Sunday, 29 October 2017

My final chemo

The day had come for my tenth and final chemo.  It was 24 October 2017,  a full 19 weeks since my very first infusion.

When I woke up, my stomach and mind were churning with a mix of emotions: I was happy and excited but a little apprehensive as I knew the regular therapy sessions (in more ways than one) would be coming to an end.  I was about to be set free from chemo, which despite being a quite horrible treatment, was actively keeping me alive.  I was beginning to feel quite vulnerable again. 

Things started off well when I went and had my pre-assessment that morning.  The nurse was able to get blood out of my PICC line to do my blood tests which meant that it was working OK.  I breathed a sigh of relief, especially as the day before the line had not played ball with the District Nurse.  It also meant that I could at last get my PICC line completely removed after the chemo.  The thought of being able to have a big, deep bubble bath again was so enticing.  No more pulling stupid shapes to try to keep my dressing dry.

Chemo time

I came back later that afternoon to get my chemo and brought in a big tub of chocolates as a thank you gift for the nurses.  I chatted to the chemo patient in the chair next to mine and started to feel myself tear up at the thought of this stage of my journey coming to an end.

Whilst I was waiting, the oncologist came to see me and said that my blood test that morning had showed that my red blood cells were low and that I needed to come back on Friday to have them tested again.  If my red cells were still low, she said, I might need a blood transfusion.  WHAT?!  

My chemo was thwarted at the 11th hour.  The nurse couldn't get blood out of my PICC line.  I was gutted.  It had worked fine that morning.  By now it was about 4 pm and it was too late for the nurse to give me a clot buster - it needed at least an hour to work and then I would need a further two to three hours for the chemo.  By then the Treatment Unit would be closed.  

I was given a choice:

a) get another x-ray, a clot buster and come back the next day, or 

b) get chemo through a peripheral vein (a vein that's not in the chest or abdomen).

I was under pressure to make a decision as it was getting late in the day.  Oh shit.  SHIT!!  What should I do?

I didn't know what to do and started to feel a wave of panic wash over me.  I wanted to get it over with as I'd built myself up, but the thought of getting chemo through a cannula and a peripheral vein was not an attractive option.

'I'll go peripheral.'
'Are you sure?' said the nurse.
I looked over at the patient next to me for moral support. Her eyes showed a tiny element of doubt.
'No.  I'll come back tomorrow!' I blurted out.
As soon as I'd said it, I knew I'd made the right decision.  I felt a sense of relief.  There was no point in rushing the final chemo and knackering another vein for the sake of a few more hours.

I went home and on the way, I thought sod it, I'm going to have a chinese takeaway.  When I got home I realised I'd been walking around the hospital all day with only one eyebrow.  I'd clearly rubbed one of them out by accident.

Sleep was elusive that night. 

The next day

I returned the next day at 9.00am, hoping that the PICC line would deliver its required dose of blood before I could get the treatment.

It did.  It was all systems go.  As usual, I fell asleep during the infusion, woke up in time for a cup of tea and by 11.30am it was over.  
Getting ready to start chemo

As I left the chemo bay, I gave each of the nurses who had treated me over the last number of months a big hug.  I got quite emotional.   'No offence, but I hope I never see any of you again!' I said through the tears.

Chemo's done

I walked out of the hospital into bright, autumnal sunshine.  It felt bloody brilliant. 

The nurses

I can't write this blog without saying something about the chemo/clinic nurses.  They are amongst the most charming, warm, funny, patient and caring people I have EVER met in my life.  They make the horrible experience of treatment so much more bearable and are like a surrogate family.  Without their passion, people skills and expertise, the last four months of brutal poisoning (and that's what it is) could have been a heck of a lot worse.  

The nurses brought a lot of sunshine and hope into my life. They are truly remarkable people and are a credit to the NHS.  They are the only thing I'll miss from my time getting treatment. 

Final blood test

My red blood cells were tested again on Friday morning and thankfully they were fine.  I was absolutely delighted.  It meant that I was able to get my PICC line removed too as I wouldn't be needing it any more.   Happy days.

PICC line after removal

What next?

My journey isn't over yet.  It's just the end of the chemo chapter (with any luck).  It'll probably be a couple of weeks before I start my radiotherapy trial and I'll be starting hormone therapy soon too.  

Stay tuned.   There's more 'fun' to come.

Much love x


  1. Karen
    My heart and thoughts are are with you as you start this next stage. Be well,be happy keep talking and most importantly keep writing!
    Elly xx

  2. Hi Karen, Roy here. Congratulations on the final chemo. Good to get that behind you and as you say, the journey isn't over yet, still radiotherapy and hormone therapy to go. I really hope that those parts of the journey go smoothly and you get both feet back on terra firma, so to speak and that bubbly Karen is in our faces again.
    As for my own path, I've just had an elbow operation which consisted of two parts, one of which went ok, but the second, the ulnar nerve one, showed a growth on the nerve which will need a biopsy. When I went to the Mcdermott unit last week, I found that my red blood cells have dropped to almost the level that floors me. Literally, lol. Picking up now though slowly. Justshows how fragile this cancer makes me. I'll be back at the class soon enough though as I hope you will be too. Sorry for boring you with that stuff Karen. Keep fighting girl and shine through. All the best, Roy xxx

    1. Hi Roy, so lovely to hear from you. I fully intend to be back to the bubbly Karen I was before the big C paid a visit :). You are an incredible person Roy. You are facing so much crap with your cancer yet you always manage to stay upbeat and funny. I do hope to see you soon. Stay strong, chum xxx

    2. Aaaaah Karen, you're such a wonderful person with your flattery, keep it up lol. You stay strong too xx

  3. Hi Karen Congrats on finishing your Chemo and good luck with the radiotherapy. I'm sure you will find it so much easier than chemo. Keep posting i've enjoyed your blog. I finished my RT at the end of October and been taking letrozole for the past month. Best wishes michellex

    1. Hi Michelle, I'm so pleased you've finished RT. Yes, it is far easier than chemo thankfully. I've not had any adverse effects from it so far, fingers crossed. How are you getting on with the letrozole?

      Take care, Karen xx


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