Today, 20 years ago, I had my first dose of Chemotherapy. This is a long post, so bear with me.
I had been in hospital a month and finally the treatment was starting. I remember the date cos it was my ex husbands birthday.
I had been ill for awhile, about a year in total, suffering from extreme tiredness and weight gain. It started just before my wedding the September before. I went to the doctors and they reassured me that it was just the stress of organising a wedding. But it didn't ease up and by that Christmas I had put on 3 stone! Major trauma! Mr Blobby didn't have a look in!
By May of 1990 I was literally putting one foot in front of the other and sleeping all the time. I saw the doctors more often than I saw my friends! Then I found a pea sized lump in my neck. I was told I had swollen glands, then glandular fever then tonsillitis! I was trying for a baby and was reassured that this was nothing serious and it was ok to keep trying.
The lump kept getting bigger but was growing inwards rather than outwards. I could feel it inside my mouth. Then I fell pregnant. I should have been over the moon, which, don't get me wrong I was but instinctively I knew something bad was gonna happen. Pregnancy hormones played havoc on my body and the lump then grew at an alarming rate.
I could actually open my mouth and you could see this "thing" pulsing in my throat. It reminded me of the blob that Kelly le Brock turns Wyatt's brother into in the movie Weird Science!
Finally, in September a GP sent me to the hospital for a Fine Needle Aspiration. At this point I was so sick, literally, I could keep nothing down and the lump was cutting off my breathing. I was like the elephant man, if I lay down to sleep, I couldn't breathe so had to sleep sitting up! No mean feat I'll have you know and really I should add that to my list of useless talents!
One Fine N Aspiration and 10 questions later and I knew that we were dealing with something serious, which was no surprise to me cos I had been trying to tell the docs for months.
A week later I was in hospital for another F N Aspiration cos the first one was inconclusive and maybe a biopsy. I was just supposed to be in for the day so I went alone. They did the aspiration test again and within an hour they came back and the surgeon pulled up a chair. He told me that I definitely had a tumour, that they were going to now take a biopsy to determine how bad it was but that it was dangerous to have an anaesthetic because of the baby so they would do it under local! I was terrified. Ten minutes later they had me in a gown and I was being wheeled into surgery.
The weirdest thing about having a local anaesthetic is that you feel it but it's not painful. They covered my face so that I couldn't see them cutting etc and someone held my hand. There was lots of tugging and cutting and at one point I screamed cos they had cut into a bit that hadn't frozen but they quickly topped up my anaesthetic and it was alright after that.
Back on the ward, I think I was in a bit of shock cos everything had happened so quickly. In the afternoon I called my mum and broke the news to her and she cried. I called my boss to tell him that I wouldn't be at work the next day and he was extremely pissed off! Two totally different reactions, I had to laugh.
That night, the nurses questioned me closely cos they didn't think that I had taken in the fact that I had a tumour. I had, but I had been ill for so long that I was just so chuffed that someone was finally listening and doing something about it! I was ecstatic!
The next day, my mum came through and along with my husband, we went home to Elgin for the weekend. It was a surreal weekend. My sisters and brothers were all gutted at this turn of events but I just kept smiling and laughing, being my usual self.
I spent the next 3 weeks in hospital, had a further biopsy and then the day of reckoning arrived.
Kathy was up visiting and we were rolling about laughing on the bed cos she had nearly fainted at the doctors having a plaster removed from a cut when two very official, sombre looking guys appeared at my bedside with a nurse. They asked could they talk to me in private and I knew that my world was now crashing.
I came back about 45 minutes later and basically they had pulled no punches. I had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, had about 6 months to a year to live, couldn't keep the baby as wouldn't live long enough to give birth and so therefore required an immediate termination, body scan, 12 doses of intense chemo and 4 weeks of radio therapy. They wanted to start immediately. Ok, ok, stop the bus here. Right, I know I am ill and I have wanted you to believe me but hey I wasn't planning on being this bloody ill, WTF??? Did you have to take me this seriously???
The day before the termination, I had a major wobble and just couldn't do it, wouldn't do it even! My poor mum was distraught, crying and hugging me, telling me that I was HER BABY and she would do anything to keep me whereas she hadn't met my baby yet so her priority was me. It struck a chord and I calmed down a bit.
I refused to go to the Maternity ward to have the termination so they took me from the ENT ward. On the morning of the op, I had to have an x ray of my neck and an ultrasound on my stomach. The lady doing the ultrasound asked me did I want to see the baby and I said no but then changed my mind. I lay there watching that screen with tears running down my cheeks, privately saying goodbye and begging forgiveness to this tiny baby. A couple of hours later, it was all over but still I didn't cry.
I lay listening to the two girls across from me reading their horoscopes out to each other. When they realised I was awake, they asked me what star sign I was and I told them to guess. They went through them all, avoiding the C word and when they had no other option but to say it, the looks on their faces made me laugh so much it hurt! Yes my star sign was bloody Cancer, how fucking ironic! and the horoscope for that day was totally bang on! An hour later I had to use the commode as they wouldn't let me walk to the loo, that's when I saw all the blood and totally fell apart!
Five days later, I was lying flat on my back, traumatised after having had a body scan and two bone marrow samples take, one from my spine and one from my chest. I was so bloody sore, pissed of and feeling right sorry for myself when in walks the Chaplain's assistant. Oh sweet Jesus, this was all I needed! So she sat there prattling on about how you only get what you can cope with and this was God's will and that I had to suffer cos this was all part of his plan and I totally lost it.
I told her what I thought of her God at this precise moment and her too in the finest language I could muster.....fuck, fucking and bastard spring to mind and the air was blue. I have never forgotten the shocked and horrified expression on her face when I told her to "get the fuck out of my room" and if she ever dared to come near me again "she would rue the day!"
Twenty minutes later a nurse peeked in the door, waving what looked like a white flag and asking was it safe to come in. I was mortified but the nurses thought this was the funniest thing they had ever heard and couldn't stop laughing, It was pretty funny and suffice to say I never did see her again but I did read in the paper years later that the Chaplain of the hospital had run off with the Chaplain's assistant so I definitely think I was a positive influence on her, not!
Two days later I started Chemo. The first one wasn't that bad, piece of piss if I am honest despite the fact that I am terrified of needles!
There is so much more to this story, I could write all day but suffice to say as I am writing this 20 years later, I SURVIVED! Aye your shocked aren't you, you weren't expecting that little twist to the story? lol In the words of my lovely mother, who will be laughing up there right now as I type, "only the good die young and you have far too much mischief to do yet and anyway if you were even thinking about dying, we would just hold onto your hands and pull you back up!"
I was like "awww mum" then said" but don't you mean you would be holding onto my feet and pulling me back down?" At which point she cracked up laughing saying " you don't seriously think you are going up there do ya? You are far to wicked for that!". Such faith huh?
Oh to be loved, warts and all.
So if you can remember that far back, what were you doing 20 years ago today? Hope you were having a fucking better day than me, for sure!