This blog has tracked my own personal progress under the chemo regime that was prescribed for me. My therapy is known as “adjuvant” which means that its aim is to stop cancer returning. It’s not aimed at shrinking a tumour. They got my tumours out during the operation in November.
I thought this time that I’d give some details of what I am being given. The drugs are known as EC. That’s a combination of two drugs – one red in colour and one clear. Their names are epirubicin and cyclophosphamide. They are administered in four 21-day cycles.
That said, over the past couple of months I have met a number of cancer patients who are undergoing treatment or who have undergone it, and I have come to realise just how many different treatments there are – over 200 drug types one chemo nurse told me. I found a list published by MacMillan, explaining what each one does and what it is for. They are administered in different ways too. I spoke to a lovely lady at a fitness class the other day. Two years ago she had chemo every single week for six months. She suffered horrible side-effects, although I’m happy to report she is fine now. The very thought of weekly cycles for so long makes me shiver!
I met another woman at the Looking Good class whose drug has to be administered via a drip over a period of eight hours. In contrast, I am in and out of the chemo unit in a couple of hours.
I have also met a young woman who is six months pregnant. I was surprised that she is having chemotherapy, but apparently these days there are drugs that don’t harm the foetus.
I have met people whose hair hasn’t fallen out at all. Mine has pretty much all gone (except for my eyebrows and lashes, which is a bit of a bonus). Different drugs have different side effects.
I have read some accounts of other people’s reaction to their own chemotherapy. Sarah’s case has been adopted by MacMillan. She explains how she felt as she started her journey – the diagnosis, the chemotherapy, the loss of hair and so on.
I was specially struck by her feeling of guilt at “only” having breast cancer, when there were some people who were a lot iller than she was in the chemo unit. I feel like that sometimes. At no time have I felt particularly ill – apart from after the operation, and for a week or so after each chemo cycle. But they are all kind of self-inflicted illnesses (or rather, knowingly inflicted), and otherwise I am totally not ill.
Sarah reflects my own attitude. I know that a positive attitude is not necessarily the answer to this disease but it gives me (as it did for Sarah) a feeling of control over the situation.
I feel incredibly lucky that I only have to have four cycles. I am already in “end-of-term” mode, whereby I can look forward to not having to have drugs pumped up my arm, going “steroid crazy” and then feeling horrible afterwards.
I do have another hurdle this summer. I shall have to have a course of radiotherapy and I’m currently waiting to hear how much and when.
All in all it will be almost a year before I can relax. But I look on it as a year invested in a longer life. Family-wise it’s been a momentous year too, and I want to get the treatment over with as soon as possible so that I can get back to normal life and get a head of hair again. I debated with myself long and hard about publishing this photo. So far only my sister has seen it. But it’s the current me, and it’s how I see myself every day before donning my turban or wig. So here goes. (I’ll publish another picture when it starts to grow again.)
My last cycle is next Tuesday. I’d like to keep on posting news of how I am feeling, and my life in general. I hope you will continue to follow me.