I had been joking to a couple of friends that I would cycle to my second chemo session, as it was the next cycle of chemo. And suddenly, the day had arrived. The sense of trepidation and anxiety was awful - just the thought of having to go through all those side effects again and feel that awful was horrible. It was another night of very little sleep as the steroids had started again, and the wee small hours were spent thinking of ways to avoid going back for more. When the alarm went off in the morning I kept trying to persuade my husband to go to chemo for me. Funnily enough, he wasn't interested….
I had packed a chemo bag for my husband to take in to work for me, which had half the amount of stuff compared to last time. I had Barley Water squash, a book, some warm socks, my iPad and a charger, some lip and hand cream, and some flip flops to wear instead of my cycling shoes.
After a leisurely morning spent walking the dogs in the morning sunshine, it was time to head off. Dermot had given me a lovely ride along country lanes, about 21km, and I had given myself 1.5 hours to do it. And I absolutely loved it!
The sense of achievement of cycling in the glorious sunshine, seeing a buzzard overhead - I suddenly got very brave. I took a ‘selfie’ whilst cycling - and this is a big thing as I'm always a bit unsteady when I take my hands off the bars for any length of time.
Look no hands!
Coming in to Bury there is a long, straight cycle path, and I tell you, someone must have wired my head wrong overnight. I sat up, and took both hands off the handlebars, and cycled for about a minute with no hands on the bars! I have never had the courage to do that before! I then took another ‘selfie’ to prove to my husband that I had done it! Definitely a symptom of chemo brain, but a good one!
I got to the Macmillan unit and sat in the sunshine waiting for Dermot. I couldn't stop smiling. During the ride I had forgotten about the chemo and what was to come, and was just smiling for the joy of being out on my bike.
Back to reality
With the bike handed over and my shoes swapped, it was time to wait to be called in for round 2. Dermot had to go back to a meeting so I was on my own, and I thought I'd be fine. There were some familiar (but much older) faces from last time, and I was soon called through. Whilst the nurse was putting the gripper needle in my port, I proudly told her that I'd cycled in. And I got a stern telling-off. She said that I shouldn't have done it because my neutrophils were so low. And I deflated like a balloon. Personally, I thought I'd been living for the last week with a very low neutrophil count, and how was cycling more dangerous than looking after our dogs and ducks (or should I not have been doing that either…)?
All by myself
After swallowing more steroids and an anti-sickness tablet, the infusion was up and running, and I was off. I had brought a book sent to me by Cathy, a lovely lady I met on a cycling camp a few years ago - Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder. Rather appropriate given my cycling attire. I must have looked a bit odd in my padded shorts and cycling cap - not quite brave enough to go bald on the chemo ward, which looking back was ridiculous. The book has lots of small chapters that are quick to read and didn't need much concentration. I'd forgotten to bring my drinks bottle, and because the chemo unit is only a day ward, they only have glasses for water, not jugs. I didn't want to bother anyone, so just sipped my one glass of water with squash, instead of drinking close to 2 litres like I did last time. Can you spot the recurring theme of my not wanting to bother people…?
I knew that Julie, who had continued to text me every day to check in with me, was hoping to come to see me towards the end of the infusion, but for that first hour or so, I felt incredibly lonely. I was the only one there with no-one to sit with them during the chemo. I thought I would be fine - 2 hours to sit and read and tweet, but it wasn't. Although the chemo infusion is quick and painless, not having company made me feel isolated and sad and sorry for myself. I didn't want to cry, and buried myself in the book. I kept imagining all the other patients feeling sorry for me, and that made it worse. I could have texted some of the nurses or doctors that I knew from working in the hospital to see if they could come and visit with me, but I didn't want to bother anyone, especially at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Silly girl indeed.
Julie to the rescue
She literally did come to my rescue, bringing with her gossip and some hats that she had used, whilst I worked out what my bald 'look' would be. She made me laugh and suddenly everything was OK again. The last half an hour flew by, and Dermot appeared just as they took down the drip, and it was time to go home.
I had a much bigger party bag to go home with, full of drugs for heartburn and different drugs for constipation and nausea, to see if they would help compared to last time, and just the one GCSF injection, thank goodness. And then it was time to go home and wait for the inevitable. In the car on the way home, I asked Dermot the following questions - did he think it would it be as bad as last time? Would swapping the injections make a difference? And would he do the Park Run with me tomorrow….? Oops - I'd forgot to mention my latest crazy idea. Would he say yes…?