So, here we are, Christmas Eve, and I am snuggled up on the sofa, having completed #Chemo2 on Friday. Last time I really blogged about cancer it was a week on from #Chemo1, I ‘returned to work’ 12th December, and managed to sign off a book chapter re ‘Digital Culture’ for Pastoral Challenges and Concerns: A Christian Handbook for Leaders, which hopefully will be out in the spring, pre-recorded for UCB Radio on group action on social media epitomised by #metoo in 2017 – not quite sure when that’s on, and exchanged a few e-mails moving forward seeking to turn my PhD into an academic monograph (REF-able). Didn’t see a lot of human beings second week after chemo, which was a bit tough, but plans falling through left, right and centre because of people coming down with colds and not being allowed to be near! Social media is a bit of ‘saviour’ in this scenario, but I did enjoy both the company and the mint hot chocolate last Sunday!
Plans, Plans, Plans
The plan was originally to head to my parents in Suffolk (and see other family members), in between chemotherapy treatments, but my oncologist doesn’t want me out of reach of the Christie, so I’m still in Manchester – clearly NOT driving home for Christmas (though getting the odd photo of celebrations). The first back-up plan was to stay with a friend, but with pneumonia in that family, that’s out (with limited white blood cell counts, it’s important to stay away from infections which could hospitalise me, at risk of sepsis, etc.).
I’ve had a couple of invitations to other people’s houses, but too dizzy to drive, taxis will be on surge if running, and got limited energy, so settled in for snuggling in with book, TV, friends popping around for a wobble round the block, Queen’s speech, some Facetime, another friend bringing some Christmas dinner … so that’s plenty – Giles Fraser’s piece in the Guardian helpful reading for someone out of the Christmas loop!
I’ve got a little pile of presents to open, a lovely friend has given me something lovely to open every day through til New Year’s Eve, when hope to be well enough to celebrate (illness of people around me permitting)… but unlike some of my new friends within my FB groups, I have not been admitted to hospital … and have been cheered by a number of messages from people who have taken the time to pop in 3,4,5 years down the line to show what life looks like outside the cancer pit!
Something that’s cheered me up (aside from doing my nails to protect them from light):
*Harry’s mum Jenny Baker wrote the excellent Run for Your Life about her experience of running whilst undergoing chemotherapy.
A Bit of a Scare
Last Monday brought with it quite a stressful day. Last week, as I was doing the physio provided, I could feel a lump right where the mastectomy had been. Thought about going in Friday, decided to see how the weekend would treat it – definitely something there though, so Sunday evening leave a message on the answer machine for the nurses (along with the fact that my prosthetic boob is still missing) saying that I think it needs looking at. The reality of saying that out loud was quite stressful, and the thought of these fears likely to occur for rest of my life (which hopefully these yakky treatments are buying me more years of) is pretty stressful!
I was seen quickly that afternoon, quickly reassured that although it was a very defined lump, it was not something that was of concern. Underwent an ultrasound, which confirmed that it was a ‘fatty lump’, then returned with results to see the surgeon, who said if not undergoing chemotherapy (so doesn’t want to cut the skin= risk infection), could nip it out. Been told to keep an eye on it, have it checked again in January, but not to worry about it as easy to deal with and NOT CANCEROUS!
The rest of the week = bits of work, dinner with work colleagues Tuesday evening, blood tests and conversation with oncologist on Wednesday (lots of waiting around for that one), out for ‘Beer’ and Carols Wednesday evening:
— Dr Bex Lewis (@drbexl) December 20, 2017
A friend came round and cooked me a lovely potato and aubergine curry Thursday evening, and then it was early to bed to get ready for the second round of Chemotherapy (2 out of 3 of ‘EC‘, before moving onto 9 weeks of ‘Tax‘)
I was booked to be in my chemo chair for 8.30am Friday morning (bit of a challenge, as I’ve been sleeping LONG hours into the morning), with a lovely friend to give me a lift, and excellent company throughout. We got to the check-in desk, and were told it was actually 9.30am, so to disappear (time for cooked breakfast, though more sleep would have been appreciated), and wait for a phone call for when the chair was ready. Got to the chair to be told they’d been ready for me at 8.30am, when I should have taken my (new/different) anti-sickness pill (to try and deal with the ongoing nausea I experienced last time)… so took that, had half-hour to ‘faff’, then the COLD CAP experience started again (I literally seem to have lost no hair, so need to be prepared to put up with the initial 10-15mins pain for the chance of keeping (most of) my hair!).
10-15 mins of squeezing hands to get through the tears accompanying the head-freezing process, until the first 30 mins post-freeze completed, then a foot massage was offered, and my nurse Sophie (it was Laura last time, apparently) sat with me with the MANY syringes full of meds (4 large ones, 1-2 small ones) and started to feed the drugs in. The chemo itself is not actually that big a deal, though it looks a bit overwhelming, it’s the cold cap and the chemo side-effects afterwards!
Once the treatment was infused, I then had to wait another 90 minutes with the cold cap on, then disconnect that and wait for the ice to melt so that the cap didn’t instantly rip my hair out! Then we could go – that was about 1.30pm, stopping for a hot chocolate on the way out, full of sugar, then head home…. ensure surrounded by water, caddy full of various meds, ginger tablets/biscuits, lots of safe water, etc. and settle in ‘for the ride’!
So this second chemo has been somewhat less horrendous than the first (so far) – still dizzy, still nauseas (but not feeling sick, just nauseas), still wobbly, really tired, but survived the first couple of days. Had some lovely visitors, thoughtful gifts and digital thoughts, managed to wobble around the block in pursuit of Pokemon for both days:
Also managed to eat some stuff, taken Boots (over the counter, 25mg) sleeping tablets, taken steroids earlier, gone to bed early, taken lactulose earlier, mouthwash in action from the beginning, so let’s see what tomorrow looks like post-steroids (not quite had the high of last time, which is good!). Back for the ‘fun’ bit of self-injecting (although managed to lock the sharps box shut, so sort that out post-Christmas):
although had to make space for the needles in the fridge (just as well don’t really fancy wine in first couple of weeks!):
So, time for bed, and ready for a gentle day tomorrow – been given Sarah Millican’s biography, so that could be appropriate to #JoinIn with:
For anyone starting to worry about being alone/lonely on Christmas Day, I will be doing #joinin again on here. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a hashtag we use to connect all of those who could do with some company. Join us for #joinin.
— Sarah Millican (@SarahMillican75) November 12, 2017
And I liked this from one of the FB groups – here’s to family and friends old and new who are keeping my spirits up (online and offline) throughout these challenging times:
And to finish on a positive note as we look back on a rather turbulent 2017, here’s a lovely (if rather sweary) video from Russell Howard:
There are people in better places than me, there are people in worse places than me … I’m thankful for all the support I’m getting, and that I live in a country where we have the NHS, troubled as it is – long may it last (and this tweet from a friend(‘s son) who’s wife has just died from breast cancer):
For every nurse, doctor, midwife, cleaner, catering staff and many others that will be pulling on a uniform tomorrow.
We say #MerryXmasNHS
I’ll be forever thankful that all you did for Mum ?? https://t.co/2UZkakGwRr
— Jonathan Littledale (@JLittledale) December 24, 2017
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.