I hate rollercoasters; the stomach clenching, uncontrollable fear as the carriage climbs, the anxiety of the unknown ride ahead, the adrenaline pumping through my veins, my heart pounding, the elation at the end once it’s all over and I’ve cheated death again (ok slight exaggeration there 😂). I know I’m a drama queen and a big wus but no, rollercoasters are really not for me.
But, as my husband told me a few weeks ago as I was whining about the constant fear and the massive highs and lows I was feeling “Suck it up, Buttercup. This is life now.” And how right he was. Life is now one big, never ending, emotional rollercoaster ride. And as Ronan Keeting once said – I just gotta ride it. Which is way more eloquent than the words of my unsympathetic husband!
Low: The waiting – This is quite possibly the single most difficult issue to cope with; waiting for appointments, results, treatment. In each waiting period it’s difficult to keep the fear of the unknown under control. Panic is never too far away. The weeks waiting for chemotherapy to start were emotionally tough. I felt like a sitting duck, with absolutely nothing to fight with. The few days before my first session were particularly difficult. I had a list of side effects to worry about and the possibility of allergic reactions hanging over me which would scupper the planned treatment to at least some extent.
High: Being poisoned – I was on a massive high on the day the chemo started. It felt so good to be doing something at last, bitch slapping breast cancer. As the poison flowed through my veins so did the massive relief. I was fighting back.
High: The side effects – I was super lucky with the side effects. Each issue cleared quickly and wasn’t too severe. On the whole I really didn’t feel too ill. Instead I felt hungover and tired. For about 10 days. And while this wasn’t great, Ad was quick to point out that I’m very used to the sluggish, tired, “not quite well but not really ill” feeling associated with drinking too much prosecco! It appears I’ve trained my body well to cope with just this situation.
High: Making it to a retirement party – Two much loved work friends are retiring. They’d tried to guess when I might start chemo and plan the party for when I might be able to make it. But it turned out the timing wasn’t great and I really didn’t expect to make it. But I was well enough to go and it was such a boost to see everyone after a long week 1.
Low: The boredom – I’m not a good patient. I’m rubbish at listening to my body and resting up. By week 2 I was climbing the walls and doing Ad’s head in. I wanted to go back to work because I didn’t feel physically ill enough to be off sick. But infection risk is at a high point during week 2 and the office environment breeds illness so I wasn’t allowed to go back to work. I worked from home a little but I craved being around people and some normality. The 4 walls closed in. Poor Ad. He definitely got it in the neck during week 2.
Low: Half term – week 2 was also half term. We would normally be out and about doing active family stuff but there was no hope of that this year. Waving my son off to spend a week with his mate’s family at Centerparcs was bittersweet – I was so glad he was going to have a break from all the crap here but so sad that the only way he could do that was by being part of another family for a few days. And poor Abbie had a rubbish half term week of studying for mock GCSEs and babysitting me. How guilty did I feel????
High: Josh having an amazing time at CP – Looking at the photos, hearing the excitement in his voice when he facetimed us, seeing the worry and stress that had hung over him for the last few weeks dissipate. These things made me happy that we’d encouraged him to get away from us for a few days. It was definitely the right thing to do. He came back a totally different lad to the one I waved off. I will never be able to thank my beautiful friend and her lovely family enough for taking my boy into the fold for a week. He totally felt like their 5th child and made to feel like one of the family.
High: The lump – so a couple of weeks into chemo and I check my breast lump again while taking a shower. AND I CANT FIND IT!!! This has to be good news. It has to be. The chemo must be doing its job. I can’t tell you how good this felt. We won’t know for sure until I’m scanned again in a couple of months time but this is a good sign.
Low: Hair loss – In the same shower, I wash my hair and it begins to come out in my hands. It’s started. I’m going to lose my hair. I’m prepared for it. I’ve been waiting for it. But it’s still tough. I’m not sure whether the tears were for the looming baldness or the reducing breast lump. Rollercoaster. As I write I’ve still got my hair but I will probably make the decision to shave it off very soon. Things you never thought you’d ever say: “I’d better put my hood up, I’m a bit scared my hair will blow out”. 😂😂😂😂😂😂 I took my hood off long enough during a walk with hubby to have a pic taken – it went straight back up!!!
High: Back to normal (Well kind of. Still not quite sure what normal is) – It’s now coming to the end of week 3 and I’m feeling great. Totally 100% back to normal. Tiredness has left me and all side effects have gone. I’m back. I’ve spent 3 days at work this week and I cant tell you how good that felt. Seeing my work family was uplifting. Getting my head back into proper work was a relief – I’d worried that my concentration levels would never be the same again and I just wouldn’t be able to do my job.
High: Love and kindness – I’m still totally blown away by the support I receive from everyone around me. I had a pretty much constant stream of visitors while I was “hungover” which really did keep me going. My lovely work friends are still showering me with gifts – flowers arrive pretty much weekly as do magazines. I’ve been taken out for lunch, dragged out for evenings by friends, and the text messages just keep on coming. All these things prop me up, particularly on the bad days. I will never, ever be able to thank everyone properly because I just don’t have the words!
High: We’re getting a dog! – This is a massive deal for us. We had a dog many years ago. He died just after Josh was born and we decided then that having two small children was hard enough without throwing a dog into the mix. But the kids have always wanted a dog and we never felt it was the right time and were afraid to take on such a big commitment. But cancer changes everything. A dog will give the kids something positive to focus on, get them out the house, give them some responsibility, put smiles on all our faces. So we are going for it. Watch this space…
There’s no doubt about it – it’s been an emotionally turbulent 3 weeks. But nowhere near as awful as I’d expected and planned for it to be. There were more highs than lows. As I look forward to the next block of chemo (yes I really am looking forward to it! This new world is very strange!) which will hopefully go ahead next week, I’m feeling blessed that I’ve tolerated the treatment brilliantly, I’m hopeful that I can carry on doing so and feeling incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life ❤❤❤❤