My Breast Cancer Story Pt2

Posted 8/9/2017

So it has been a long while. My life has changed so much in many ways since I had my mastectomy. The chemotherapy treatment was very hard. Next came recovery, getting back to work and all along I have been left with very acute tiredness that means each day I have to go back to bed to rest in order to get through the day.

Anyway, my last blog ended with me having the mastectomy and going home to recover. I found out that I had had a 5.5cm cancerous lump removed, and also it had been found in 15/16 lymph nodes. That was a shock. This also made me think, it is in my system, it has travelled, it has moved beyond. That thought has never left me, and still haunts me now. But life goes on and I have to keep fighting, I have a son who I love very very much. I have to get through this.

So thinking I would be starting chemotherapy in about three weeks, what actually ensued was a three week rollercoaster of ups and downs with the second lump which they had detected in my remaining breast.  At first it was benign, then they wanted to check further, then it was OK, then they were not sure then finally they decided it was nothing to worry about. I was finally cleared to begin my chemotherapy treatment.

They day came to visit the hospital to get referred to start chemo, my son came with me (good job he did, I usually do stuff like this alone!). Yes I would be having chemo, yes I will loose my hair but.....

My heart stopped at that word, I knew! I just knew... that bloody lump... This doctor wanted it out anyway! OMG! After those three - four weeks waiting, up and down, been told finally it was benign to be told I had to go in and have ANOTHER operation!!! Why didn't they take the damn thing out when I had my mastectomy!?

My heart sank...

So finally on the 6th July, six weeks after my initial mastectomy operation, I went in again to have this second "benign" lump removed. This is what put me in depression. Not only did I have the emotional rollercoaster of this lump, but this also severely delayed the start of my chemotherapy treatment.

Waiting for Chemo at Rosin Ward Chemotherapy department - Darlington Memorial HospitalWaiting for Chemo at Rosin Ward Chemotherapy department - Darlington Memorial HospitalI finally started my 18 week chemotherapy treatment on Friday 22nd July. Needles! I Hate them. Chemotherapy was all about needles. The chemo I was on was called FEC-T and would result in hair loss. I would have chemo every 3 weeks, for 6 weeks, the first three treatments would be FEC and the last 3 would be T (or Taxotere).

I was lucky that my local hospital had recently opened a chemotherapy department, (Rosin Ward) so at least getting there and home was going to be easy.

The process was not nice. The first attempt at getting the needle in my arm did not go well, it failed! They could not draw blood. They tried a second time and got the needle in.

Chemo lineChemo line

Then they set up a large bag of saline to hydrate you before they put in the nasty red poison gel into your arm. An hour later that began. It was taking ages, in the end the nurse decided she would replace the needle in my arm and try again! third time (it bloody hurt! Yes I HATE needles!) and the poison was finally going in. After that back to another saline bag, and then finally three and a half hours later I was on my way home with anti sickness medication and a box of injections to replace the white blood cells I would be lacking after the treatment.

The next few days were a bit rough, and on the Sunday a district nurse came to the house to begin the ten day course of my injections. The first along with ejections, which was not very nice. In fact this third round of chemo had been really really really are and it really all we are going back for more chemo it made me very accurate and very nervous and quite scare that something like this could happen. While you were covering, the side effects of the injection would make your body ache and make you very tired. Once the injections had finished you go back to normal. I was lucky, my side-effects after the injections were minimal, in fact that I had a lot of energy and was able to go back out, galavanting around and I felt good. So after chemo, the first week you go down, the second week you hit rock bottom which is the worst time, and then the third week  you come back up again.

The second lot of chemo went smoothly was a lot better than the first. The recovery was basically the same again on the third week after chemo. I felt really good so I have no doubt going into the third session of FEC but unfortunately all was not well this time. When I got the hospital, it was clear they had a lot of patients and only two members of staff on duty. To start with, when it came to giving me my chemo, the nurse did not give me the saline at the beginning. As this did not hydrate me before giving the chemo, and The bruise left after my third chemo sessionThe bruise left after my third chemo sessionwhen the chemo insertion finished, she only gave me a very small bag of saline to flush through at the end. I was very worried. In fact I did tell the nurse of my concerns but to be honest it did not feel as if she was sure of what she was doing. When I left hospital, I did not feel as good as I had the previous times and I had a massive bruise developing on my arm where the line had gone in. Betime I got home I was sick even though I had had the anti-sickness medication.

It was a disastrous session of chemo and when the district nurse came to visit me she was surprised at how bad I had reacted to be this round. When I told her about not having the saline at the beginning, and so not been hydrated, how it made me feel, she told me to report it to the hospital which I did after she left. I ended up being on anti-sickness medication for the following 10 days which, along with the injection made me very, very ill.

it left me very wary, quite sacred and very apprehensive going into the fourth session of Chemo which had now changed to Taxotere. This round of chemo was going to be harder, and its effects were cumulative, I was not looking forward to this at all. My hair had all fallen out. I had no eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair or body hair! I was piling weight on through the steroids we had to take, my face was puffy and it all made me feel worse.


 

Start of chemo related hair lossStart of chemo related hair loss

 Total hair loss during chemoTotal hair loss during chemo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Taxotere is awful. There is no easy way through it. The side effects were endless. It destroys every fast regenerating cell in the body. I had two weeks of oral thrush as this chemo destroys the inside of your mouth. I lost my taste buds, everything was tasting like mushy cardboard. The pain in my joints was excruciating, my feet were absolutely frozen, my toes felt as though they were dropping off.

The second session was harder, I was still reeling from the first one and here I was having more of this poison injected into my veins. The pain was getting unbearable. I hardly left the house as my joints were so bad. The daily injections made you feel even worse. I was cold, so very tired and had absolutely no energy. Everything you ate made you feel sick, it was nearly impossible to find anything that had taste!

By the third and final Taxotere I had to physically drag myself to the hospital. I was totally dreading it. I even considered at one point just saying no. It was totally body destroying. After the final session, I remember going home and crying. I had been so strong and positive all the way through and this chemo had broken me. I was lucky I had an amazing son, and very good friends who helped me through it. I will also say the district nurses were amazing! Their daily visits to give me the injection each time gave me a positive boost.

I had my last chemo session on 11th November 2016. You have no idea how glad I was to see the back of that Rosin ward. I  don't know if I really could have gone back and had a fourth session of this one. It was hell! The hardest battle you will ever fight - such true words.

So recovery begins...

They say cancer is the hardest battle anyone will face. Until you have been there, you do not realize how much those words are true. It also makes you feel for your family, especially children, facing now a 1 in 2 chance of developing cancer at some stage of their lives. It is frightening.

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I will add a little note here. I did NOT have radiotherapy. There are three main reasons for this.

First - it was the travel, the hospital I had to go to was in another town, public transport to there was not good and as I do not own a car, it would have knocked me straight into depression.

Second - I did not feel comfortable having radiotherapy above my heart (I had cancer on the left side). Also it would have added a great deal of time to being off and subsequent recovery. I just wanted to get back to normal.

Third - in  my mind, having a 5.5cm lump removed, and it was in 15/16 lymph nodes, it is in my system. The radiotherapy only covers a small area. It would not help me if it had moved, which to me, this cancer had. It is in other places. If the chemo hasn't killed it. the radiotherapy wouldn't help in the other areas.

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