Discovering how nasty chemotherapy is

FIONA Welsh on her battle against breast cancer

THIS week has made me realise how potent and nasty chemotherapy actually is.

After my first and second I was feeling pretty ‘normal’ again by day three or four but this round has hit me and hit hard.

I have spent most of this week in my PJs wrapped up in bed. I have lost track of the days and each hour just passes by without me really noticing.

This is pushing all my buttons as I am normally active and just lying down and snoozing isn’t me. They do warn of treatment-induced fatigue and may take time to go away even after treatment finishes, so it’s something I need to get used to but it is hard.

The hospital do give you great information explaining all the side effects to expect, so I know what to look out for but hoped I would be spared some of them. I can tick most off the list; I have hair loss, mouth ulcers, dry skin, sore veins where the drugs are administered, sickness and now tiredness.

One main area of concern is risk of infection. My good white blood cells are attacked under the chemo and this puts me at risk of picking up a simple infection which could lead to being admitted into hospital, something I really want to avoid.

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I could easily turn into a germ-fearing person, antibacterial sprays, wipes and hand gel within easy reach wherever I go. I spray and wipe everything down before I use it, am constantly washing my hands and, if I could disinfect our dog I think I would too.

I also need to avoid crowds, so that’s me maybe not going into town for Christmas shopping, thank goodness for online shopping but it’s not quite the same.

But I must keep a level head on my worries, trust my body to keep fighting any infection risk and just limit the risk where I can.

Cancer causes all sorts of worries anyway and some of the worries you can control. It’s remembering to keep it all into perspective.

I am to take my temperature each day, and if it is rises I am to call the unit. I soon worked out not to do this directly after having a cup of hot tea as did result in a high reading and a short lived panic attack that I was actually ill.

I must also ensure all foods are well cooked, advised to avoid takeaways and pre-packed shop sold sandwiches. This has made me wary of eating out. It’s a shame being so near Christmas, I am missing out on a few social events, but it’s all only temporary.

Next year I will make up for what I miss out on this year. There are lists of food to avoid too, can’t have things like unpasteurised dairy products, bio or live yogurts, soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert, shellfish, pate, soft whipped ice cream, pre-packed salads, and bottled water should be avoided too.

No alcohol either. It’s typical that with my appetite being limited anyway, what I fancy to eat right now is warm camembert with onion chutney but it’s a no-no. However like the side effects, it is all only temporary.

I can add camembert to my list of things to look forward to again once this is all over. And my list is soon growing.