Sunday 27 July 2008

The shape I'm in.

So what does chemo feel like? To be honest, it's completely different for everybody: like childbirth, no two experiences are the same. Want to know what chemo feels like for me? Because, no matter how hard I try, there is no possible way of telling you so that you'll understand. I'll give it a try, mind, but I bet I just can't even get close. And, just like chemo itself, I suspect that reading this post won't be for the faint hearted. Squeamish? Get over it. I've had to learn the hard way that breast cancer isn't all flowers and visitors and cards and simple operations and well-wishes and attention and seahorse-shaped helium balloons, so you can too.

The first night after having the chemo drugs was horrific. Can't-keep-anything-down sickness, shakes and shivers, diarrhoea, wanting to rip out my veins, fainting, aching, heart palpitations, all-over bone pain, sweating, panicking, totally unable to process my own thoughts, watching as my joints swell and itch, being able to do nothing but sway and say 'for fuck's sake, for fuck's sake, for fuck's sake' over and over. Can you imagine how difficult that must have been for P and my parents to witness? (My poor folks have not only had to live with the fact that their daughter has cancer, but that she says 'fuck' a lot.)

The days thereafter, while 1000% better in comparison, have still been cripplingly challenging. Nausea, exhaustion, aching bones, headaches, stomach pains and – worst of all – a complete messing with your head. Chemo (at least the first night after having it) must be like heroin addiction or cold turkey: it mucks up your looks and screws with your mind. It turns you into a different person. It takes away who you are and makes you 24-7 tearful and depressed and confused and paranoid and tetchy and unable to understand anyone around you. It makes you irritable and annoyed with the people closest to you, when all you want to do is tell them that you love them so much, and that they're the only reason you can be arsed to go through all this, and that without them there'd be no point. 

How do so many people do this? Just how have so many people managed it and seen the other side? I'm only a couple of days into my first cycle and already wondering how I can spend the rest of the year handling this shit. For probably the first time since this all began, I'm feeling really bloody blood-boiling angry and very hard done by. (And I'm hoping you'll excuse me this long whinge. And if not then, please, just fuck off out of my blog.) I am twenty-fucking-eight. On the hottest weekend of the year, I should be sitting outside a pub in the glorious sun, drinking lager shandies and talking to my man or my folks or my mates about where to go on holiday, who's doing what for new year, whether there'll be a series three of Gavin and Stacey, if anyone really gives a shit about the Coldplay comeback, or what Derby County's chances are for next season. But no. Instead I'm craving a cold, dark room, a decent few hours' sleep and a way out of this physical and mental... I don't know what... unfairness. Going through chemo has got to be the pinnacle of human endurance. 

Oddly enough I've become pretty addicted to Born Survivor: Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel of late, and even his exploits are beginning to look easy compared to this. Parachuting onto the Patagonian ice? Simple. Staring an angry pack of African elephants in the eye? No problem. Biting the head off a sandfish lizard? Bring it on. Whatever he's done, compared to chemo it's like eating cake. (Not that it's going to stop me watching, like – that guy is mental.)

So, does that explain it? Have I even nearly managed to communicate what this shitty cancer treatment does to a person? There's not a lot more I can say. Chemotherapy is a motherfucker.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog in glamour magazine and decided to give it a read as just over a year ago my mum was also diagnosed with Breast Cancer!
I think this blog is amazing as it informs so many people of what really happens after diagnosis.. thoughts, feelings and all!
Also think you have been so brave after being diagnosed at such a young age - its something that people cant understand unless they have been through it themselves! Anyway all the best... keep at it!
The journey will be all worth it in the end.
Lots of love Charlotte

riawake said...

I almost screamed out loud, 'yes,yes,yes!! at last someone telling it as it really is!
I'm so sick of all this 'pinkiness'
bullshit crap that surrounds breast cancer treatments.
Chemo is the most shittiest torturous barbaric bucket of bollocks that anyone could ever go through, and yeh, i had an 11lb baby!!
I dont want to hear of people who 'sail' through it, making me feel even more useless.
I relate so much to what the drugs do to your brain! we wander back home after the poison is pushed into our veins,armed with a carrier bag full of pills to help with the puking,not realising the dark,weird,terrifying place our brains will take us.Whilst aquainting myself yet again with armitage shanks, i'm plotting how I can crawl to the nearby railway line and lie across the track! oh, so much more than depression or mania,hey,try being the sickest youve ever been in your life but having a fucked brain too and the chemo poison leaking out through the capillaries in your hands and feet, burning as it goes.
And guess what, you gotta do it all again, 5 more times!!
Sorry suga for hijacking your thread here, but your descriptions are so so true, xxx

Hannah Riggs said...

Fantastic Blog, I have only got this far along your journey so far but am loving it, having gone through the same thing as you it’s great to hear it told just like it is but in a really uplifting way. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your story. Thanks.

Gunnar Kaestle said...

I had a higly malignant Lymphoma diagnosed at the age of twenty. 5 cycles of CHOEP chemo plus 36 gray of hard X-ray radiotherapy.

Unexpected, the first cycles of chemo were rather easy going, but it went worse each time. At the end I was so well conditioned that a glimpse at the tree with the coloured bags of chemo treatment made me vomit before the selective poisen ran into my veins.

Nevertheless, chemo was much better compared than radiotherapy, as chemo had a 3 week cycle with recovery time. Radio was for 6 weeks constant sore of skin, painful swallowing and disturbed digestion.

Sorry to hear that you did not make it. I had much luck, stage III B, plus a relapse half a year later, but a high dosis chemo with bone marrow transplation did help at the end. That was 20 years ago ...


Unknown said...

Hi I know you are dead know but I just want to say how much I respect you, you are amazing you KICKED CANCERS BUTT right until the end you have inspired me so much i have started my own blog
I don't have a sad story but I love you!
Thank you so much
Nina xxx