19th July

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned – it has been over three weeks since my last blog post. The reasons for this have been many and varied, but amongst them has been a bad case of bloggers’ block. Actually it was more a case of blogstipation; there have been plenty of posts in my mind, but they just refused to come out on to the screen.

In my 20 or so years as a journalist, I have suffered from creative blockages many times. Forcing the issue never worked for me; when I put myself under pressure anything I wrote came out stilted and false. It was best simply to wait it out; the muse would come upon me eventually and, as soon as I felt the first inkling of inspiration, I quickly put finger to keyboard. Once a few words had flowed out, the blockage was cleared and things were back to normal. Thus it has been with this blog and today I had the urge to write again.

Another reason for the radio silence was the aftermath of my second chemo treatment. Having found the days after my first dose horrible but bearable, I assumed subsequent treatments would follow a similar pattern. How wrong I was! For some reason, the second dose hit me with about double the force of the first. I was bed-ridden for days on end, with extreme pain throughout my body and a degree of tiredness for which there really needs to be a new word. Neither ‘fatigued’ nor ‘exhausted’ come close to describing it. After what felt like an eternity, I started to feel a little better and have improved each day. However three weeks later, I still feel decidedly below par.

I faced another complication a few days after the treatment when my ‘chemo arm’ became swollen and excruciatingly painful. A swift trip back to hospital revealed that I had two large blood clots; a protest from my veins at the copious amounts of poison being forced into them. I know that a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) can be a dangerous thing but I didn’t really register the risk to me. That was until I cheerily commented to the nurse “So, could they have gone to my brain and killed me?” “No” she replied, gravely. “They could have gone to your lungs and killed you.” Just when I thought cancer was my worst enemy, I find out the threat from its treatment.

The remedy, which will help prevent further clots, is two-fold: daily injections of a blood-thinning drug until the end of my chemo, and the insertion of a ‘port’ into my chest; this is a little nozzle that will take future chemo doses into a large vein, rather than the small, tired ones in my arm.

My next chemo has been delayed by two weeks. This will enable me to fully recover from the last one. The dosage will be reduced to around 75% strength. I have been assured that the curative effects will be undiminished but the side effects will be considerably fewer. One is expected to feel poorly after chemo, but not as poorly as I have been

It struck me today that our famously variable British summer weather has been in tune with my moods and my state of health, with a mixture of glorious sun, gloomy clouds and plenty of rain. One night, a couple of weeks ago, we experienced the mightiest of storms – hours on end of deafening thunder and strobing lightning. This coincided with my lowest point, when I felt more ill than I ever have before, when I doubted my ability to cope with any more chemo, when I felt cancer and its brutal medicine had got the better of me. Then the storm passed, dawn broke and the sun shone once again.

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10 thoughts on “19th July

  1. So sorry you are having such an awful time, Sally. I have one question – if the curative powers of a 75% dose are the same, why don’t they just give you that amount? Do they have to pour quite so much poison into your system?
    Hugs xxx

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    1. A fair point, Justi. My understanding is that they start everyone on 100% solution. It is not one-size-fits-all though, so if someone has a reaction as I did, they reduce it accordingly. My body clearly can’t cope with the full dose.

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  2. I’m sorry for all of your complications. Chemo sucks! I have a port and am so happy I got it. Once the needle is in, it’s easy to move around. I felt free rather than feeling afraid to move my arm for hours on end.
    I agree, there needs to be a new word for the type of tired you feel from chemo. I described it to someone like this. “You pulled an all nighter to finish a paper. Stayed up all day and then partied and got drunk that night. You know how you might feel that next morning? Chemo is worse than that.”

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  3. Really sorry to hear of how awful you’ve been feeling, Sally. I hope it all gets much better soon! I didn’t actually see the storm the other week (I was moving up the country from a trip to York as the storm was moving down from Newcastle!), but I can imagine that being quite fitting with how you feel. I hope that there’s lots of sunshine for you very soon- we’re all rooting for you! xxx

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  4. Just so you know, I have been following you for a short while but have not commented before. I was absolutely gobsmacked about the clots – surely there should have been some warnings. Thank goodness you managed to get back to the hospital and get treated. You have enough to contend with. Obviously sorry to hear about the side affects being worse than expected and hopefully, as you say, they will be less aggressive next time.

    You captured a wonderful shot of the “summer weather” in your attached photograph. We had a glorious sunny day yesterday but this summer seems to have been coming in fits and starts.

    It must be incredibly difficult trying to be mindful and positive when you are feeling so physically ill and I applaud you for the way you are coping.

    I feel inadequate as I don’t feel I can bring much to the table . I have absolutely no experience of cancer (I guess most people don’t). I came across you on a post you left on Sheridan Smith’s twitter account – I was on there after seeing The C Word. I then started following you.

    What I can say is that I am 52 in a few weeks so I know how difficult that age can be for women without any of the additional trauma you are experiencing. I was so pleased to read your recent post (sent you a twitter message to say to too which you responded to) as I was wondering how you were doing and you had no posted for a little while.

    Hang on in there until next time. You are in my thoughts.
    love Janet xx

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