Friday, 28 September 2012

Step 2: chemo

First meeting with the oncologist yesterday. What a job that must be - all day every day dealing with the fall out from cancer diagnoses. I wonder if it makes you hard, just to cope with it all?

Despite warnings, my oncologist is not the stern, hard dragon I was expecting. She fires a huge amount of information at us very quickly, in a matter-of-fact fashion, but her opening line is "You must feel like you're on a roller coaster". She clearly understands.

The business end: staging wise, this is Dukes C. Not the worst, but not the best either. It is entirely possible that the cancer cells that are still in my body will not cause any further problems but medicine at the moment can't tell you which will and which won't, hence the chemo as a belt and braces exercise. She, too, wants me to see a geneticist to look at the family risk, but that's for later. Right now the regime will be a three week cycle of a two hour drip of Oxaliplatin then two weeks' of Capecitabine tablets, with the third week off. Repeat seven times. Side effects wise, I shouldn't lose my hair but it might thin. They will give me lots of anti-emetics for the nausea. Bowel function will be affected but which way is impossible to say. I may lose my appetite. I may be very tired. I may get pins and needles in my hands and feet. I may feel woozy, particularly on drip day. But otherwise life carries on as normal - I can drink, work, drive (except when feeling woozy), have sex and eat what I want.

A couple of things did surprise me. Sex requires condoms as bodily fluids can carry traces of the chemo drugs and so I could pass them to DH. Also she didn't mention compromised immunity, I did. Apparently, I just have to be sensible. In fairness, she is very sensible, pointing out that I have two small children and therefore can't live in a clean bubble; but if I suddenly feel unwell or get a temperature I should call the hospital immediately. Food wise, the things that could cause a problem for anyone who's immuno-compromised should be avoided.

The final surprise related to fertility. I'd assumed that it wasn't an issue as we always intended to stop at two children, so we gigglingly answered, "No!" when asked if we were planning more. But what I hadn't known is that chemo can trigger premature menopause and the likelihood of this is reduced if my ovaries are shut down for the duration of the chemo. So early next week I need a particular jab to start this process. I'm not clear what the side effects of this might be but it rather sounds like I'll be joining the hot flush set for a bit.

We are only with her for 15 minutes or so, then the specialist nurse takes over. More blood is taken, and I'm booked in for the pre-admission appointment on Wednesday as well as the first chemo session on Thursday.

My primary sensation is one of relief as we wander the shops afterward, looking for outfits for a friend's wedding next Saturday. I'm tempted to ask if we can delay for a week so I can go to the wedding unchemicalled, but DH quickly squashes that one. It's my text hugging friend anyway, so she will definitely understand if I'm flakey on the day. I'm not missing it though, not for the world!

Once home I try and take in the Macmillan leaflets on the side effects, but I can't. Physically and emotionally I am done in. It seems I wasn't as on top of the emotional turmoil caused by the wait as I thought I was.

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