Girl On Top (Part 5) – One Step Closer

The first cycle of chemotherapy had begun to take its toll.  On my arrival back from the hospital, my body slowly began to show the signs of the chemicals entering my system.  I don’t remember if I slept much that night, but when I awoke the next morning, I slowly opened my eyes and prepared myself for the worst.  I took a deep breath.  Did I ache?  Did I feel nauseous?  Had my appetite gone?

One thing was for sure: I wasn’t feeling totally ‘myself’.  I did have a headache and felt a bit sick, but, to my surprise, it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.   I slowly got up and looked in the bathroom mirror.  I still looked pale, as I had done the day before.  I resolved that I would take it easy for the rest of the day and, given the cold winter weather outside, I decided to spend most of my day in bed, cuddling my little heart-shaped cushion, which was given to me in the hospital to use after my surgery, and was fast becoming a little comforter to me through all my treatment.

Regardless of the amount of information that I had been given in preparation for the chemotherapy, I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to feel throughout the treatment, or whether I would be able to go out and do the sort things that I had before.  I realised that my life would change in some way and that I may find myself confined to the town where I lived, as opposed to socialising further afield.  I also prepared myself for the possibility of spending copious amounts of time indoors, while my housemates were out.  I was usually a super-social person and hardly spent any time indoors.  I needed to find something light hearted to occupy my mind and my time.  So, I decided to bravely venture online.  I decided to rejoin Tinder!

Online dating seemed like the perfect place for me to talk, flirt and meet new people, without having to tell them what I was going through, or share my story.  I still could be ‘me’ – the usual healthy me; not someone who was living with cancer.  Although I was eternally grateful for the help, advice and support that I was receiving from the friends around me, I wanted to be able to find a little escape from going through the day to day motions.  The only problem was that I soon found out that, in today’s society, not a lot of guys want to carry on long conversations in text form only!

After the initial pleasantries via text, I received several invitations to meet up, and see how things went ‘naturally’ between us.  Initially, I was unsure; I may have to lie in order to cover up what I was going through health-wise and I wasn’t looking for anything other than friendship.  However, I brushed my insecurities aside – I was going to have a bit of fun before the chemo took its toll.

Tinder Friend Number 1 was a reasonable looking mid thirties guy from South Africa, who had moved to the UK recently and was looking to meet up with people in my area.  Perfect, I thought!  I could show him the sights and hopefully have a bit of a laugh along the way.  We arranged to meet for a coffee, and so I decided to walk the forty-five minutes to the other side of town, as I felt that it would be a good challenge for me, on my second day after chemo.

The walk itself wasn’t that bad, although it took me nearly an hour.  The winter weather was crisp and the air clear and, although my legs ached slightly, I felt relatively good.  However, when I arrived at the coffee shop and sat down, I felt a sudden rush to my head; the tiredness and nausea hitting me properly for the first time.  We ordered coffee (the stronger the better for me!) and I tried to both hold and keep up with the conversation.  The coffee tasted like metal in my mouth and, as I nodded away in appreciation, all I could think of was “How am I going to last until the end of this date…?”  Everything felt strangely cloudy and, as I prepared my excuses to leave, Tinder Friend Number 1 came up with a nightmare suggestion:

“Let’s take a walk in the park!”

I prayed for rain.

Incredibly, my bad weather plea was heard and before long small spots of drizzle began to fall on us, as we embarked on our walk around the cold, leaf-ridden park.   For the first time, he looked at me with some concern, and asked if I was cold.  I nodded and more concern showed on his face, as he decided to do the honourable thing and offer me a lift home.  In any other circumstance (first date, nice man) I may have taken this proposal another way, but for me there was only one interpretation of it – my warm bed, my heart shaped cushion and sleep!

As his car pulled up by my door, and I prepared to get out, Tinder Friend Number 1 turned to me, with a nervous smile on his face.  “Would you like to meet up again maybe?”

I told him that I would, as an explanation would have been too long winded and I just needed to get out of the car, and fast!

That evening and the next day, the first waves of proper nausea hit me.  To me, it felt like the worst hangover of my life (and I‘ve had a lot of them), but this one was different to anything I’d ever experienced before.  I slept, tried to nibble on bits of food to clear the feeling, tried to drink and wash out the taste, but it didn’t go away.  My mouth was sore and my lips were dry.  Nothing tasted as it used to, and even bland food felt like a mass of chillies or jalapenos.  I had lost my taste buds and water resembled rotten milk.   I knew I had to eat, I had to keep up my strength and energy with food,  so I never skipped my lunches or dinners, knowing that these were the things that would keep me strong.

As January turned into February, I began to swap tips with my housemate, who was nearly eight months pregnant, and we found ourselves fighting off two very different types of nausea.  Having dealt with it for a longer period of time than me, she gave me few ideas and I found myself experimenting and trying new things to help alleviate it.  Bizarrely, mini cheddar biscuits and apple or banana with peanut butter helped me tremendously, and butter mint sweets also enabled me to reduce the metal taste in my mouth and minimize the nausea.  What a combination!

Tinder Friend Number 1 hadn’t given up on securing our second date, and hopefully suggested a Sunday lunch at a country pub.  Although to him this probably seemed like the idea for a perfect date, to me it was a truly horrendous thought.  Unless the pub served mini cheddars with apple, banana and peanut butter, he could count me out!  I felt bad having to postpone without any good reason, but I knew that I couldn’t put myself through it.  I never heard from him again.

Time continued to drag and I killed as much of it as I could by overdosing on my favourite TV shows and movies, along with chatting to friends on the phone.  There were also an incredible amount of flowers and get well cards from my friends and family, which filled the house.  My symptoms weren’t quite as bad as I had anticipated, in fact, I would go as far as saying that they were manageable, until I began my first course of injections, which I had to administer myself .

The next day I woke up engulfed with discomfort; every single part of my body ached and it was as if it had even penetrated deep into my bones.  Reading through the literature that I had been given, and thinking back to the consultations that I had had with my oncologist, I realised what it was.  The injections stimulate your bone marrow and enable it to produce more white blood cells than normal and it was this that was producing the literal aching in my bones.  The hospital had prescribed me with painkillers and these, along with my wacky attempts to counteract the feeling of sickness, enabled me to return to work.  It was going to be a big week for me: I was determined to attend my company’s annual event in London, but I also knew that I had to have the port put inside me before my next session of chemotherapy.  But there was also something else on my list that had to be done as well.  I had to buy a wig.

At the end of the week, I had the port put inside me. The doctor who saw me questioned whether I really wanted this inserted into my chest.  He explained that I only had five cycles of chemotherapy left, and that if I chose this option, it would mean a permanent scar on my neck and chest, as opposed to a little dot on my arm, which would be the result if I chose a PICC line instead.  This was a catheter, placed in my upper arm and fed towards the heart.  After some deliberation, I made my decision – the PICC line certainly seemed like a better option.  The procedure was completed in around ten minutes, and was painless.  The only drawback was that I had to get used to the imposing tube coming out of my vein in my left arm, which had to be flushed weekly along with the large dressing, which had to be changed every week too.  It would take a little time to get used to, but I knew that winter clothes would help in covering it up and that, as long as I couldn’t see it, it really would be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

The following day, I delved into the pack of information that the hospital had given me during my first session of chemotherapy, and hesitantly removed the business card, upon which were printed the details of the wig supplier.  I dialled her number gingerly, unsure of what sort of conversation would ensue.  After five minutes of chatting, my mind was put at rest.  I was asked to send a few pictures of myself, so she could see my current hairstyle and therefore find a wig that was suitable.  She would then bring some of them with her, for me to view and choose one.

After the weekend, the wig supplier brought a small selection of wigs with her to my place of work and, discreetly, I tried them on.  They were all perfect and looked exactly like my natural hair.  One was real hair, which was £500 (which was a whole holiday to me!), and one was synthetic and £200, but to me, just as good.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend a substantial amount of money on the wig, but I honestly thought the synthetic one looked more like my own hair and it was also going to be easier to look after. The fringe on my chosen wig was a little longer to how I would usually have worn it, and so I asked her whether she could cut it slightly, to make it feel more natural for me.  Having done this, I put the wig back on, and realised the mistake.  The fringe was much shorter now, and I suddenly felt like an eleven year old girl, with a new haircut, ready for her first day at ‘Big School’!  In any other circumstance, I would have endured a few months of tugging it around and waiting for it to grow back, but I knew that this one wouldn’t be growing anywhere!  I would be stuck with ‘The Fringe’ throughout the whole of my chemo.  I promptly made a decision.  Another wig would have to be ordered, and this time I would stick with the longer fringe!

The new wig was going to take a couple of days to come through, but I resolved that it wasn’t a problem, as I still had a full head of hair.  In the shower the next morning, though, I saw that things were swiftly changing. I looked down and saw clumps of my shiny hair congregating around the plug hole.  It may seem strange, but I was fascinated by the amount of hair that I was losing: I had been told all about it by the nurse, plus seen it in films, but the fact that it was actually happening to me personally, amazed me.

This didn’t stop me from continuing to have a harmless flirt on Tinder, and, after a few days texting, I arranged to meet up with Tinder Friend Number 2, who was a business man working in the area.  We agreed to meet in town for a coffee in the late afternoon.  As I prepared myself for the meeting, reapplying my make-up and brushing my hair, I noticed that half of my fringe had fallen away in my brush.  Panicking, I tried to work out what I could do.  There was simply no way that I could present myself to a total stranger looking as I did, I couldn’t walk out of the house, let alone sit and make small talk with someone I had never met before.  I had to lie.  I had to cancel the date as quickly as possible!

As I sank down on the sofa, wondering if I done the right thing, a new message popped up for me.  Tinder Friend Number 3 (who I had been texting for the last two days) wanted to meet me that very night for a drink!  I took a deep breath; was I going to sit around, feeling sorry for myself, or was I going to go out?   I messaged him back: ‘Name your time!’  Losing my hair wasn’t going to stop me from having some fun!

Sitting in front of the mirror, I tried to cover my empty fringe-line, but to no avail.  After some deliberation, I parted it to the side and plumped for putting on a large pair of geek chic glasses, which distracted from my receding hairline slightly and made me feel just a little bit more disguised.   The trick worked, as I got lots of comments from him about how nice my glasses were and how much they suited me!  I enjoyed myself, the time went quickly and the usual feeling of nausea and tiredness evaded me.

The next morning, my pillow was covered with hair.  In the shower, every time I touched my head, a lump of hair fell out.  Getting out of the shower, I swiftly wrapped the towel around my head, as usual, and took a long, deep breath.   The mirror was steamed up from the hot room.  Wiping it slowly and taking a look, I saw my reflection staring back at me and fear suddenly hit home.  I had dealt with all the internal side effects, but this was something different, something entirely alien to me.  Finally the chemo was affecting me visually, changing and morphing my appearance into something new and unknown.

I was one step closer.  Taking a deep breath, I slowly removed the towel.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Girl On Top (Part 5) – One Step Closer”

  1. Thank you for this one voras – the best part so far! This gives us who have never been through this tough treatment a sense of daily challenges that resonate close to home e.g. the loss of hair vs. the need to maintain a normal, social (incl dating) life, etc!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great insight, with a real sense of undefeatable humour running through the narrative. Others would want to crawl into a corner and give up, but Girl On Top is having none if that! She really is looking cancer in the eye and taking it head on! Incredible and a true inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing! This needs to turned into a book. So many people could benefit from this brilliant blog which explores living with cancer. It is totally uplifting, even though the subject, in essence, is something which people shy away from. More please!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura, part 5 so awaken, so crucial, very touchy story! Cancer may have started the fight, but YOU will finish it. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You did the things which you thought you cannot do. What’s important now Laura, is that you are able to share your story. No matter what life throws you, You will get through it! Nothing is impossible. Have Faith. Give Love, then you are set. World is full of challenges but it is all full of overcoming it. Next time you in Málaga, I need to get those mini cheddars and apples with peanut butter! 🙂 maybe it will turn to gourmet tapas:-)..
    Aqui te va, un abrazo de oso. Fuerte, muy fuerte mi amiga!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an amazing account, Laura, with your humour and resilience shining through such painful things for you to have endured (physically and psychologically). You have always been a force to be reckoned with, and now moreso than ever. Your strength, warmth and honesty are an inspiration. No matter what challenges people happen to be facing. And I agree – this should be a book! Love you. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Goodness me, this is so well written Laura. I hung on your every word as I read this, and to be privy to your inner thoughts is such a privilege; it is a unique insight into this very private experience. I love the attention to the details (wig fringe length etc) as it means I can visualise you reacting and handling these situations in your own very special Laura way. I know today also has been an important day in your journey, so if you are reading this today, keep strong and remember: you are loved. Now, I’m desperate to know what happened to Mr Tinder 2?! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s