Cycle number 1: 12th and 26th September 2017
Is it weird to say that I was quite excited to start my treatment? I didn’t feel nervous, scared or upset; instead I was excited to get it going – my best mate Laura summed it up perfectly, ‘this is the first step towards your recovery’. I’ve used this phrase a lot – it’s so accurate. Gone are the investigations, lack of answers, research and tests, now it’s all about action!
First consideration was where was Ivy going to go? As I’ve said previously, we’ve been so lucky with offers from family and friends and I know that finding a babysitter will never be an issue. Location and availability meant that Mum (aka Nana Jen) was the perfect babysitter – Mum has told me over and over again that she is at our beck and call and will be available 24/7 during my whole treatment… Something I could easily take advantage of haha. Just before we left the house, I breastfed Ivy for the last time. Breastfeeding has been hard but once I got into the routine and over the pain (oh God, the pain), it was a real bonding experience and I’m so glad I got the chance to do it. It was sad that I had to stop, and I found it harder than I thought I would, but hey ho, can’t do much about it.
I did express like a cow before I had to stop, thinking I’d be able to keep Ivy going on breast milk for ages… I got that wrong. I think I managed to get enough extra to offer her another week, tops! Credit to all those Mums out there who breastfeed and express, it’s bloody hard work! I remember my best mate Hannah explaining this just before my hen do to Amsterdam a year and a half ago (she was exclusively breastfeeding at the time and was expressing to cover Flynn’s feeds over the long weekend), and I never quite understood how hard that was until I had to do it myself! Hats off to you Han, that was some going!!
We dropped Ivy off with the car seat and base, pushchair, bouncy chair and changing bag – don’t know who was more excited, Ivy or ‘Nana Jen’. Mum picks Isobel up from school on a Tuesday too (Isobel is my 10 year old niece) and she absolutely loves her new cousin (so much so, she touches her head at every opportunity, even when casually walking past the bouncy chair 💕). It gives them some nice time together for cuddles and playtime.
Andrew and I headed off to Ward 19 leaving Mum cooing over Ivy. The hospital offer a pass for patients who are having ongoing treatment which helps with parking – £10 for either 20 visits or 3 months worth, whichever one comes first. We all know parking at the hospital is expensive so this makes it slightly more bearable. Arriving at Ward 19 I told the nurses in the day unit we were there and we sat outside until we were called through. Expectations were to see a room filled with medical stations, where other chemo patients sat in lines, hooked up to whatever combos or drugs they needed. Ward 19 didn’t disappoint! My only other experience of chemotherapy was with my Dad – I’d sit with him whilst he charmed the nurses, giving them treats and his cheeky eyed glint, and I’d watch them change his I.V. and look after him. This was slightly different though…. Dad was treated in private luxury at The Priory in Edgbaston, whereas I was going public in Heartlands. However, the only difference was the surroundings. The treatment and hospitality in Ward 19 was, and is fab, and I couldn’t ask to be treated any better. There are hot drinks on tap and even a choice of biscuits (if I was being really picky, maybe a slightly more comfortable reclining chair and a sheepskin rug to snuggle into would top it off nicely…) I may joke about adding extra comforts but I’d like to stress again how incredible the NHS has been… from first discovering a lump to starting treatment, it’s only been 46 days. 46 DAYS! How lucky are we to have such an amazing, life-saving service? Absolutely fantastic.
Sat in my semi-comfortable recliner, the nurse looking after me instantly made me feel at ease. She was lively, happy and really welcoming and chattered away to us while she prepped coloured bags, syringes and bags of tablets. Everything was explained: 4 drugs given in ABVD order with flushes in between, first one given intravenously, next two pushed through a large plastic syringe by a nurse, and the last given through I.V. for an hour. Easy peasy.
What I wasn’t expecting was a bag of tablets to take home! It was like a whole pharmacy in a bag. As the nurse was chatting through what each of them was for and how to take them, in my head I was already on amazon ordering a pill box (baby brain is a real thing guys, I’m now incapable of remembering anything!) Some tablets had to be taken once a day before breakfast, others once a day with food, others twice a day on Mondays, Wednesday’s and Friday’s, another one to be taken an hour before each chemo treatment, mouth rinse 4 times a day and anti-sickness tablets to be taken if needed. What a minefield! A nice multicoloured pill box was promptly ordered there and then (Andrew loves an Amazon order) and this is the result….
Some positive news from my first treatment – there was a guy who was in Ward 19 having the same treatment as me, he was sat on the other side of the room laughing his head off with another patient. The nurse told me that he’d had lumps in his neck and armpit when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma; after his first treatment the lump in his neck had halved and after his second cycle he couldn’t feel any lumps at all! He hadn’t had any side effects and still had all of his hair. We had a little wave at each other in acknowledgement – the nurse had told him it was my first time – I definitely want to have a proper chat with him at some point to compare stories but he left before I had the chance. Hearing positive outcomes like this really helps me believe that little bit more that this is going to work!!
All done, we left and headed back to pick Ivy up (and to a surprise dinner from Mum). I felt good, glad that the first one was done so I now knew what to expect at every treatment. I spent the next two weeks waiting for the side effects to kick in… I seemed to get off lightly! Amazing! The only slight complaint was a sore mouth on days 3-5 which made it difficult to drink the copious amounts of water everyone was telling me to. A straw made this so much easier and the mouth rinse from the hospital and non-alcohol mouth wash really helped. I did call Andrew at work on the Saturday (day 5) and told him I was getting really annoyed with my body hurting… Funnily enough not all from the chemo! My mouth, yes that was from the chemo, but my boobs were killing me from having to stop breast feeding, as well as still coping with the after effects of Ivy’s birth (I won’t go into any more detail at risk of losing readers 😂). Thankfully I can report these have all improved and I no longer want to trade my body in! The only other complaint was around day 10 when I just felt exhausted. I had had a busy week, and I met my work mates for a leaving lunch. I actually felt fine over lunch, just a bit tired, and it was lovely to see everyone, especially to wish Sam good luck in her new venture! RBC has lost a good one 😢. I ended up getting home at 4:30ish and got straight into bed with Ivy. The tiredness had hit me like a tonne of bricks. I spent the whole night in bed and stayed there until 8am the following day. Andrew came in from work and took Ivy off my hands and gave me strict instructions to stay in bed. It was exactly what I needed and the next day I felt like a different person. I do think it’s probably a combination of having a newborn, being out and about a lot, and the effects of the chemo and when I feel like that, I’ll just need to rest. The tiredness generally seems to kick in early evening and some days I feel it more than others. I just need to listen to my body and be sensible.
Next treatment in cycle 1 was 26th September. Andrew came with me again and we dropped Ivy off with Nana Jen. This time I had to take an anti sickness tablet an hour before my treatment so the nurses could get me going as soon as I arrived. All the nurses were different to the previous treatment, but still pleasant and efficient. We got prime position by the TV so had the joy of watching Bargain Hunt, Tipping Point (the most frustrating quiz show on TV) and The Chase. The nurse chose a different vein in the back of my hand this time which was fine for the most part, but towards the end it started to ache and they had to give me a heat pad to try and help. It eased a bit but remained uncomfortable until the end of the flush. I had also started to feel a bit nauseous which hadn’t happened before, but I think part of this was that I’d taken the anti sickness tablet at 2pm, knowing my appointment was 3pm, but I wasn’t actually hooked up and ready till 3:45. I’ll probably take it slightly later next time to see if that makes a difference.
Throughout the treatment, mum was sending picture updates of Ivy which was amusing us – She’s really smiling now and Mum was getting lots of laughs and giggles. Seeing this while I’m hooked up to a drip makes me feel better. Going through all this crap is totally worth it to make sure I’m there for Ivy, to see her grow up and become an amazing person. When I don’t feel great, or get frustrated with the number of appointments and visits to Ward 19, a cuddle, a laugh, even a s****y nappy can make me feel so much better. Being there for her and making sure she’s ok is an amazing feeling. I can’t imagine my life without her now!