Feels like it’s been a week of appointments. After the follow up with the breast surgeon on Monday, I managed to get an appointment with a physiotherapist a couple of days later. She spent an hour massaging the cording and moving the area under my arm where the scar tissue is. I could feel some difference immediately after the session and stretching my left arm out no longer felt like such a pull with less soreness in my upper arm. We had another 1/2 hour of similar exercises, movements and massages two days later and there’s some improvement again. Great!
On Thursday, I had my second session with Andrew and some more acupuncture. I told him that I’d been feeling apprehensive and worried about chemo. I also confirmed with him that I would be sticking with my decision to do the EC regime rather than Taxol. He said he would put together some herbs for me that help during the course of this – though I need to get this checked with the guys at LOC first. I like Andrew and I like being in his presence. There’s something very calming, reassuring about him and his needles definitely hit the points. One point on my right wrist was quite sore but spot on (anti-anxiety & stomach point) that half of my arm reacted to it. I was feeling quite low yet scared on my way to see him but left the session feeling calm again. He also advised that I should use some kind of visualisation on monday when the drugs first go into my system. Some people tend to imagine little warriors entering the body in search for cancer cells; I think I’ll be imagining about the drugs seeking out abnormally behaving cells, attaching themselves to these cells and hugging/ squeezing these until they pop.
Andrew also introduced me to Milky Oolong Tea. I drank some after my session and knew I had to buy some. SO delicious and amazingly milky in taste even though it doesn’t contain any milk. In Chinese, it’s called Wu Long Cha and it’s seen as a herb that clears toxins, promotes digestion and revives the spirit to enhance alertness and relieve fatigue. Apparently it’s also commonly used with chemotherapy in China. Other tips from Andrew included a certain acupressure point against nausea and ‘plenty of exercise’!
On Friday morning I had an echocardiogram, blood tests and a pre-chat with a chemotherapy nurse. The echocardiogram took about 5 minutes and confirmed that my heart is healthy and strong with everything performing the way it should be. Great! Blood tests all came back good and strong too with white blood cell count at 5.0, Platelets (red blood cells that help prevent clotting) at 215 and Neutrophils (white blood cells that help fight infections). These three levels will be closely measured over the coming weeks to determine how the body is reacting with the drugs. All other measurements from the blood tests (kidney, liver, cholesterol, etc.) all good.
The chemo nurse took me into a private room and chatted with me for about an hour. She told me more or less what to expect, why the sessions take so long (blood tests, drug preparations, slow insertion into the body etc.) and what side effects to expect. Nothing she said came particularly as a surprise as I had been reading up on EC quite a lot. She explained that they’ve had some good successes with the cold cap and that they’re using Paxman. I was relieved to hear as I’d been researching the various brands and Paxman has had some great reviews from other people who’ve successfully managed to keep hair. I confirmed that I would like to include the cold capping as part of my treatment. Probably need to take some paracetamol prior to the cooling, as it can feel quite uncomfortable for about 20 minutes. She said they would provide heat pads and blankets to keep warm. Whilst there are of course are side effects that may be concerning, I know and have learnt that losing hair can be quite distressing. I’m planning to stay positive and keep as much as hair as possible. I have often felt that my curly hair plays a big role in defining me and I would like that to continue.
We then talked about the various medications they would give me to take home and that I should keep an eye on my temperature on a regular basis. Other than that, we went through things I was already prepared for and knew of. It was still very good to sit down and actually talk through these with someone who is directly dealing with patients (rather than have them in my head). We also talked about the PICC line. Dr. Cleator and I had discussed that the PICC line would be an option (instead of a port) and I had an appointment scheduled for pre-chemo to have this inserted. I asked whether there was any chance of trying without a PICC line by just using my veins in my right hand – since we are planning four session in total. She examined my veins and said we should give it a go. Worst case scenario, it’s too painful to do it that way and we can still opt for a PICC line 3 weeks later. I’m happy to give it a go – it means there’s less risk of infection as PICC lines are external, need to be kept dry, flushed out every week, cared for etc. etc.
As a final part of our conversation, she showed me the facilities. The place is in the basement of the LOC and features a number of pods with curtains that some people had open, some closed. In each pod, there’s something that looks like a dentist chair which reclines completely, another chair for a guest and a screen for movies. The place has a calm and quiet feel to it and the staff I met briefly seemed smiley and warm.
In addition to support from friends and loved ones, I have had a lot of encouragement from forum members at MacMillan, from people who are on the same regimen and I think I will feel much calmer about things once I’ve actually had my first session. It’s been a long time coming and a part of me just wants to get on with it now. I also messaged Victoria Derbyshire on Twitter, who has so publicly been documenting her journey through treatments. Her last few posts gave me encouragement and I told her that. She kindly replied “@vicderbyshire: @Fundamentals am glad they have; sending you loads of strength and positivity. You can totally do it.”
So let’s do this on Monday!