Long time no see...Today is Thursday October 15th 2015, a kind of special/not special day, today marks 1 year to the day since I had my first round of Chemotherapy to treat Testicular cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes.
I originally intended to post this blog on December 10th 2014, the day I finished my chemotherapy, but, for reasons I cannot recall, perhaps post chemo laziness, I didn't. The tense is all a bit mucked up, I bounce from past to present all over the place, but please bear with it, I was in two minds as to re-writing it, but I kinda liked that I had written it in my post chemo-haze, so I've kept it relatively unchanged.
SPOILER: I mention at the end a need for surgery, I've since had that and fully recovered but I shall cover the ins and out of that in another post, which I'll probably get round to writing in about 2018.
The reason I'm posting it now is to share my experience and to help out anyone who maybe about to or is about to go through chemotherapy, be it for Testicular Cancer or not. A year on, its strange to look back at what I went through, It feels like it happened to someone else, all the side effects have disappeared, I feel fit and healthy and life has returned to normal. So if you're currently going through a similar situation, my advice would be keep going, keep looking forward, right now it may hurt, you maybe tired, you may have lost your hair, but it does, and it will get better, it might not seem like it, but it will. You'll be surprised at how soon be looking back at this time in your life, like I am now, and it will all seem like it was all bit of a messed up dream.
Now, onto my now out of date post.........
....Today is the day, I've waited 9 long weeks for it, today is the last day of my chemotherapy. To say I've been longing for this day is an understatement. I've learned a lot about chemo over the past 3 months and I can tell you first hand, it sucks, a lot, and I'm glad its over, but how did I find myself here?
After a PET scan I had in September it was decided by my Oncologist that my very very slightly large lymph node contained cancer cells and had to be treated as soon as possible. The best way to do this would be chemotherapy. I was given two weeks to prepare for my treatment and then I had to put my life on hold for the next 3 months. The days before my chemo were fairly strange, the fear of the unknown, I knew it was going to be tough, but how tough? I knew it was going to make me feel like shit, but how shit? I knew bits were going to hurt, but how much?
When I first started my treatment, there was something strangely exciting about going to stay in hospital, it was something new, a novelty, and one that would wear off pretty bloody quickly. I found the best way to deal with being in hospital was just to sleep, it helped pass the time brilliantly. You also realise pretty fast that chemo wards are not the best place in the world to be, I was warned by my Macmillan nurse to keep my blinkers on because I would see people at their worst. Whilst the ward wasn't a warzone, I did hear and see things that made me realise I was in a pretty lucky position with my diagnosis.
The type of chemo I've had is BEP Chemo. It's named BEP after the 3 drugs they give you, Bleomycin, Etopocide and Cisplatin (the P is for platinum in Cisplatin). This, I understand, is the common treatment for Testicular Cancer. These bastard drugs were given via a cannula over the course of 3 weeks. At the beginning of the 3 weeks I was required to stay in hospital for 3 days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then have regular top ups each Wednesday. So that's a lot of threes and a lot of time sitting around a hospital ward.
The drugs I received were all administer via drip and I can tell you there's no fun to be had being attached to a drip for 3 days straight, it makes everything a right pain in the butt. By far, the worst bit of being in hospital was going to the loo. During my chemo all the fluids coming out of my body needed to be measured, so I was required to wee into a jug, a jug that I accidentally ended up kicking all over my ward at one time, and to the two nurses who had to clean that up, I can only apologise!
When I finished my first round (3 weeks) of chemo, I felt relatively normal, I thought I'd be able to return to work, I even asked my chemo nurse if I could go running. This optimism didn't last long, the frustrating thing about having rounds of Chemotherapy is that as soon as you start to feel normal, you start the next round, it will knock you for six and you grow gradually more and more tired as the weeks progress. Chemo tiredness isn't like your usual, post night out, tiredness, its a tiredness I'd not experienced before, and one I don't expect anyone to understand unless you had been through chemo. Somedays you literally have nothing to give. Chemo turned me into an old man, barely able to go out the house without a recovery nap, some days I don't even have the energy to get out of bed,but, I'm thankful that I've escaped relatively unscathed. I've also lost my concentration, I can't really focus on any thing, my housemates bought me a LEGO Simpsons house, an amazing amazing gift from them, but sitting down to concentrate on anything is near impossible.
Another one of the many, and most well known, side effects of chemo is hair loss, and boy have I suffered from that. Going into this treatment, I had a full head of hair and a beard, I now look like an egg. Aptly my hair started to fall out on Halloween, and when it went, it went quickly, it pretty much died on my head over night so it could be easily pulled out in huge clumps, at first it was pretty shocking.
After a failed attempt to wash my hair, I decided that the best thing to do was to shave my head and face, so I now look like a young, less buoyant, Duncan Goodhew with eyebrows. Yes thankfully the eyebrows have stuck around. Two of my friends have also shaved their heads, which was lovely of them. Unsurprisingly my body hair also has dropped out in random patches, half of my leg seems to be fine, the other, completely bald.
Food has been a bit of an issue for me during chemo, especially hospital food!!! I cant stomach it, the smell, the taste, the texture, it's all very off putting. I'm not normally a fussy eater, but I've become quite select with what I eat. The smell of foods (and hand sanitiser) have been making me feel very nauseous and my stomach feels like I've had a heavy night out most of the time so I've mainly stuck to eating pizza, especially on nights where I've had my daily top up of chemo. I've also found a strange taste is left in my mouth after eating sweet things, which is frustrating because when you're unable to do physical activity, you can get a strange joy out of eating.
Although I've not had the best of times during chemo, I feel very lucky to have only had limited side effects. I've thrown up (mainly on Fridays), I've been put off hospital food for life but apart from that and I've had the life drained out of me through tiredness, but compared to the giant list of side effects they warn you about at the start, I feel like i've got off quite lightly.
All in all, I wouldn't recommend chemotherapy, as a good way to spend 3 months, to anyone. But ultimately, it's saved my life. Unfortunately a post chemo CT scan revealed that the chemotherapy was unable to stop the lymph node from growing, which meant one daunting thing, I would have to under go surgery, the last thing I wanted.
To be continued....