Yesterday was really quite a strange day.
Firstly, I did not have my usual pre chemo, mega jitters and nerves. I am not quite sure why not. Part can be attributed, I am sure, to the uncertainty about whether or not I would be well enough and therefore there was no point in being too scared. Logical, no? But in fact, I think it was more due to the fact that after 7 chemos, a bout of pneumonia and the scary IV antibiotics, another chemo and its familiarity finally did not feel just so intimidating as it used to. Ironic, no? Why could this not have kicked in 5 chemos ago?
I turned up at Counter 2 as usual, handed over the slip and when the nurse said “blood test” I made sure that this would be taken by the oncology 5th floor staff. I waited for a while but no sign of the familiar all white uniform for quite a while. Then a porter arrived to take me to the 5th floor! Unexpected, but never mind, I followed to the Oncology Ward and there was shown to my room and waited for the nurse. She expressed concern about my recent infection and said that there might well be a delay but it would depend on the blood work. I asked if we should put on the numbing cream or not if it was unsure.
“Oh, yes. Put it on!” She was clear – if chemo was to go ahead then much better to be prepared. AFter all, the cream could easily be wiped off if not.
She struggled a little to find a space to draw blood and my poor little vein was still tender. Again the blood was reluctant to clot and required a good bit of pressure to stop the bleeding, which was really quite painful. I have to stress though, that as ever, these nurses are just amazing and ensure that this is as painfree as possible.
So we headed back downstairs to wait for the results to come through and to see Dr W2 and her the verdict. I had my other BP, temperature and weight checks and all was well. Although I was a bit surprised to see that I had lost over 3 kilos in the intervening 3 weeks. Hmmm, did the pneumonia do that or is a sign that I am really struggling to eat properly now?
Finally we were called and took ourselves and the X Ray from Yangon into Dr W2’s room. He went through the blood tests and said that my white cell and neutrophil counts were normal now, and red blood counts had gone up enough to allow chemo to go ahead without transfusion! Amazing what determination can do! He then had a listen at my chest and seemed happy that it sounded clear. He had a look at the X Ray from Yangon and immediately ordered a follow up X Ray. He felt that I had had a virus as well as the bacterial infection which is why I had gone down so much and also why the monsterbiotics and IV ones had taken a while to kick in and for the fever to go down. His verdict? With satisfactory blood work, no fever and apparent recovery from the infection, pending the review X Ray, he felt 90% sure that chemo 8 could go ahead! Gosh!
So we were carted of to imaging and I had a super fast X Ray with no comments about biopsy scars. Within 10 minutes the results were with Dr W2, he had reviewed them and I was pronounced fit for the final zap.
We were escorted back up to the 5th Floor and back to the room where I had been earlier. On with mind-numbing reality TV – my usual strategy for dealing with port preparation. I seriously recommend it for the whole chemo process!
For the last time, I was prepared, the numbing cream wiped off, the area swabbed and sterilised, surgical gauze placed surrounding the area and then the ripping of the package which signified the port needle. OK, the usual, breathe in, breathe in, breathe in…..hold…………… and for the last time the needle was in. Phew! No final surprises or problems with my wonderful port. Did I call it wonderful? Hmm, a strange time to develop a more positive relationship with my port!!
The series of syringes with anti side effect meds went in first and a vicious army of biting red ants marched again as I squirmed awkwardly. Each time they seem to bite a bit harder and I find it increasingly uncomfortable. The nurses find my reaction really amusing!
I had half an hour of saline after this to get the side effects well flushed and then the final taxotere was unceremoniously brought in and hooked up. Have a look at the label in the pic, and all its detail……………..
As always, it is infused slowly as it has a high risk of allergic response. For over one and a half hours it worked its way into my system until finally the machine beeped to signify the end of the infusion, and the nurse monitored as the final drops left the bottle and entered my blood stream.
Another series of syringes and the final anti clotting agent and it was time to remove the needle. I breathed in, in, in- and held and out came the needle. And then the weirdest thing happened. I was completely overcome, and cried like a baby at this decisive moment. It was totally unexpected and I am not quite sure what happened. I think a mix of relief, disbelief that it is finished, and after months of holding things together during the chemo procedures I was overcome by the enormity of what I have been through. I have since heard from many other women that they also wept buckets at the same point. It reminds me a little of when you are in the midst of a family emergency or crisis and you just have to keep everything together, but when you are told everything is all right, that is when you crumble.
After the crumbly moment, I gathered myself, switched off the reality TV and got ready for the outside world again. I will come back and see my 5th floor angels to thank them properly once I am clearer about the next steps and less wobbly.
After the usual signing of papers and collecting another bag full of medication, we were back out in the warm evening and quickly home.
I am still having a bit of difficulty letting it sink in that Sunday 4 April really was the 8th and final chemo. Rocky (1 and 2) and I have finished our 8 round Boxing Match and the score seems to be Rocky -8, FBG – 8!! But I have this naughty compulsion to run up behind him when he is not looking, and tweak those sensitive little hairs behind his ears and bring him to his knees like he has done to me!! Maybe I will keep that one up my sleeve!
Chemo might be done and dusted, but there is no chance of dust gathering under my feet. Final chemo was yesterday, and Radiation Therapy Consultation will be tomorrow! Things are moving rapidly forward.
The most important thing is that I know that once this set of side effects pass, then I will start to feel better and slowly recover. I hope that I will get my strength, energy and immune system back gradually – and I hope that means I will start to feel well again. I can’t wait!