Week 13- ‘The Shining’

Week 13 involved my first trip to the Chemotherapy hospital.  For anyone who has ever seen the movie The Shining, think of that hospital and you will have a good idea of what the local Chemotherapy hospital here looks like.  I have never seen the entire movie, but I do believe this building probably gives it a good run for its’ money.

It is up a long winding road in the mountains and was originally a Sanatorium.  It still is to a degree, with many patients who are having chemotherapy every day choosing to stay there whilst they have it.

I had another lovely friend drive me there, and she, bless her, drew the short straw when it came to medical appointments so far.  I had expected to be in and out in around 45 minutes, as per all of my other appointments, but instead, this one took the best part of three hours and involved some re-arrangements to pick up the kids from school.

Waiting some more…

First off, I spent fifteen minutes with the medical secretary, once again going back over all of my notes to make sure I was who I said I was (nope, I just thought knocking out some cancer ‘victim’ and shoving her in a cupboard whilst I attended all of her appointments would be a great use of a life.)

After that, there was another half hour wait to see the oncologist.  This wait involved sitting in a waiting room the size of a small van with four other people, and in many ways, this tiny little wait was when the cancer diagnosis really came home to me.  It might sound ridiculous, but because everything up until that point had just been a very speedy whirlwind of appointments, surgeries and box-set recoveries, to a certain degree it felt as if it was all happening to someone else.

Now, here in this waiting room, sat opposite a woman clearly going through chemotherapy judging by her very nice beret, and another couple where the wife had obviously developed lymphoma judging by the size of her left arm, as well as a very jolly man who had the look of a ‘please don’t let it be back’ follow-up appointment, I became acutely aware all of a sudden that this was me sat here.  I was not having an out-of-body experience, nor was I watching ‘A day in the Life of someone with Cancer’ on the TV.  It was me. Sat here waiting for an appointment to discover for how long I would need to poison my body in order to try to get rid of this pesky cancer once and for all…

Write it down and write it down again…

My oncologist turned out to be old school, which is why the appointment with him took another hour.  Every note previously written down about my condition to date was meticulously copied into a medical notebook, whilst at the same time asking me along the way how I felt the treatment had gone. ‘Fine’ was pretty much my response.  I am not quite sure what he expected to hear, but my intimate medical knowledge of breast cancer, although expanded over the last twelve weeks, was nowhere near his, so for some reason in this instance, I would have rather heard his opinion rather than my own.

Nuclear time…da da da da da…

Eventually, he scanned back over his notes, and like Einstein dishing on his theory of relativity, delivered his conclusions.  ‘Madame O’Neill, what I would like to do in this instance is nuke you.  Well and truly nuke you.  You see, we thought we knew what we were dealing with on Day 1 with this particular cancer, but as it turns out, it’s actually a snide little bugger who has given us a bit of the run-around, so now, just to be on the safe side and ensure we do our best to catch it, we are going to light you up until your body becomes translucent and we can see exactly what is going on’.

Obviously, this conversation was all conducted in French, so my translation may be slightly off, but you get the idea.  I was to have three lots of ‘EC’ chemo three weeks apart, which he described as ‘Lourd’- heavy.  These would have to start the following week. I asked to delay by another week, to meet an earlier made commitment to a work client, but was told in no uncertain terms that the treatment had to start ASAP. Further research has provided me with the information that the sooner chemo starts after surgery, the better the survival rates, and given that the following week would then be five weeks post the initial surgery, it wasn’t something that I was about to argue with. (info on chemotherapy delays after surgery).

Game on…

This would be followed by nine lots of weekly Taxol chemo-‘less lourd’.  I could wear a cold cap, designed to help you save your hair during the chemo process, but even then, with so much ’Lourd’ and ‘Less Lourd’, the chances of me keeping my hair were very minimal, so might as well not bother given that it would be like sticking your head in a freezer for the best part of three hours.  Once the chemo was done, hopefully 18 weeks after starting all being well, then I would have a three-week break before having five weeks of radiotherapy five days a week.  So ideally, by mid-April, all of this would be done, and I would just have the five years of taking Tamoxifen, a drug whose side-effects turn some women into old women before they have had a chance to recover from the other treatments. Whoop-di-do.

After meeting that Good News Bear, I then waited another twenty minutes to see my cancer nurse, who ran through some of the other side-effects to expect.  I will no doubt go through them as they happen, but just to give you a little insight, none of the side-effects involve Brad Pitt sat next to your bed whilst you get an IV of poison injected into your body.

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