(Afterthought – folks who celebrate Christmas might find these Groundhog days a bit reminiscent of post-Christmas days when you wake up and know it is some form of turkey or whatever you had for Christmas dinner yet again on the menu! I remember it well!!)
Moving on – the story continues from 23rd of October
The first chemo was finally over and I was in no time back at the apartment. However, having the chemo is only the beginning – I knew that the real challenge was ahead of me in the form of side effects as the chemicals started their work of destroying cancer cells as they zip through the blood stream.
It was around 7 pm so already dark and time to settle for the night. I was still feeling numb from the session and felt safer asleep than awake soon nodded off.
I was drinking plenty of water – that pink urine really freaks you out so the sooner it can be flushed through the kidneys the better. Inevitably, this meant waking after a couple of hours and that is when the overwhelming waves of nausea first struck. I wasn’t actually sick but I felt really rough. I still managed to get some cat naps in between trips to the loo and with great relief was able to take my next nausea meds as the sun rose.
That sunrise marked day 1 of what I soon labelled the groundhog days characterised by that awful feeling upon waking “Oh no, not again………” re-living the same day over and over. Of course, I didn’t know that on day 1, all I knew was that I felt foul.
As the Groundhog days progressed every meal time became a struggle. I knew I had to eat and drink to maintain my strength as the chemo did its destructive work zapping any cells in its sights. I imagined it unfolding like a game of space invaders – apt given that I had already seen the image of the main tumour and its close resemblance to a spaceship.
It soon became apparent that pretty much all foods which are not good for you, really appeals. Similarly, anything vaguely healthy smells and tastes foul – especially when it is cooked.
Through these first few days I discovered that I was able to face toast and Vegemite (interestingly not Marmite which I usually love) and that quickly became my staple diet. I’m now a bit concerned that defection to Vegemite could have serious implications for my citizenship! I also found that Jaffa cakes were good for the groundhog days, but sadly my supply was quickly finished. (Luckily I knew that more Jaffa cakes were on their way with my son R, who would be arriving the following Saturday). I found I was also able to take soups. Pizza, although not very healthy, was remarkably appealing. It was a real struggle, though, to work out what I could and what I should eat as these were often in contradiction. It is hard to avoid chicken if that is what really appeals, and equally hard to try and eat fish when the sight and smell of it really turns your stomach.
This obsessing about food is accompanied by an overwhelming exhaustion and fatigue. Another effect of the chemo is that it suppresses the immune system so it is very important to avoid any exposure to infections such as coughs or fevers and to be very careful about food hygiene. This somewhat reduces the chance to get out and about and have a good time.
I had been given anti-nausea medication for three days following the chemo, but I continued to feel rough for around a week. On the Thursday, the sun rose and I noticed that I felt brighter and definitely a good bit better.
Perhaps this was helped by the fact that I had no fewer than four appointments with various doctors that day. I had blood tests taken, and apart from a touch of anaemia, was dealing well with the chemo. I had stitches galore removed from both of the surgical procedures. Even my blood pressure was behaving.
The Friday was also good – helped for sure by two sets of visitors, including close friends whom we had not seen for nearly 5 years and who were passing through Bangkok. And on the Saturday (31 October), R arrived safely bearing wonderful gifts of Jaffa cakes, silk scarves and trendy hats for the impending baldness and a life-saving book entitled “Healthy eating during chemotherapy” which I will mention in its own short post.
It was now just over a week since the first chemo, and the fog of this first set of groundhog days had cleared.