Ginger Snaps - The blog of Jayne Hawkins

Go Sober!

Right, all this toxic medicine has clearly affected me more than I ever thought possible and as a result I appear to have gone off the old vino! So I have decided to make something good come out of this disastrous occurrence and go on the wagon for October to raise some money for Macmillan Cancer.

Go Sober for October!

I would really appreciate it if you would kindly donate the price of a bottle of wine or the cost of a drink or two to this fantastic cause!

Cycle number 4

17 Dec 2013

Well here we are on the eve of the penultimate chemo can you believe.  According to an app on my phone I’ve done 83 days of this crap now and I honestly think it’s gone quite quickly looking back, although some days have dragged beyond belief.  However 21 more days until the last one is administered is quite a good feeling, although I'll still have to get through the side effects after that, but the thought of it being the last one should help a little bit I think. 

So treatment 4 was thankfully undramatic, if not rather long.  6.5 hours actually in the hospital pus travelling time and sitting around time at the start but I take lots to keep me busy and Simon worked throughout as ever.  He even left me on my own for an hour or so as he had to nip home to sort out an urgent issue for a client.  The joys of being self-employed.  All I can say is I’m so glad he has a lovely understanding “boss”. 

I ran out of things to do by about 3pm and dozed off which wasn’t great because I then didn’t sleep too well that night which was further fuelled by those horrid little white pills they call steroids!  I left with more steroids for round 5, my ouchie ouch bone marrow injection and ever present oral thrush tablets.  I can honestly say I’m sick of the sight of tablets now and to be honest in the grand scheme of things I’ve not had too many, but I didn’t really do them much before so find the concept  of taking stuff regularly quite alien. 

Sadly chemo brain kicked in ridiculously early this time as after tea Kyle, aged 11, supervised me on a trip to Ikea.  This went well until we arrived at the till, guess who forgot her purse.  So back home we trooped to collect aforementioned purse before going back to pay for everything!  Eejit!

So on to the side effects.  You will be delighted to know there were no mad dashes to the toilet this time which I was rather happy about.  The pain kicked in day 3 about 12 hours after the ouchie ouch bone marrow injection, as my bones start to fill with extra bone marrow and stretch!  As ever I kept plodding on, had warm baths and used my electric blanket.  I appreciate some people can’t cope with the heat from these due to the delightful hot flushes that chemo brings but the relief my electric blanket brings me is phenomenal, I think they should be available on the NHS to those who want them. 

I was so sick of tablets that I decided I would try and do this cycle without the painkillers.  Not trying to be heroic or anything I was just fed up of them and decided if I could do without then I would and bar one day when I had to take them just to get myself up in the morning this worked fine.  Once I get myself up I’m fine but some days that part can be awfully hard.  Thankfully Kyle and Leo need me to get up so I have a good excuse.  Simon does tell me to stay in bed but as ever I don’t listen to him and by the time he has gone to the loo I’ve usually snuck out of bed, got the kids up and made it downstairs to make myself a cuppa!  The pain from the chemo this time was in my knees big time.  Perhaps all the gymnastics as a child has weakened them but they were the worst this time.  I felt a bit like a very old lady at times and hobbled around some days, not a great look I must say.

My taste buds left the building straight away and as ever the oral thrush arrived bang on time day 7.  Eating is always a struggle for a couple of days even though I’m starving.  Taste and texture of everything is so disgusting its actually starting to put me off certain food that I’m forcing myself to eat around this time.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at tomato soup again when this is over and meal times are becoming more like a bush tucker trial.  Sadly, in cycle 5, Christmas day falls around this time so my Christmas dinner will be out of the window.  It started to clear after a few days but I do hate that side effect with a passion, its right up there with chemo brain for me. 

I did OK with the tears this time until Simon made the mistake of making a “joke” about the pain I was in at the wrong time and it set me off but I sharp sorted myself out once he realised he had made a little mistake with this and said sorry.  This part I hate too but I feel I am getting better at managing it much to everyone’s relief as well as my own.

I also have a delightful new side effect this round to report to you, sore nails!  Docetaxel can actually make your nails falls off.  I shall really cry if this happens, the hair I can do but NOT THE NAILS!!  Rumour has it that Docetaxel reacts with UV rays to wreck your nails so apparently dark nail varnish helps avoid this a little bit.  Well it’s worth a try in my opinion so I’ve kept my nails painted with dark nail varnish from day one. 

When I take it off I can see my nails are going a bit funny, they almost seem to have a marker line on them which I presume goes back to dose number 1.  If I don’t reapply varnish straight away after taking it off my nails hurt a lot more.  One in particular hurts more than the rest and my fingers have also gone a bit numb, that’s the Docetaxel damaging my nerves YAY.  It makes simple things like doing zips and button tricky.  Picking things up and opening things is a struggle too which is annoying. 

I’m happy to report that so far the nails are hanging on along with my eyelashes and eyebrows (keeping everything crossed this all continues even though it hurts to cross my fingers too much).  Oh and my hair is growing quite well too, its fair rather than grey so far and amusingly enough is now long enough to waft when I walk. 

The nosebleeds have been here for pretty much 2 weeks and I must admit to feeling as if things have dragged on for a bit longer this time and I’ve felt a little more tired but keeping going has helped as ever for me. 

The last little surprise this stuff had for me was an odd mark on my hand where I have had all 7 cannulas put in.  This arrived on day 11 which threw me, but it didn’t hurt or bother me and didn’t get any worse as time went on but by day 14 I had been nagged into ringing the hospital and was told to have it checked out, pah.  I didn’t think it was infected as it would have spread and made me ill which it didn’t and in the end the Nurses decided it was a burn from the Docetaxel.  So off I went with “burn cream” to add to my medicine box.  

  • Cycle number 4 - Picture 1

So all in all not too bad a cycle again, 2 more like that will do me although if the thrush can take a hike that would really really really be good especially for Christmas!  I have however made a medical discovery – gin and tonic helps oral thrush and the rotten mouth, I have scientifically tested this with my online buddies and this has been proven!  Now I’m allowed the odd drinkypoo on this chemo but sadly I can’t get away with drinking G&T from breakfast onwards so am sticking with the tonic water during the day, honest.  It’s really amazing!  Simon and I had a treat this weekend gone when we had a weekend away for the Way Fresh Christmas Party.  I tested my theory out (again) before we had a delicious meal and again it worked.  I do feel it needs a bit more testing and I have a few kind ladies lined up to work with me on this but what an amazing discovery I think you will agree!

  • Cycle number 4 - Picture 2
  • Cycle number 4 - Picture 3

My lovely Breast Care Nurse, Amanda, rang to see how I was doing earlier this week.  Whilst we were chatting I plucked up the courage to mention that I wasn’t all that happy about the surgeon I have been allocated, the guy I first saw with no bedside manner who I’m sure is a very talented surgeon but I just don’t think I will get much of a discussion out of him when it comes to discussing surgery.  Not that I think I have many options but to put my mind at rest I’ll need to know the far end of a chemo fart as to exactly why I can’t have all the other options that may have been available. 

Anyway Amanda said straight away it was no problem to swap and she was so glad Id said something as she needs me to be happy and comfortable with my surgeon.  So I think I’m seeing a surgeon called Dr Aspinall who apparently looks about 10 years old but he is very good, very chatty and is also into the reconstruction side so I think I’ll get quite a discussion out of him which I’m happy about. 

I had been booked in for surgery on 14th February (4 weeks after chemo ends) but we then figured this was the start of half term and Amanda suggested it wouldn’t have been sensible to be stuck at home trying to recover with Kyle and Leo bored and requiring my attention.  So she moved me to straight after half term so the boys won’t be under my feet whilst I’m pulling myself together.  I’m now down for 25th February.  I’m a bit gutted as I just want to get it over with but if I put my sensible head on this does make sense.  Amanda pointed out this won’t have any negative impact on my health in terms of the cancer itself but did say if I have surgery after 6 weeks my body will be more recovered from chemo and this added to the fact that I’m not dealing with the boys as much as they will be at school should mean I bounce back quicker so I think it’s the correct decision. 

So now I have my “end of chemo MRI” booked, an appointment with the surgeon and a date for surgery thanks to the fabulous Amanda, she really has been amazing in all of this.  It’s quite clear that they give you the info you need as you go along.  I knew what to expect having watched the lovely Minnie do this recently but as far as the Oncology team are concerned they told me everything I needed to know about chemo and vaguely mentioned surgery as something that would happen after.  Now chemo is coming to an end surgery is being talked and radiotherapy has vaguely been brought up.  It’s a great way of dealing with it in small chunks to be honest.

To finish cycle I had booked to go on a “Look Good, Feel Better” session.  This is a charity that run make up sessions for cancer patients.  I went along with a friend, Nicki, whose son was in my class last year at school and sadly she was diagnosed with this in the summer.  Now those of you that know me know I’m not good with make-up.  My “beauty regime” consists of washing my face in the shower with dove soap, slapping on a bit of oil of Olay and a quick lick of mascara.  Nicki on the other hand is a qualified Beautician so this was always going to be fun!  The sessions are run by volunteers who are trained in all things beauty and every patient comes away with a bag of freebies.  These are donated by all the big beauty names.  Nicki informed me it was good stuff. 

Well, I removed eye make-up, cleansed, toned, moisturised, reduced the bags under my eyes, then put on concealer, foundation, powder, eye shadow and eyeliner (needed help with these lol), drew the line at colouring my eyebrows in but combed them instead, applied lip liner, lipstick and lip gloss before finishing off with blusher!  I was exhausted and certainly don’t have time for that every morning but it was a lovely treat and I did learn quite a bit although I still hate wearing lipstick.  The volunteers were fabulous and helped out where needed.  So now I have amazing hair and can do make-up!  If I could drag myself out of bed earlier in the morning I’d be the glamour puss doing the school run!  

  • Cycle number 4 - Picture 4
  • Cycle number 4 - Picture 5

So round 5 approaches and its almost Christmas, so this calls for a bit more effort in my chemo outfit, a fabulous Christmas pudding top (quite inappropriate given the fact that Holly Willoubooby was wearing a similar one on Celebrity Juice but the crazy Nurses will love it), star deeley-boppers in tribute to 38 lovely mad hatters who know who they are and gawjuss matching red nails.  All the day needs is a buck fizz reception, Christmas pudding in place of crumble and a glass of pinot to go with my cheese and crackers!  Wishful thinking. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you so much for following this blog so far, it’s been good to write, quite therapeutic at times and at times it’s taken my breath away thinking about the magnitude of this whole episode and has brought the tears on.  The comments have been lovely to read and that definitely goes for Kyle and Leo who were really chuffed that everyone thought their blogs were cool. 

Simon, Kyle, Leo and I hope that you all have a fantastic Christmas and that 2014 is happy and healthy too. 


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