ovarian cancer

Chemo 5 – In a Mermaid Tail

On Thursday I had my fifth dose of chemo – also my first chemo post surgery which, on numerous occasions, I’d be warned would be ‘rough’.

I’ve gotten myself into quite a nice routine with my chemotherapy now. I get my bag packed the night before with everything I might need – from books and my iPad to a wide range of snacks! I also try to get the house as organised as possible, knowing that over the next few days I’ll not be up to doing much. I have to stay up until midnight to take ten steroids the night before chemo (and then ten more at 7am!) so that usually gives us plenty of time for running around the house getting things in place before my husband and I settle on the sofa to watch something together until I need to take my meds.

This chemo was different though. My husband was going to London with work for two days (just one overnight) and my sister was coming to stay to look after me. This meant that he also had to pack and we had to get the house ready for a guest. We got everything done but it felt less relaxed and organised than usual. I also felt sad at my husband going away. Of course I was happy he was having a well deserved  change of scene – goodness knows he deserves it! – but chemo can be unpredictable and I’ve become so used to his amazing support.


The morning routine was different too. My husband was collected by taxi first thing and my parents picked me up to take me to the hospital. Ordinarily my husband would just take me on his way to work. It felt strange going with them but again it was also nice that they were able to see a little part of my journey.

I’m a bit funny about chemo, I like to do it alone. I don’t mind visitors, but I also really like to spend the time chatting with other people getting chemo and getting to know the nurses. So my parents left after 15 minutes and the nurses began their routine of putting a venflon in my arm and giving me my many anti-sickness drugs.

I’d been worried about getting a venflon. A PICC line had been discussed and I was so desperately hoping that some miracle would happen and my veins would be easily accessible for once. As it happened I was in luck. My chemo having been delayed by a day meant that a nurse who I swear has X-ray eyes was on shift. She manged to get a venflon in my vein on the first attempt with no pain! That’s never happened! I’m also pleased to say that now all my treatments will happen on a Thursday so she’ll always be working – here’s hoping this means I can put off that PICC line a little longer, if not forever. No pressure!

Receiving my chemo was pretty straightforward as always. It’s just a case of sitting there for 8 hours whilst the nurses change the bags of fluid running into my veins. We start with IVs of antihistamines and antisickness before moving on to two different types of chemo and then finally a bag of avastin – the maintenance drug that helps prevent my cancer growing new blood vessels. Sadly this drug is not available to everyone with ovarian cancer so I always feel very blessed when receiving this.

To keep my spirits high and because why the hell not, I decided to wear my mermaid tail blanket during chemo this time. It gave me a smile and proved a hit with the other patients too. It’s always important to maintain a sense of yourself during treatment – goodness knows chemo takes enough of you away!

I foresee these becoming a future hit in chemo wards. Haha!

Ordinarily in the three days after chemo I’d rest at home before venturing back to my usual routine. Unfortunately my blood tests that morning had shown that my magnesium levels were still low and so I was told I’d have to come in the next day to receive another magnesium infusion over five hours. Partly this was a relief as it meant that for the majority of the time my sister was watching me while my husband was away I’d actually be in hospital and she wouldn’t need to worry. However it was also a pain as I really like just lying in the bath the day after chemo to stop my bones aching and now this wouldn’t be able to happen.

However, the chemo nurses were very supportive of my concerns about my husband being away during this dose of chemo and of my sister caring for me in his absence – my husband has had months getting used to side affects and hospital admissions, I didn’t want my sister suddenly put on a fast track course! So they gave me extra anti-sickness drugs and pain relief and, thankfully, these did the job. I went home feeling relatively normal aside from being tired and a little grumoy – which I’m sure my sister would concure! We even managed to have dinner together before I napped on the sofa!

I maintained feeling well the next day during my magnesium infusion too. This was some kind of record…I’d thought this chemo was meant to be tough?…little did I know this was the calm before the storm. Two days later I was admitted to hospital in a similar style to my previous visit. I was in pain. I was weak. I was scared (more on this in a future post when I regain my strength).

Love and light, Fi xxx

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Did you know smear tests DO NOT screen for Ovarian Cancer?

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The Joys of an Oncology Ward

You may expect an oncology ward to be a sad place. A place of suffering and tears. Pain and death. A place where people have lost hope and with it their spirit, their vibrancy taken by the many drugs, treatments and procedures.

You’d be wrong…

I remember at the start of the film ‘Love Actually’, Hugh Grant describes the love you see in an airport; people greeting one another with hugs and kisses and happy stories of fun and laughter. I liken this to an oncology ward.

You see here there are no arguments, no stress, no hatred. There is only room for love.

The patients have a certain appreciation of life that comes with a cancer diagnosis. They laugh and joke together and quickly bond. They have a connection they don’t share with their friends and family. They know the pain they each feel, the daily struggle they each face and they see through it, sharing stories of how far they have come, supporting those at an earlier stage in their journey and learning from those who have been walking this road for many years. It is truely inspiring to watch. I am so touched by the strength of my fellow warriors.

Likewise the visitors, the friends, the family members don’t bring stress or drama or judgement. They bring hugs, photos, stories and laughter. They bring hope and a reminder of life outside the hospital walls. Most importantly they always, always bring love.

I am most inspired by the partners [mine most definitely included of course]. They are pillars of strength for the person they love. They comfort and sooth. They bring smiles and laughter to faces stained with tears. Then partner no longer looks the same and yet they look beyond it. They show the importance of loving a soul and not a body.

There, of course, is a sadness too in their eyes. Sometimes they cry with their loved one. Sometimes they just hold them, offering a comfort that no one else on this earth could match. It’s a real test of a relationship to witness. While their partner goes through treatment they have to take on every role in the family home, whilst also caring for an incredibly sick loved one and emotionally dealing with the implications of their diagnosis. Some of these relationships have children and they are called on to care for and reassure them also. I struggle to find the words about how beautiful and wonderful these relationships are to witness but the words ‘soul mates’ comes to mind, after all, once cancer strips your identity and everything you’d expected in your life together what else is left apart from two connected souls.

The same can be said of the staff. In an oncology ward there is time to get to know your patients, what makes them laugh and cry, what they are feeling, who they are as a person when you look beyond their diagnosis. Many of their patients have been on the ward more than once and, almost always, for extended periods of time. Watching the nurses as they laugh and joke and comfort the people in their care it is sometimes hard to remember the pain these caring souls also deal with too. They connect with their patients on a long and challenging journey then, all to often, are at their side when they pass. Yet despite this they smile, offering strength and courage, hope and determination to those in the greatest of need. In minutes they can go from hearing a patient be told they will soon pass to making jokes with another patient whose soul needs to be enlightened with positivity once more. These are true angels at work and I am so blessed to have witnessed them. I have so many stories of the support each of my oncology angels gave me whilst in hospital. We’ve shared hugs, jokes, tears and laughter. They have been true blessings on a challenging journey. I send so much love to them all.

I once again reflect on the gifts cancer has given me, most importantly the gift of seeing true love in the everyday. We truly live in a wonderful world filled with hope and possibility and love – you just need to know where to look.

Love and light, Fi xxx