Thursday, 27 August 2009

A Big Day - Part 2

It’s the first day of my new chemo regime. From now on I will be having Taxol every week for the next eight weeks. "Taxol" – sounds like a weed killer, doesn’t it?

Iris and I decide to get the bus to the hospital. In Oxford Street the traffic is properly gridlocked. After a long time of being stuck we go downstairs and ask the driver if he will let us off. I explain that I have a hospital appointment and that I am not feeling very well. “I’m not allowed to open the doors” is his flat reply. He doesn’t look at us.

Another 15 minutes passes, only now we’re standing up. It’s hot. Iris assesses the situation: “I simply don’t know what’s going to happen about the traffic in London. Every scheme they come up with just raises loads of revenue and does nothing to ease the congestion.” That seems pretty spot-on. I start to feel faint. What has been an inconvenience is spiralling into a crisis. I’m about to push the emergency door-opening button when the traffic breaks and we chug into the bus stop. I’m still not convinced that the driver wants to let us off but by now he is on the receiving end of so much customer-generated flak that he reluctantly releases his hostages.

At the hospital I collapse into one of the lazy boy recliners. Nurse Karen begins to insert the needle into my arm. Suddenly I begin to sob. “Hey darling, what’s the matter?” asks Karen. “I’ve had enough of this.”


After my mini-breakdown blows over I cheer myself up by eating a block of Green & Black's Organic Dark Mint Chocolate and modelling my new wigs for the nurses on the chemo unit. Then it’s downstairs for an appointment with my Consultant Oncologist, Suzy Cleator. Bad news. She explains the possible side effects of the Taxol: aches and pains; fatigue; nausea; mouth ulcers; anaemia; hair loss; diarrhoea; liver damage; numb hands and feet... But there's good news too: she also explains that the weekly regime that she is recommending for me is a new method from America, whereby one receives a lower dose, but more frequently. Apparently it means that the chemo is ‘better tolerated’. Well hallelujah to that!

Then some more good news: she will be recommending three weeks of radiotherapy rather than the five weeks that was originally discussed. It seems that there have been some studies done that conclude that three weeks is just as beneficial as five. Suzy will not be overseeing my radiotherapy. Her baby is due in November. But she will refer me to another consultant. “Someone very good” she says, reassuringly. I’ve no doubt about that but I’m sorry to hear it all the same. I feel safe with the understanding that develops with continuity in a relationship. I’ve started to feel at ease with Suzy and I trust her.

Then, as I get up to leave, she shoots me a parting morsel of bad news: another side effect of the Taxol is that it can make one’s nails go “manky”. Oh hell.