Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chemo 2 of 9

Monday 15 November 2010

The treatment on the actual day wasn't as bad as last week. By "bad" I mean I didn't feel so completely out of control, intoxicated... I was still drowsy and a bit sleepy but nothing hectic. But that is just a bit of what I actually do remember from Monday ;-) (at home we call my short-term memory issue, chemo brain). This time they got a vein on the 2nd try but I didn't mind so much because it was my favourite nurse and she really is very careful and kind. 

Earlier, while waiting for Irene, I met a new patient. She was chatting to Colette, a woman I have met a couple of weeks ago. So I joined in. The new patient is an ICU nurse and she has been working in Afghanistan for a while. But when she was diagnosed with BC she packed up and headed back to South Africa. Her case is similar to mine. As for Colette, she was just so happy on Monday. It was her last day of Taxol! She said that she never wants to go through chemo again, ever. She already had a mastectomy before she started chemo, and will now proceed with radiation treatment. It is quite a thing, this radiation. She will be going in every weekday for 6 weeks. That's rather hectic. But unfortunately, her BC is also genetic and her mum and sisters all had to battle with it. I do hope she does well with her new treatment, she is lovely. And she was saying that she cannot wait to ride her motorbike again. Her husband bought her a BMW 650, not too shabby. I suggested she start in the new year, making it a definite goal for 2011. She agreed but said she feels like starting now already – the only thing is she might forget to do something essential, like put down her feet when she stops!

No other news really. I have had a spot of flu since the weekend and I am becoming increasingly irritated with the symptoms. But I hope it clears by the end of the week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chemo 1 of 9 (2nd cycle)

Monday, 8 November 2010

The diagnosis:
Breast cancer, stage II

The chemo plan so far:
1 Monday, every 3 weeks, for 8 weeks
Drug: FEC (as discussed in a previous blog)
TOTAL = 3 sessions
LAST SESSION = 18 October 2010

The NEW chemo plan:
Every Monday for 9 weeks
Drug: Taxol* (generic name Paclitaxel)
TOTAL = 9 sessions
LAST SESSION = 10 January 2011

So my day started with a quick black coffee and some Pronutro. Cath dropped me off at 8:45 and I went to "check in" at the hospital, got my blood taken and waited for Irene, my oncologist.

We discussed again the recommended Taxol drug I will be receiving from now on and the possible side-effects*, obviously. This is apparently not as hectic as the FEC. The main reason why they change my chemo drugs halfway during my 18 week cycle is to avoid longterm effects such as the toxicity (which causes the very sore veins and arms and makes your veins actually feel solid!). And the Taxol is a much "easier" drug with regards to these effects.

* Taxol: possible side-effects
  • numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (Peripheral neuropathy)
  • restlessness
  • heart palpitations
  • heartburn

The only downside is that there can be an allergic reaction. This they can establish by taking your blood pressure during treatment. But they only took my BP afterward the chemo session and it was 115 over 66, fairly normal, thank goodness! 

I first received the normal saline solution, to "open up" the veins. Luckily the nurse found a lovely vein without struggling, it wasn’t sore or anything, nothing like the last attemp 3 weeks ago. Then there are 3 bags of drugs including antiacids and cortisone. I can't now remember the third one.

After this the Taxol followed. It is a huge bottle (probably 1,5 litres) of clear fluid (no more FEC red devil!), administered through a drip, as previously. There is no pill form of Taxol. Just a while after starting the Taxol I felt very dizzy and disorientated and when I went to the loo the nurse had to help me a bit. I then started feeling very sleepy and dozed off a couple of times. I am just glad Cath brought me in and fetched me again as I can’t remember much although I did drive myself to hospital the previous time. During all of this, my best friend popped in twice, first to bring me a magazine, and the second time to see how I am doing. I remember vaguely talking to her, or should I say mumbling slurringly.

But from next Monday they half the dose of Taxol. So I think it will be much better then. I only finished well after 2 o'clock. Hopefully next week a bit earlier.

*Taxol: some info
  • Taxol is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug. Taxol is classified as a "plant alkaloid," a "taxane" and an "antimicrotubule agent."
  • Taxol is used for the treatment of breast, ovarian, lung, bladder, prostate, melanoma, esophageal, as well as other types of solid tumor cancers.
I woke up this morning at 6 o'clock feeling well. I slept most of the afternoon yesterday after chemo. And i had a good might's rest. It's now 9 and I am still fine. I have a few admin things to attend to today and then work tomorrow.

I will try and post more often, there are very specific things I want to mention like my diet, medical aid and so on. After my last post I felt quite ashamed for moaning and bitching like I did. I realised soon after that that there are so many things I must be grateful for. I have the most amazing friends supporting me, praying for me and sending me good thoughts and love...I thank you all!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conversation 2

Sorry didn't get back to you. Thought I'd mail and give you the full story. The actual day of the treatment was horrible – felt restless and very sleepy. Slept all day until the next day 4am. Irene said I may need a sleeping tablet after the meds had worn off but I just kept sleeping. Then not been feeling myself this weekend too – tired, lethargic. But it is so much better than the first few treatments. No nausea or anything else. Struggling though to keep away from sick people. My daughter has flu at the moment and people at work are sick too. 

Irene said she gives the full dose the first time and then she halves it for the second one and then keeps reducing it. So it should get better after this. I asked about my back pain and she said it's a common complaint and they don't know why it is that one gets body pain. Still had problems with finding a vein. I become really tearful each time they prod me. One woman told Paulina that what comes around goes around! There was much drama after that with the nurses being upset but I can understand her frustration with all the bruises she had on her arm.

Was interested in your sms about eating meat and ice-cream. Are you on a diet of some sort? I am just eating everything! In fact, I have chocolate almost every evening and indulge in frozen yoghurt whenever I feel like it. I know of another woman who doesn't eat dairy or meat but I know I won't be able to sustain it. So I'm hoping that it's okay to eat the way I am. Irene didn't say anything about a special diet, did she?

All the best with this week. It's likely to be better than before. Then it's only 8 more to go. It is different going weekly though – I feel like I'm only now recovering and I'll be back again this Thursday for more! 

Did you go on the iThamba walk? I didn't – thought there would be too many people. Heard from my colleagues that it was really great. 

Sorry for replying now only, I took some leave the past 2 days. I didnt realise that Thursday's Taxol would be so bad, sorry to hear that. And the vein story, ugh, it's the only thing I don't look forward to!

I have been rather bad with eating the last week but I just cut out a lot of sugar and meat and dairy in general. It's not that I can have it, it just helps, I think. My friend is a nutritional therapist and suggested it. That is one thing the "system" lacks – a dietician or nutritional therapist, just to give us some guidelines, you know? Maybe I will suggest it to Discovery ;-)

The walk was good, I must say, I had a teary moment at the beginning, seeing some women with banners around them with the word "survivor" on it. Anyway, it was good and there were loads of people, kids and dogs!

I wanted to ask you, why did you choose Taxol and not the 3 weekly treatment? Did Irene recommend it? I am having 2nd thoughts on the weekly chemo, the thought of going every Monday is not a particular nice one!

Good to hear from you!  When is your next treatment?  I decided on Taxol because Irene recommended it. She also said I'm less likely to get sick on the weekly one and said that the positive effects are the same if not better with Taxol. I'm not feeling myself though – still a bit fluey with a sore throat and my energy levels are definitely down. I do hope though I'm ok to get the next one tomorrow. The week goes by very quickly and I am dreading this weekly treatment but at least if it goes quick it can be over soon. Maybe speak to Irene again and see what she says. I don't know of anyone that continued with the 3 weekly injections. I know Kate too was doing the once a week as well.

I'm picking up weight so needing to exercise a bit and watch my diet. At the moment I'm just indulging – the thought of watching what I eat too is just too depressing. Also, I don't have the energy to exercise. 

I start on Monday. I just hope I can work on the Wednesday at least. I am sorry to hear about the flu, it's not nice, I know that certain levels of my blood wasn't 100% with my last chemo and Irene said it shows my body is fighting an infection. I also felt flu-ish but luckily it didn't get too bad. We aren't supposed to be taking any vitamins and stuff, I think. But eat oranges or drink lots of juice, I do believe in that.

I have now lost 6 kgs. I got a bit of a fright, to say the least. But i think it's mostly because I eat fruit and veg, and cut out the sugar in my coffee and tea. Otherwise I am feeling well. 

When is your last session? It is 9 treatments, right? Mine will only be 10 Jan 2011. Was hoping to be done with all of this in 2010 already ;-)

Do you have any idea about surgery dates? I wonder when it will be? Not sure if I told you, I saw Jenny last Saturday, she came past our oyster stall at the market...

I was back at work the next day and was ok

My last session is 23 December. Keep thinking about the op but wish in some ways that I had it done before the chemo. That way everything would be over. 

I'm seeing the geneticist next Friday. Jenny suggested I see her as I have a 11 year old daughter. Also, my brother has two daughters and his mother in law died of breast cancer so his children have it from both sides of their family. Poor things! So will see how the meeting goes. 

I'm not sure how long we have to wait until the chemo wears off before we can have the op done. I'm needing to either do it in early January or otherwise in March. Will need to check with Jenny but stalling it for now.

Thanks, sorry for all the questions, but my mind is working overtime! I understand the genetic thing, I might also look into it as it's in my family but I havent thought about it yet. I took unpaid leave for Jan but now I wonder if the op will take place, have not heard a word from Jenny and I don't have her email.

I know she's away in the UK in December, not sure when she's back in Jan. Maybe we should contact her and set up an appointment.  Irene said to wait till we finished chemo but maybe would be good to see her before she leaves in December.

Thanks. It seems that they don't operate immedaitely, in which case I guess Jan is out anyway. I feel so clueless about all these things. Have you emailed her at all?

I mailed her but did not hear from her. Mailed to thank her but didn't ask about the op or making an appointment. Think I will rather phone her and set up a time when I'm feeling ready. Still not ready to think too much about the op. I must tell you though I saw this beautiful woman, very funky, all dressed up come and say hi to the nurses a few weeks ago and it was so funny because she wanted to show them her new boobs and the nurses were too shy to look. It was really quite funny. I heard her saying that she used a very good plastic surgeon, a Dr Engelbrecht or something. Just dreading that whole conversation and all the things that can go wrong which they always need to tell you.

That might be us soon, wanting to show off our boobs!

Are you having a bilateral mast? I am. But I try not to think about it, like you. Not yet anyway, one day at a time. I realised the importance of this when I freaked out a bit 2 weeks ago, it was a bad week and I think it's because I was already thinking and dreading going once a week, for 9 weeks.  Plus the thought of a mastectomy didn't appeal to me much ;-)

Anyway, I know you told me in the hospital but I forgot your history? You had a lump before? Are you going for radiation? I am only doing mastectomy and then Tamoxifan for 5 years! I have stage 2 BC.

And I talk too much ;-)

Never a problem to talk too much. Good to have contact with you.

Yes, will have both removed if I go ahead. Don't want to have to deal with the anxiety again. Jenny said if I don't have the op then I would need radium but no radium if I go ahead with the op. I did have a fibroid adenoma removed last year around the same time but it was benign. What is Tamoxifan? Not heard about it. 

I think we must take it a day at a time and not think too much. We've already gone through so much and managed it quite well, I think (thankfully), so it will all be okay in the end...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chemo 3

I HAVE been meaning to post after Monday's 3rd chemo treatment but honestly, it has been a bit of a shitty week. For now, I am ok. But I need to list the things that has been problematic this week – maybe seeing it black on white will help me process it quicker:
tiredness – I was more tired than the 2nd chemo and only managed to come to work today, Friday
appetite – I have hardly had an appetite and am craving only fruit and veg, mainly fresh; with the 1st 2 sessions I had a mighty fine appetite, especially for oven-baked potatoes slices
sore arms – On Monday they used my right arm (for the drip); I am grateful for this as my left arm is really sore, not all the time, but you can feel the pain all along the veins they have used; it's freaking me out a bit at the moment, the whole needle thing...

So although these are physical things I should change my attitude about, I just had a bit of a "down" week. I believe it will change. But for now, I am just feeling a bit sick of everything, the chemo, nauseau, painful veins, people and their pitiful looks in general.

THE GOOD NEWS is that Monday was my 3rd (and last) treatment for Cycle 1. I cannot believe how time has gone by so quickly. So now the options (as per  an email by Irene) are:

Weekly taxol. You come in every week, have your chemo and go home as usual.  You almost always feel just fine the next day, and the rest of the week. The possible side effects are acute allergy to the stuff (very rare and we all know just what to do), and long term some times tingling and numbness in the tips of toes and fingers (but, with only 9 cycles almost only ever seen in diabetics). Very occasionally you need a blood transfusion.

Three weekly taxotere – a cousin drug.  Here the advantage is you only come in every 3 weeks (as per Cycle 1), but you have to get  5 daily injections (self administered or given by someone else) after each cycle of chemo. Here you can also get allergic reactions as per the taxol, and can get quite sore muscles, and generally feel a bit flattened.

I need to decide (this weekend) which one I am going for. At this stage, Option 1 seems good to me. I think...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Thanks for your sms. Am doing better thanks. My cold has cleared although my eyes are still a bit teary.  I completely understand what you're saying about your hair.  I am dreading the heat of summer as my head is covered with my scarf and my head tends to sweat a lot without my hair for some odd reason.  It does seem a long time to be without hair but by the new year it will start growing back. And better too, so hang in there. Didn't realise how much my hair meant to me.

I'm assuming you're back at work.  Hope that you're doing ok.  I must say that I still wake up some mornings wishing this was all a bad dream and at the same am amazed that for the most part I am actually ok.  Guess life will never quite be same again.

I am glad you are better, I know that if we get flu it can become quite bad and even dangerous. Ja, the hair thing...damn. I also thought I will be ok, and I am. But I suddenly realised last night that there are months ahead still, of not having hair. I am not used to wearing a scarf but it looks ok, although I am very self-conscious. 

I was back at work on Thu, felt a bit better than the 1st time of chemo. Just tired. And only slightly nauseaus. I wanted to ask you if you are eating a special diet? And are you also not eating meat? I find its the last thing I am craving...

No, I'm not on a special diet. I know of someone else who's decided to stop eating any dairy.  What I have done is make sure that I eat well.  I don't have an appetite immediately after my treatment but in the days ahead my appetite picks up and I do eat very well.  I'm not worried about picking up weight (which is usually a preoccupation with me).  So I try and have good food and regular meals. I surprisingly haven't picked up any weight.  I've never been a lover of meat, especially red meat, so still not eating much of it. 

I heard someone a few weeks ago that went out and bought 400 scarves, can you believe it!  I have a headache today and thought it was because of how tight my scarf is on my head but now realise it's related to my getting my period again.  Irene said it would stay away but this is the second time I'm getting it.  It's not great in terms of losing blood and my immune system but will see how it goes.

I know what you mean re: food. I eat very well too and seem to crave fruit and veg (luckily). I have however cut out wheat, dairy, sugar and red meat. And I am feeling great! Have lost a bit of weight but I think its because I am also not drinking alcohol so much ;-)

I also got my period 2 weeks ago. I hope your headache goes away. I usually get a bit of a headache a day after my chemo. I normally dont suffer from headaches in general.  Irene wasnt therewith my 2nd treatment, so I havent  really spoken to her or anything. I dont even know how they know if the chemo is working. Are you having a mastectomy? And going on Tamoxifan? I am, but that is next years' worries, I guess.

Impressed that you've cut out so much.  Don't think I could manage without bread.  You know I look at my mom who was diagnosed at the age of 26 and she eats everything.  So I'm trying to keep positive and feel normal and just eat the way I usually do.  I do need to cut out sugar a bit more though. 

Irene did say that she would be away for the school holidays. Think she's back now though.  I'm not yet sure what I'm going to do about the surgery. There is a high chance of recurrence with my family history so surgery seems the best option but I'm not yet sure.  As you say, it's next years worries.  Jenny said if I don't have surgery I need to have radium treatment.  But can't think of all that right now.  

Shame, I know. But please remember you are not alone. And yes, it's shit. But I know I need to have that op. Unfortunately my one breast is not negotiable but I have decided to have a bilateral mast. I am not crawling into a corner and letting this disease take over. It can have my breasts, for free, but that is where I draw the line!!! Maybe we should have it done round about the same time. Just a thought...

Anway, I don't even know if I have to contact Jenny or if they contact me? I guess more towards the end of chemo? Rather a daunting thing...

Very daunting! You know Jenny told me of one of her patients who had the op and now lives in Australia has sent her an email saying that she came second in a surfing competition!  So I keep thinking that it will be an adjustment for me but in time it will feel like my own body again.  I just get exhausted thinking of having yet another op and then having to manage all the changes afterwards.  Jenny wants to do the op in January I think but I still need to meet with her and the reconstruction surgeon.  Just don't have the energy for it, emotionally especially.  Wish there was a fast forward button...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Looking back – the lump

Monday, 26 July 2010

I called my best friend, slightly anxious. This was not because of the lump in my right breast, mind you, it was mainly because I needed to urgently see a gynaecologist but did not have one! Yes, I am 37 (then 36) and I have not been to a gynae in years. This is a sensitive subject and I feel rather embarrassed to admit this.

In the good old days, I had a gynae, we all did! A couple of us used to all go together, making consecutive appointments, and then all meet for drinks afterwards, celebrating our womanhood and well-being (any excuse). As far as I remember, he was nice enough until one of us had a bad cyst experience – a cyst he apparently failed detect. 

In all honesty, I have had 5 years to recruit a new gynae. But no luck...

So the Monday morning my bf got me the name of a reputable female gynae, in town, hopefully available. I knew that waiting for weeks would probably be my only option to get an appointment. But I managed to get one for the Friday. And soon afterwards, I received a call saying there has been a cancellation and I can come in on the following day, Tuesday. What can I say, it was meant to be...

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Off to my new gynae! She turned out to be a lovely woman, from Belgium, and although I was very nervous, she did make me feel comfortable and at ease. Firstly, I answered the routine questions. After the red tape was finalised, the usual physical examination, papsmeer and sonar tests were done. Turns out I have a cyst on my one ovary and a fibroid is looming around somewhere too. But more importantly, the lump is real. 

We now needed to find out if what was inside the lump, was benign or not. This procedure is called a biopsy. There are 2 types of biopsies: needle and surgical. In my case, we opted for the least invasive biopsy, a Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) – quick to do, as opposed to a surgical procedure. It only took a minute or two. And it wasn't painful, just sensitive.

The next  step was waiting for the results. She said that it would take around 4–5 days but that she would try and pressure them to have it ready by the Friday...

cyst: any closed cavity or sac that is lined with epithelium (tissue composed of cells); they often contain air, fluids or semi-solid material

fibroid/fibroma: a benign tumour consisting of fibrous or connective tissues; they can grow in all organs

biopsy: procedure that involves getting a tissue specimen for microscopic (pathology) analysis to establish a precise diagnosis

FNA: a fine needle syringe, similar to one used for drawing blood, is directly inserted into the lump; small amount of cells are sucked up into the syringe


I have been meaning to write a bit about hairloss (and some other stuff too). It has been a week now of covering my head and let me tell you, it hasn't been much fun. The highlight of my day is when I get home and I can actually take off my doekie. A great feeling! 

Because I am still trying to get used to this new look, I have not been out much – even popping to a shop does not appeal to me. I hate the stares of pity, really, it's crap! And to top it off, I cancelled going to a close friend's birthday drinks tonight – mainly because I know that I will just not fit in with the beautiful cocktail-sipping people. I need to work on my attitude, I know ;-)

As per my last post, I did go to the market and sell oysters on Saturday. I had my doubts as to whether or not I will be able to cope – not physically, mentally. I mean, I do not want that I-look-sick-because-I-have-cancer look. But it was fine, I had a fairly good day in general. My best friend popped in and stayed for quite a while. It helped having her there, in a weird way, it took the edge off the situation. Of course I had to tell a couple of people about the breast cancer (BC) because they commented on the cap I was wearing. And yes, some shocked faces and even more good wishes. Luckily we still sold out of oysters, indeed a very busy day!

– is the medical description of the loss of hair from the head or body
– tends to be involuntary and unwelcome (I'd say!)
– may also be caused by a psychological compulsion to pull out one's own hair or the unforeseen consequences of voluntary hairstyling routines
Chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, not just the cancer cells. The lining of the mouth and stomach, and the hair follicles are especially sensitive because these cells multiply rapidly, just like the cancer cells. The difference is that the normal cells will repair themselves, making these side effects temporary.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's all off!

I FINALLY HAD TO shave off my hair. It started falling out more and more in the last 2 weeks and I was dreading the "patchy" look. I went to my friend who is a hair stylist and it didn't take her too long. Afterwards, we all had a glass of bubbly to "celebrate" – a great decision as it took off the edge during this rather sobering experience! 

Now I must admit, It looks odd, even for me, who has almost always had very short hair. I think it will take a while to get used to. I do like the feeling of "baldness", just not the look. My friend I met in hospital had to go through this a week or so before me. She said she was really teary and upset. For her, it was the first physical sign of this disease. So true...

I now find myself "shopping" for hats,  headgear and coverings. It's rather exciting. I still do not feel very comfortable being out in public or even at work. But I guess this will get better with time. Yesterday was not a great day, but today is better. Tomorrow is market day, and I  am slightly nervous to face the crowds, it will be a real test!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chemo 2

ON MONDAY I had my 2nd chemo treatment. All in all, it was a similar experience to the one I had  3 weeks ago. I had to "book" into the hospital, fill in some paperwork, go for blood tests, chat to the oncologist, and then finally, start the 3 hour treatment.

Unfortunately my oncologist was away and I had to "report back" to her partner, an older woman, very highly regarded in the "breast disease world". I actually had some specific questions  that I wanted to blog about but I will follow these up with my next round. 

As my 1st chemo was actually pretty "good" compared to some peoples' experiences (I didn't get very sick and was just extremely tired), I am happy to report that my 2nd treatment was even "better". I tried to "hold onto" the positive attitude from my 1st round. I did have my doubts though because often the 2nd one is different/worse than the 1st one. A friend that I met in hospital (we both had a lumpectomy) had a slightly "worse" 2nd chemo. But she is ok now.

I am back at work today. Physically I could have come in yesterday. However, mentally I needed one more day...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I AM WAITING in anticipation for my hair to fall out. 

A month or so ago, I was convinced that I might not "suffer" from this particular side-effect. However, my oncologist told me, during a recent telephone conversation, that losing my hair is not negotiable – in other words, I will lose it. Apparently it starts "happening" about ten days to two weeks after your first chemo treatment. It's been eleven days now. And counting...

Luckily I have my hair stylist, a good friend, on standby, so to speak. It is advisable to shave off your hair as one can only imagine how strange it must look to have patches of baldness.

In the meantime, I am still not completely convinced that my hair will fall out...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Angel and the Farmer

The Farmer from the market (where we sell West Coast oysters every Saturday) gave me an Angel. It is a papier-mâché angel, with upraised arms, praying. He said that perhaps the Angel will bring me love and peace, and all things good. The Angel, however, has been through tough times himself. Without knowing, he has been an icon of hope and faith to the Farmer and his family. And now he has been passed onto me.

Years ago, the Farmer's son had a dreadful disease and ended up in hospital. It was a Friday morning, very early, when the doctors told the Farmer that his son had 20 minutes to live. This prognosis did not make the Farmer and his family give up hope. In fact, they waited out the "deadline". Nothing happened. They waited till teatime. Still nothing. Lunchtime came and went. And so did that weekend.

The Farmer's son somehow survived this ordeal. A miracle? Perhaps. As the Farmer told me his story, with tears in his eyes, he said that the Angel was there, in hospital, watching over them.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


So I am rather pleased to report that I am experiencing exactly what I had hoped for – no extreme nauseau or throwing up or any other hectic symptoms, just an enormous feeling of tiredness. Ironically, I feel quite blessed...

I am back at work today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Starting Chemo, Monday 6 September 2010

So this is it. The much anticipated day of starting my 18 week chemo course. I admit that I have been looking forward to this. Really. The sooner I start, the sooner I am finished!

The diagnosis:
Breast cancer, stage II

The chemo plan so far:
1 Monday, every 3 weeks, for 18 weeks
TOTAL = 6 sessions
LAST SESSION = 20 December 2010

I arrived at the hospital at 8:30. Accompanied by my partner and mother, who insisted on being there to support me, I had some blood drawn, opened a hospital file, filled in some forms and answered some questions.

We then proceeded to go to my oncologist’s office. She again explained (1) the way I would receive the drugs, (2) the actual chemo drugs, (3) possible side-effects but also the more (4)serious stuff that I wasn’t quite aware of.

(1) Intravenous therapy – giving of liquid substances directly into a vein (commonly known as a drip)

(2) The chemo medicine I will receive is called FEC100. FEC is the acronym for the following 3 meds: Fluorouracil (5-FU),epirubicincyclophosphamide. It is apparently a common combination of drugs to start with for breast cancer patients.

(3) So the possibe side-effects for using FEC might be:

Fluorouracil (5-FU)
nauseau – very common
oral mucositis – inflammation and ulceration that occurs in the mouth (this could also affect the digestive tract, I think)
dermatitis – inflammation of the skin.

chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV)
unusual tiredness or weakness
mouth sores
joint pain
existing wounds that are slow healing.

(4) Extravasation (intravenous) – when the intravenously (IV) infused medicinal drugs accidentally leaks out to the surrounding tissue. This can cause pain, reddening, or irritation on the arm with the infusion needle. Severe damage may include tissue necrosis.

Please note that the above point mentioned is purely a summarised list, as I am being slightly selective ;-) However, once I have done a bit more reading, I will maybe discuss the drugs I am using in a more indepth post, sometime soon.

I am not going into detail now as to what I think I might suffer from, or not suffer from. These are very general things. There is a vast and overwhelming amount of information on the internet and in books and magazines. I suggest equipping yourself with the basic knowledge only.

I did selective reading because people and friends around you, once the news of you having cancer has broken, all offer stories and advice. It can be tremendously overwhelming and exhausting. But listen to them, to their story and just take from it the "good stuff".

Chemo Room
So after the discussion with the oncologist, I was taken to this room. There I met the 4 or 5 friendly nurses, on whom my comfort and confidence was partly dependent on. They were all lovely, very caring and professional. The room has about 8 comfy chairs (like the “lazy-boy” chairs), blue.

I picked one closest to the door. Not exactly planning my escape route just yet but one has to keep your options open. And it seemed more spacious not having a chair on my righthandside.

To start the nurse had to find a vein. One would think that’s the least of my worries. But no! My veins are not very visible, and the ones they did try, was either too “thin” or just protesting against the drugs it was going to receive, who knows!

After a rather painful couple of vein searches (they use a hollow needle to pass through the skin directly into a vein), we were all set to start.

Start 10:00 am

The first fluid they send through the drip is just a normal saline solution (crystalloid fluid). I think this is just for “opening up and cleaning” the vein, in preparation for the other fluids. The secondand third “bags” of fluid were anti-nausea solutions. Unfortunately I did not ask enough questions here but will next time, so I am not too sure exactly what this was. In the meantime, Cath popped in and out, my mother, looking slightly worried, spend her morning between Chemo Room and Cafeteria.

And then my best friends popped in. C just returned hours earlier from an overseas holiday but made the effort to come and say “hello”. She looked tired and might have needed a drip more than I did ;-) B, slightly more lively, was actually on her way to a lovely mini holiday in the Breede River Valley area. A well-deserved one!

It was time to move on to the actual chemo drugs now, after all, this is why I am here. First bag filled with a red liquid, the nurses calls it the “Red Devil” because of its colour. I might be mistaken, but I think this is the drug that causes hair loss. The second and third bags had a clear solution in and I am not sure what these were. Anyway, I still have to read up on this as the “Red Devil” is not one F, E or C in the FEC drugs I am getting? Will keep you posted...

Finish: 13h15