The Chemotherapy Diaries
I thought it would be a couple more days until I had grumbles worthy of another Chemotherapy Diaries post but, alas, the drugs have exceeded themselves once again. They seem to have enjoyed the extra 2 days rest they were granted, given that my treatment day was moved back from Christmas Day to Monday December 27th. The nurses must have purchased the drugs a pair of boxing gloves for Christmas. I imagine that they have then committed the rest of their holiday to practicing punching a bag with my face taped onto it. Whatever they have done, they’re currently kicking the shit out of me in a way they haven’t managed to during my other 2 cycles, and it is only Day 2.
The treatment day started normally. My sister Josie and her wonderful husband Keiran took me to the hospital bright and early for my 8:30 appointment. I checked in at the desk, handed over my appointment card so they could schedule the next fortnight of appointments, waited in the seating area for my name to show up on the screen, then gleefully made my way upstairs to the Chemotherapy Ward once I saw it. ‘Daniel James Godley – Chemotherapy Treatment Team 3’ it read. Lovely, my favourite team. They had all said so many nice things about the brownies that I had baked for them last time. This time it was Chocolate Orange cookies. Sound nice, right? The nurse asked how I made them, and I went through the process step by step. I missed out the part of the story where I accidentally put in orange essence instead of vanilla essence and pretended that this is just who I am now. Experimental baker Godley. A master baker if you will. I had a missed call from a random number that morning; it was probably Heston Blumenthal asking me for tips on how to keep his food interesting. “Make lots of mistakes,” I thought, “then you won’t even know what it’ll taste like in the end.” Genius.
Christmas was a relaxing period for me. Lots of family, friends and good food. It was lovely. We all exchanged gifts and enjoyed ourselves. Unfortunately, it made me soft. Sat topless on the ward, I felt more nervous than usual as I saw the needle approach my chest. The shoot of pain felt worse. It pierced across my chest and made me wince. My mind had become accustomed to enjoying life again, I think. It had forgotten that my current routine is one of hospitals, needles and blood-thirsty nurses. I told the nurse that it felt worse than normal. “I ate a lot this weekend, maybe I was more heavy-handed than usual,” she smiled, further solidifying my belief that team 3 are angels worthy of all baked goods.
Chemotherapy bag number 1 was fun and games. I played on my Switch, chatted to the nurses about their Christmases, wrote a blog post on Passion and drank coffee with the man who wheels around the refreshments. “I drank 8 beers before 3pm on Christmas Day, then moved onto whiskey. I didn’t even know I had it in me. I’m 42 and have 2 kids. They were just playing with their toys all day. I probably didn’t even speak to them from 5pm. Am I too old to do this?” He was feeling reflective. Well, hungover. Regretful? Probably a mix of things. “I’m 28 and I feel too old to do that. I think I’d have a hangover for a week. I have cancer though, so my bar is a single occasional 330ml beer, and I feel impressed when I finish that. You probably aren’t talking to the right guy to comfort you here mate. The coffee is lovely though.” He smiled solemnly and walked to the next bench, tail between his legs. “That’s why I don’t like drinking,” I thought to myself.
Guess who ruined the party. Chemotherapy bag number 2 you conniving son-of-a-bitch. The nurse said because I responded well to improving the delivery time from 1.5 hours to 1-hour last treatment session, today we could try it in 30 minutes. I snapped at the opportunity to speed run chemotherapy. I was going for a ward record. “It’ll barely have time to hurt me,” I said, as she looked at me with a certain amount of sass in her eyes. “You can tell you’re only on session 3. You’re still enjoying this a little bit aren’t you.” She wasn’t wrong. I have a blog now. I’m a glutton for pain, it makes good content. And I wanted to leave the hospital so I could see little Lucy puppy and chill with my family.
15 minutes into my record-breaking chemotherapy speed run, I started seeing double. Nausea was settling in. “Here we go,” I thought. I unplugged my machine and walked myself to the toilet, a big improvement since session 1. It was a sit-down-wee kind of moment. I couldn’t easily decipher which toilet I was aiming for if I stood up, seeing as there were 2 of them in front of me. My body was sweating but I didn’t feel hot. Cameron, a good friend of mine, sent me the comfiest cashmere lounge suit for Christmas. He heard that I had been suffering with the colder temperatures, so he had very thoughtfully got it for me and communicated with my fiancé on getting it wrapped in time for Christmas. The hoody was starting to feel like I’d been in the rain with it. It was too warm for my over-worked body. I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom with my eyes closed and head in my palms. Suddenly the machine started to beep indicating that the bag was empty, and my eyes jolted awake. It might have sucked, but damn was it done quickly. I meekly unlocked the bathroom door and opened it to prying eyes. An old man was waiting outside, judging me. I’m not sure what he thought I’d been up to. Little did he know I was actually having a delightful fever-dream in there. I probably felt more intimidated by him as I saw 2 judgemental faces, making it even more shameful to process.
I stumbled back to the bed and grabbed one of the nurses. They flushed the line and attached my baby bottle of chemotherapy drugs, and I was away. I met Anna downstairs in the lobby. As I left, I saw a young boy with his dad eating in the M&S café. He had no hair on his head at all, and there were bulging veins visible; I suspected that he had leukaemia, but I don’t know why I thought that. Perhaps from images I’d seen on adverts. He was the youngest person I’d ever seen at The Christie, no older than 6. Probably younger. Him and his dad were sat laughing, eating yogurts and holding each other’s gaze. They were in their own world. I smiled and felt sad at once. What a cruel thing cancer is, but what a beautiful moment to witness. It will stay with me forever. I hope he recovers with all my heart and being.
The car ride back was uncomfortable. My body was all sorts of temperatures and Lucy was hungry, so she was whining on my lap. We googled if dogs could eat apples, then proceeded to feed one to her piece by piece. She loved it. Eventually she buried her head between my elbow and side and fell asleep. I ate some crisps, but my jaw was locking and it was too painful.
I didn’t manage to stay social for long upon getting home. I retired to bed after about an hour, around 15:00. I stayed there until 19:00, sleeping occasionally but mostly just feeling bad. Once dinner was ready, I made my way downstairs and joined my family. It was chilli, a meal that I love. We watched Britain’s Strongest Man whilst we ate. Anna seemed more into it than anyone else there.
I fell asleep at about 23:30 but woke again at 01:00 feeling sicker than ever. I proceeded to lie there and weigh up the chances that I was going to be sick. I couldn’t be bothered to move. It took one precarious burp to move me, and I shot out of bed and made my way to the toilet floor. This was a first for chemotherapy and me. I had taken an anti-sickness pill straight away upon waking up. It wasn’t doing much. By about 03:00 I was well and truly sick of feeling this way. I kept getting bad bouts of hiccups which seemed to be my body trying to egg on the sickness. The anti-sickness pills seem to do an amazing job of stopping you throwing up, but don’t remove many of the sensations that make you want to throw up. The result is that you feel sick for hours without the relief of being sick. At one point I fell asleep hugging my knees by the toilet. A strange dream woke me up and I was staring straight at the rim of the toilet, which is sick inducing on its own. I felt worse. I lay down on my back for a few minutes before forcing myself to stand-up and make my way back to bed. I eventually fell asleep at about 05:30 and woke again at 9:30.
Today, the sickness is still lingering but it is more manageable. I’m going to have to avoid chilli for a while unfortunately. The taste of it has been sitting in my mouth a little too long. I’m feeling tired, I’m getting sweats and my fingers are especially vulnerable to cramp. I am regularly having to stop typing this and sitting on my hands to try to warm them up again. The laptop is made of some type of metal, so it stays fairly cool. My hands don’t like that, especially after a treatment day. It is to be seen whether things will calm down or get worse, but I am hoping for the former. It is New Year’s Eve on Friday after all, and I need all the hope I can conjure up for the next 12 months. It’s going to be the year that I make some progress against this damn tumour!