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 5

07 Jan 2014

So round 5……..Nearly there!  I wasn’t really looking forward to this one as I knew my taste buds would have left the building by Christmas Day and that would also be the time I would be at my lowest.  I guess I could have postponed it in order to be fit for Christmas but I didn’t want to do that due to the knock on delay it would give me, so off we went for my “Christmas Cocktail”.  With it being the festive season we both made a special effort with our outfits – I wore a fabulous Christmas pudding top, red shoes and star deelyboppers (in honour of 38 “Stars” I know) and Simon wore his Christmas tree jumper.  The nurses were suitably impressed and amused but we were the only ones who had made the effort lol.  

  • Cycle number 5 - Picture 1
  • Cycle number 5 - Picture 2

Things went smoothly, thankfully but because of the “burn” on my left hand, caused apparently by the Docetaxel chemo, I had to have the cannula in my right hand.  I tend to take a little bit of work to do when I go to kill some of the 6 to 7 hours I’m there so this made doing this a bit trickier as I’m right handed and I don’t really want to use the right side too much for needles as its going to be my operation side but the nurses said it should be OK this once.  I started at 10.00am and eventually escaped at 5.00pm after a little wait for my injection to take home.  Long day but another one done!

After collecting the boys from Grandma’s and Grandpa’s I then spent the night wrapping Christmas presents, that could have gone so wrong but luckily it didn’t, apart from on Christmas day poor Simon unwrapped my old empty Kindle box instead of the brand new one Id bought him!  Not bad really considering. 

The following day we went to Leo’s carol concert at school, it was lovely and bless him he had made the choir (thanks to his enthusiasm rather than his singing ability) so he sang his little heart out.  It was weird just being a parent rather than a member of staff but it was nice to see the children who as always performed brilliantly and it was also nice to see many colleagues as they wandered back to work after a quick morning break.  I then had to dash to the Metro Centre to pick up the last Christmas present that was only in stock there, I did however treat myself to a large mince pie and coffee just to make sure I got through the trip, keep my energy levels up and all that ;-)

Day 3 brought my friendly little pain inducing injection out of the fridge and this time Leo insisted on plunging it in once Id stuck the actual needle in my belly, Kyle ran screaming out of the room, clearly he takes after his Dad for being scared of needles!  The pain this cycle wasn’t too bad at all, it only lasted a couple of days and I managed with just hot baths and my electric blanket.  I got a bit teary on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but a little of that I’m putting down to the “emotion” of the day as well as being a little tired from the Christmas preparations.  That side of things is certainly becoming easier to manage.

Days 4, 5, 6 and 7 saw last minute shopping, a baking fest, a meal at my folks' house for their birthday and housework to get the house ready for Santa coming.  We had everyone at our house on Christmas Day as usual (I wanted the boys to have their “normal” Christmas even though my Mam kindly offered to host at her house) and as usual it was a team effort.  I’ve never ever been trusted to cook the turkey for some reason so my Mam and Dad did that as well as provide numerous other bits of the dinner and tea.   Simon and I are allowed to prepare the veggies so we did that and I do think I excelled myself by making Camembert and Tomato tartlets from scratch!  Simon did a sterling job keeping the dishwasher on all day and tidied up.  Even the kids were roped into sprout peeling!  My Brother Andrew is always in charge of boiling the kettle and making the stuffing although I was amused to see my Mam supervise him this year….he is 37 lol.  My Aunties brought bits and bobs for tea so as you can see I had lots of help but then again I always do.  

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I managed to taste the tartlet (quite nice if I do say so myself) and got quite excited for my main course but sadly all I could manage was sprouts, mash and a yorkshire pud, not great but I’m told dinner was nice and I was really happy about being able to taste the sprouts as I love them so it wasn’t too bad.  I also forced down a little glass of champagne too, although sadly this was hard work……did I just say that out loud?  I couldn’t quite face tea as by this point in time my mouth was absolutely wrecked but that did look nice too.  Boxing Day was spent on the settee in pyjamas and I managed to eat some fried sprouts at some point – don’t knock it til you have tried it and it was better than nothing. 

Cleaning my teeth has become a major drama when my mouth is at its worse.  I’ll be honest, by Boxing Day I was down to cleaning them once a day as it makes me gag really badly.  I decided to risk it that evening but in hindsight I shouldn’t have, one major gag later I was shouting for Simon to come up and help me.  He ran upstairs to find me crying hysterically on the bathroom floor trying to stop myself being sick, only it didn’t work…….OMG VOMIT!!!!!  If you are rubbish with vomit look away now……bliddy stuff came out of my nose too which at this point had been stripped of its linings, my goodness that really did sting.  So cue more tears as I sat hanging on to the toilet telling Simon how brave he was for staying with me whilst I threw up! 

I then decided bed was the safest place for me as I was shaking with hunger and feeling very sorry for myself having just threw up for the first time since I started chemo.  You can perhaps understand how different this journey would have been had the chemo been one that made me vomit.  I had seen my boss just before Christmas, she had just returned to work after sick leave so it was the first time I had caught up with her since diagnosis and when she asked how I was I said “It’s been pretty grim but I’m alright really as I’ve not vomited”, she just laughed at me as she knows how pathetic I am with it. 

The foul mouth and constant bleeding, sore, scabby nose were truly horrid this time.  Id quite happily swap them for extra pain as I can manage that and ease it away, there is just nothing at all that helps with the mouth and nose.  I don’t have a huge appetite anyway and have been really lucky that the nasty steroids haven’t made me want to eat and pile on the pounds but I do like my food and if I don’t get enough I do get grumpy.  There is nothing that I fancy eating, not much I can bare to put in my mouth and this time round I was actually quite traumatised by food after a while.  I tried a little chocolate on Boxing Day and spat it straight out, rather rude I know and I did apologise but it took me a while to face one again.  I now know how the celebrities on “I’m a Celeb” feel when they have to eat things in the jungle! 

The fingers and nails haven’t been too good this time around either.  My nails are still attached thankfully but they do look pretty grim and hurt, they kind of feel like they are bruised.  I’m still keeping them covered up with dark nail polish and I have everything crossed that they stay attached, however I’m struggling to keep my fingers crossed as they are quite numb.  This makes everyday tasks like doing buttons or zips, opening bottles or jars and picking things up quite tricky.  I dread to think what it will be like if the nails do fall off, BUT THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN RIGHT!!! 

It was about day 11 that my new cannula vein appeared to burn again.  It didn’t bother me, wasn’t hurting so I didn’t ring the hospital.  I put some of the cream on that I got for it the last time but that didn’t do a lot so I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it.  I just hope it is the chemo that is doing this as I have to have the other 2 drugs for 12 more cycles!  

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  • Cycle number 5 - Picture 5

We took our caravan away to Durham for New Year, a little 5 night break which was nice.  We had a wander round Durham to see the cloisters of Hogwarts, the kids each put a lego brick onto the Lego Durham cathedral that is being built there, we ate cake, enjoyed cocktails on NYE afternoon (very naughty I know but I couldn’t really have a tipple on Christmas Day), climbed up Penshaw Monument, traipsed back to the Metro Centre to return and exchange the present that I rushed there for after chemo as it broke on Boxing day and even stayed awake with the boys to see in the new year.  

  • Cycle number 5 - Picture 6

So all in all it was a nice break although the amount of sitting round we did gave me time to think about the upcoming operation and I had a big wobble about that as quite frankly I still do not want it.  At the end of a bad day worrying about it my phone beeped and it was an email off my Breast Care Nurse Amanda saying she had definitely booked surgery for the 11th February.  This actually helped me snap out of my wobble as I know I have to do it and need to get on with it, no point in putting off the inevitable.  I had initially requested the 25th February as this was after half term but having thought about it I decided that 7 weeks post chemo was too long to wait so requested the 11th which would be 4 weeks post chemo.  As I sit and write this on the eve of chemo 6 I have today received an email to say it will now be 4th February due to the surgeon being on call on the 11th, so its now 4 weeks today.  GULP! 

However it does mean it’s less time to wait and should mean I’ll be better able to cope with half term and the kids being off school.  I’m told by a number of friends who have had this surgery that it’s a breeze compared to chemo and I’ve been OK with that side of things really.  Knowing me Ill not be down for long plus I understand the hospital will be aiming to get me up and on my feet and quite possibly out the door asap afterwards as well so I’m Ok with the 4th, or as OK as I’ll ever be.  I will be sensible and stay as in as long as I have to but if they say I can go I’ll not need telling twice! 

No doubt I’ll have my moments between now and then, but I’ll get there!  Simon and my family have been fabulous handling my “moments”, ignoring me as requested for the most part or patting me on the back if need be too.  I haven’t had that many to be honest under the circumstances although some of them have been pretty epic I must say.  The worst part (apart from the obvious worst parts of this operation) will not be being able to drive.  I’m not sure who is going to suffer with that the most, me or Simon.  I’m not planning on staying in the house for a number of weeks cos we know what happens when I sit around for a few hours never mind weeks and I certainly won’t need that at this point in time so Simon is going to have to get used to ferrying me round so I can potter about and keep myself cheery and focussed, good luck with that one mate!!  With a bit of luck the fact that it’s my right side will mean I can drive fairly quickly as it’s not my gear changing side, I’m telling myself that anyway heehee but again I’ll be sensible and follow the Doctors orders, honest! 

I’ve also been quite breathless this time around and this has been a little worrying.  The Herceptin drug is cardio toxic and requires me to go for heart scans every 3 months.  I had a scan a couple of days before chemo number 5 and luckily the results were normal and so far my heart has not been affected so I am putting the breathlessness down to the chemo, that and the jelly legs that happen when I stand up or climb stairs.  Oh yes, the very last thing to report is that sadly a cm of eyebrow has fallen out at some point in the last couple of days.  Luckily the lashes are holding on and my brows are still relatively OK on the whole (apart from the missing 1cm).  I really really really hope they stay…….come on little hairs, not long to hold on now!  

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It all sounds a lot when I write it down and it’s pretty grim and disgusting for the most part but I still don’t think of myself as poorly as I’ve not been laid up in bed or vomiting which to me is the definition of being ill.  It’s still hard to get up some days and 2 weeks of lie ins did take its toll over Christmas but now we are back to normal and I’m so glad I force myself to get up as I dread to think about the state I’d have been in if I hadn’t but this is my way of coping with it, keeping myself and my mind active and I intend to stick with it and I honestly think its kept negative thoughts away in the main. 

So we are about to go for the very last chemo, can’t believe I’m here and Im actually filling up thinking about it all, someone slap me please!!  15 weeks of it done so far and 3 more to go in theory before the side effects pass fully!  How did that happen!  A big part of me can’t wait to get to hospital tomorrow but if I’m being honest the thought of one more round of that awful mouth is really getting to me, I truly hate that part with a passion and am dreading it!  So on the basis that I’ve been quite well behaved through all of this I would like to cancel the rank mouth order this time and I’ll have a double helping of pain instead.  I also need the nails, lashes and brows to stay attached and will trade a bit more pain for that too………I don’t think it’s a lot to ask do you!  Oh and I’ll be avoiding cleaning my teeth for a couple of days too so I guess I should apologise in advance for that too! 

Let’s do the 6th and FINAL round of chemo, whoohoo!!

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