Concept: You’re on a cliff edge, screaming really loudly in an attempt to liberate yourself from all of the newfound unhappiness that a recent event has instilled upon your life – except, you wake up from that dream to vividly imagine that there’s a miniature version of yourself making a relentless and disconcerting racket in your head, hacking away at the last of your sanity, hoping to escape the confines of your own brain – and it doesn’t stop from the time you wake up, to the time you eventually get to sleep. Perhaps that makes no sense at all, but for me that has been the reality of my headspace for the past two weeks. I’d been so delighted to finally have two full weeks at home after round 3 of chemo, and I utilised my time as best I could. I went on winter beach walks, I got merry and boogied with friends, I ate everything and anything, I crafted to my heart’s content and I even made new friends within the cancer community which was so, so needed. It was getting to the point where I was having to turn people away – living as a lady of leisure was becoming a full time job and I was actually enjoying myself. But come Monday 12th it started to flip somewhat. I suddenly became very aware that I would soon be back in hospital for round 4, and my little comforting bubble of happiness instantly popped, leaving me less than enthused about, well, everything. I kept crying every two seconds, I had become the real life Moaning Myrtle, only I locked myself in my room rather than the bathroom and I didn’t perve on wizards. I received the call to go back in on the 15th and even as I packed I had tears pouring out of my face. The journey from home to the hospital was one very sorry affair, silently sobbing in the back seat, tormenting myself with the knowledge of what was to come over the next seven days. It wasn’t until I started comparing myself to Ann Boleyn climbing the scaffold in the Tower of London that even I had to remind myself to get a grip. Yes, chemo was bloody awful, but at least I wasn’t going to die at the request of my husband – silver linings! I had been told from the outset that treatment was cumulative and therefore would become a little tougher with each round, but I hadn’t quite prepared for just how round 4 would get me. It was almost from the moment the yellow bagged poison reached my PICC line that all of those familiar and nauseating symptoms hit me, and I was to spend the next week in what would feel like hell. I was trying desperately hard to be alright about it, but when everything tastes rotten, every movement hurts and every second you’re awake is spent trying not to vomit, it’s really very hard to find something good within the shadows. As it happens I spiralled very quickly, and, by Saturday, I was full of raging anger. When I was first diagnosed, my specialist nurse told me that cancer often brings phases of emotions, and she very specifically told me that anger was one such phase. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly angry woman ordinarily, but last Saturday I was just about ready to attack anyone. Yes, it was true, I was experiencing my first wave of selfishness, and once one egocentric thought had entered my head, a million others followed. I worked myself up into such a tizzy that I jumped up and down on the spot and flailed my arms around in my hospital bedroom, and then flung myself onto the bed out of pure exhaustion. My first thought; ‘I really hope my nurses didn’t see that’. My second thought; ‘I really hope they did so that I can finally have a full on meltdown’. I felt so lonely. The loneliest I have ever felt. I was trapped, in a room, being pumped with medicine that makes me ill in order to make me better, experiencing pains very similar to those that brought me into hospital in the first place. My night nurse, Fe, came in around half an hour later. She could see that I wasn’t right, and when she asked if I was okay I cried and she put her arm around me. No one can prepare you for how cancer is going to make you feel. One minute you’re feeling quite brilliant, the next you’re feeling utterly useless and miserable.
I hadn’t wanted anyone around me, in fact my anger had become so consuming that I just felt jealous of my friends and family because they weren’t having to put up with this shit. And in my warped way of trying to shield everyone from my crisis, I’d told no one to visit, isolating me even further. I felt like if I could deal with it all on my own then it would go away quicker, that no one would fuss, and I wouldn’t need to talk about how I was feeling. It was a different story come Tuesday mid-morning. Sat half-dressed on my shower chair in my hospital en suite, I finally had the mother of all breakdowns. I said aloud ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ and I immediately scrabbled about with my phone, trying to find my mum’s work number through the wettest of eyes. I’d never done this before, been so desperate that I felt I needed to speak with my mum immediately, but on this occasion it was the only thing I wanted. One of the office staff picked up and I composed myself “Hello, my name’s Jasmine Goodall, I’m Kim’s daughter, is she available to speak to at all?” I could feel my voice going by the end of the sentence. I couldn’t care less about composure, let’s face it, I just wanted a hug. My mum ran out of work and stayed in the hospital with me for the next two nights. Although I still wanted to run away from the confines of the hospital and cry forever, having mum there made it tolerable. We spoke about everything on the nights she slept over – I cried a lot, but I also laughed a lot. The last day of round 3 and the last day of round 4 were incomparable. At the end of round 3 I’d managed to pack everything up, was dressed and ready to go at something ridiculous like 10am, and I carried half of my own stuff back to the car. Round 4… not so much. It was more me dictating what I wanted in which bag from my bed, struggling to even be ready for when my dad came and collected us. Round 4 had near enough done me in.
I came home on the Thursday morning, expecting to feel that awful post-chemo hangover for at least a couple of days, but feel pretty much back to normal by the end of the weekend. The feeling better part never happened, and when I came in for my 2pm blood test appointment this Monday, it had been the first time I’d left my bed in 4 days. Over the weekend an issue had reoccurred with my wrist where I’d previously had phlebitis. At my bloods appointment I felt I should just mention it as it had swollen and was causing a bit of pain and discomfort. The nurse looked at me with a concerned face, and went to seek out the advice of a doctor. After two hours of assessment, with a heartrate through the roof, I was told that I was going to have to be readmitted for an infection, and it took everything in me not to let out a huge toddler wail and cry whilst lying down on the day unit floor.
If I’m honest, the news didn’t come as a total shock – on Sunday night I’d almost fainted in my room, twice. But I just hadn’t expected to be back here so soon. When you’re already rather low, any bad news becomes absolutely the most horrific thing ever, and that’s how it currently feels. Like a never ending set of disasters that I’m not entirely sure I’m brave enough to deal with.
So here I am. My next round of Methotrexate (the inbetweeny bit of chemo I have amongst my actual rounds of chemo) starts tomorrow. So there was no point in me going home for all but one day, plus I am in severe amounts of pain in parts that I don’t currently want to talk about (let’s just say I can’t actually sit down right now), and I’m also unable to eat because my lovely mouth has decided to swell, and cut, and ulcer. I am one ginormous mess of a human. I’ll be in now until next Tuesday, possibly Wednesday – ready for my 5th round of chemo which will potentially start next Friday. It’s safe to say, I am dreading it all.
On the plus side, the only thing I’m able to consume right now is ice-cream and milkshake. *puts arms in the air like she just doesn’t care whilst silently sobbing*