End of life considerations?

After all the tests and signing the consent form, I had a further session with another nurse.  She was kind and down to earth and spoke very quickly with a Belfast accent that even I couldn't quite follow after nearly 20 years of living here.  She explained that it would still be traumatic losing my hair even though I'd had it cut short and that I would look like the archetypal chemo patient when I looked at myself in the mirror.  

She asked me various questions, one of which was whether I had made any death or end-of-life considerations.  Um, no I hadn't.  Oh heck does that mean I should have?  I suppose I'd better get that Will written after all.

Workboots on

I sat with my husband back in reception and got a bit tearful.  I think the thought of what I'm about to face was starting to hit home.  

I've tried to be really positive so far but I feel like there are many dark days ahead and my positivity is in danger of completely melting away.

This sh*t is about to get real.  Or as Adam Keefe, Head Coach of the Belfast Giants, said to me: #workbootson.

I feel scared.


Let me know below if there's anything specific about my breast cancer journey you'd like me to blog about.

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1 comment:

  1. Karen, I feel for you! Can I just say, though, that you are not alone in feeling the fear? Your positivity WILL return! Remember that most side effects are possible, not guaranteed, and it truly is worth going through the horrible bits to come out the other side.

    I hope and pray that you won't be plagued with too many side effects, though.

    Stay positive when you can, lovely brave lady, and admit when you're struggling. No one is going to think badly of you! I hope that you keep writing, even if you don't publish, because I truly believed it helped me.

    I'm with you in spirit every step of the way.

    Maureen xx


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