Monday, 10 July 2017

Second chemo and its aftermath

Take your PICC

I had a 'PICC' line inserted last week.  It's a thin, flexible, tube that goes into a large vein above the bend of your elbow until the tip is in a large vein just above the heart*.  Sounds gross doesn't it, but the thought of getting it put in was worse than reality.  

Having a PICC means I can now get my chemo drugs injected and bloods taken through the line.  That's such a relief, as the vein I had the chemo put in last time was starting to hurt and harden and that was only after one treatment.  I didn't need to have a PICC but with limited choice of arms to use for needles, I wanted to go for the easiest and most sensible option.

I had some local anaesthetic in my arm and as the nurse threaded the tube into me, I said to her 'Is it supposed to hurt?'  She smiled and said, 'Hmmm, not really, but you're probably just a sensitive critter!' 

The chemo the next day went in much more quickly and easily than last time.  Phew.

Sleep or lack of

I found it so difficult to sleep the night I had the chemo.  I was tired but wasn't tired, if that makes sense.  As I lay in bed trying to drop off, I could feel my heart palpitating.  I was genuinely becoming more frightened by the minute and was worried that if I went to sleep I wouldn't wake up in the morning.  I kept trying to rationalise things by blaming the steroids.   Yes, it had to be the steroids, didn't it.  Didn't it?

I kept waking up in the night and my heart would be fluttering unevenly and I felt on the verge of panic.  I was tempted to get up and phone the helpline, but told myself that if I still felt like this the next day I would ring them.  I tossed and turned all night long. 

The next day I felt absolutely knackered but the palpitations had subsided a bit.  I refused to take a nap despite feeling so bone weary.  I was angry, ratty and irritated at every little thing that I felt, thought, saw, read and encountered.  Things seemed to be conspiring against me too: I dropped clean washing on the patio, I grated my thumb on my vulnerable arm on the cheese grater, I stomped angrily round the house looking for my glasses until I realised I was already wearing them.

I went to bed at 8.00pm that night and slept a bit better. 

Cancer is hateful

I've started to get a really uncomfortable sensation in my throat and upper chest too.  I can't even begin to adequately describe what it feels like.  It's like I've swallowed a bunch of gigantic fishbones that have lodged sideways in my throat and that my neck and collarbone have got a tight band wrapped around them.  It almost feels like I've got some sort of rheumatism in my upper chest and throat.  I've spoken to the helpline, described the symptoms and they've given me advice.  But it is incredibly uncomfortable and disconcerting.

See cancer?  It is shit.  It is a bastard.  It is evil.  I never knew there were so many implications from having cancer.  I hate what I look like.  I hate feeling crap.  I hate the fact it has happened to me.  I hate the thought of living in the shadow of this awful disease possibly returning some day. 

You don't ever think cancer is going to happen to you.  But it can.  And it does.  My advice to you is to do all you can - as far as possible - to prevent it.  Please don't put yourself through what I and numerous others (in worse situations than me) have to go through.

To finish on a lighter note, here's a picture of me with a stupid homemade chemo cap.  I was having a 'good' (in relative terms) day that day but I'm finding that my sense of humour is starting to dwindle.


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  1. Hi karen. I've recently been diagnosed with ducal cancer and waiting for my op on 4 August. A colleague in my office who works for you gave me a link to your blog and I've found it really helpful. I hope your treatment goes well. Best wishes xx

    1. Hi, thank you so much for reading my blog. I'm glad you've found it helpful. I'm so sorry to hear that you have been diagnosed but you will be in good hands - the care and attention of the nurses and doctors is fabulous. If you want to email me directly then please check with whoever works with me and ask them for my personal email address as I am sure they will have it. Best wishes xxx

    2. Thanks Karen. Been told I will have WLE with Sentinel node check followed by rad. The waiting is a bit like mental torture as my mind keeps going into overdrive :). Best wishes. Michelle xxx

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