ovarian cancer

A Moment of Vulnerability

Yesterday I had my first real moment of feeling truly vulnerable, truly alone and helpless and it was terrifying.

I’d ventured out of the house to attend the first of 8 mindfulness sessions as part of a course run by my local Maggie’s Centre. Upon arriving, however, I was told that the first class had been postponed a few weeks. This wasn’t an issue for me as I was exhausted and far from the mood of doing the course anyway – not like me at all but chemo does this to me for a few days, making me want to hide in a cave or similarly.

So I left and made my way to a local supermarket to buy some ingredients for dinner. A simple task. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Chemo had other ideas however…

Walking around the shop I felt so alone and weak. I was scared. Scared I’d collapse. Scared I’d not make it round the shop. Scared someone would see me. Scared someone wouldn’t.

If I could write poetry I’m sure I’d be able to express more clearly how I had felt, but sadly I can’t. Instead I’ll try to describe it as best I can.

I walked around the shop slowly, leaning on my trolley for strength and stability. People passed, caught up in their lives. Their laughter and conversation encircled me but I felt separated from it as if submerged under water, watching from a distance. The world around me felt untouchable, like I was no longer part of it. For the first time I felt completely disconnected from those around me.

The weirdest, or perhaps most frightening part, was the feeling of being unseen. Feeling like, whilst I was disconnected from those around me, they too were disconnected from me. A feeling of helplessness, like if I were to collapse no one would stop, no one would see, no one would care. Of course, on reflection and with a level head I know this to be untrue, but in that moment, that moment of fear and isolation, that is how I had felt.

I don’t know how long I wondered around the shop like that before venturing to the till. It felt like forever. At the till the server helped me pack my bags without asking and, in doing so brought me back. It was such a simple act but in my moment of panic it returned me to the world and reconnected me with another human. No words were needed, just the offer of help, the comradeship more than enough to break a dark spell cast by too many pharmaceutical drugs and subsequent fatigue.

When I reached my car the effort of lifting my single bag of shopping was unbearable. Again people passed, oblivious to the internal trauma I was facing as I battled physical and emotional fatigue.

Getting into the car I locked the doors. Now safe behind a tangible barrier that physically separated me from the world, rather than emotionally, I cried. In fact I sobbed loud uncontrollable sobs. I felt broken. I felt alone. I felt scared.

The moment passed. I composed myself, regaining emotional and physical strength and drove home – not before a reassuring call to my husband.

When I reached home I was still exhausted – and in honesty I still am as I write this now, the effects of my latest chemo hitting me much harder than my previous doses – but I felt safe again.

I’m sure my feelings of vulnerability were brought on by a mixture of treatment induced side affects – steroids I’m blaming you! – but, as a result of, I can’t help but think of all the times I may have walked past someone going through a similar internal battle and ‘not seen’ the person caught in the struggle.

Perhaps if each of us were all to just take a moment in our days to see if someone may need a hand, a kind word, a smile, a nod, a little comradeship then the world would feel a little safer, kinder and more welcoming to those in need. After all, we all feel vulnerable sometimes.

Love and light, Fi xxx

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?

ovarian cancer

Mixed Emotions: Chemo 4 – Day 2…

Today is the day before chemo four and, as always before a chemo dose, I had a mixture of emotions ranging from excitement that my cancer would be receiving another hit to dread at the prospect of the onslaught of the subsequent side affects – I’ve just begun to start feeling like a normal human being again over the last couple of days how can it be time for another dose?!

As a result of the mixed emotions I also became terrified of my phone ringing today…let me explain…when they take my blood tests on day one there is always the possibility that my blood count will not be high enough for another dose of chemotherapy. If this is the case then the chemotherapy ward will call me to let me know. Normally they would call on day one, however yesterday was a holiday and so they would have been calling today. So, whilst I am dreading another dose of chemo it turns out that I was dreading not receiving it even more – crazy I know!

I class the day before chemo as my ‘last day of freedom’. It’s usually the day I feel my best as my white blood count should be at its highest point in the cycle. Although still suffering from fatigue and in pain from where my tumours are I wanted to do something nice for my couple of hours of exertion today and so had lunch with the most special little lady in my life – my four year old niece! We had a lovely time filled with giggles, play dough and stickers! Exactly what was needed to take my mind off of things. My favourite point was when out of the blue she said: “you are beautiful Fifi…but you do have no hair”. I love her!

After returning her home I was absolutely knackered! Unfortunately, however, the day before chemo also involves a late night as I am required to take 10…yes 10!…steroids at midnight. This is to help prevent me having a reaction to the chemotherapy tomorrow (I also have to take 10 more at 7am!). Thank goodness I have no issues swallowing tablets!

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Tonight also involves getting my ‘chemo survival kit’ together. My chemotherapy is administered over 7-8 hours and during this time I am sitting in an armchair unable to leave the ward so it’s good to have a range of activities to hand! This time I am taking a couple of books I am reading just now about cancer, a fiction novel, an adult colouring book (because they are amazing and sooo relaxing!) and a portable dvd player. I’ve learnt that sometimes receiving chemo can make me really tired meaning that I only have the energy to watch a rom com, whilst other times I am able to read quite easily…so now I take a range of things to cover all eventualities.

Having already had three treatments I now also appreciate the importance of feeling comfortable so I always bring slippers and a blanket too!

On a practical note I take gloves to wear on the way to the hospital – this is to help make my hands warm and subsequently help to make my veins come to the surface so that it’s easier for the nurses to get a cannula in. I also take anti-bacteria gel and tissues. Finally I take a notebook and my diary because I am likely to be given a lot of information and dates that my chemo brain will never remember!

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I also take some food with me. This is for two reasons…firstly hospital food is disgusting(!) and secondly as I have a gluten allergy and now also limit my dairy and sugar intake it is much easier to control what I am eating if I make it myself. This time I am taking a homemade buckwheat salad (yes buckwheat is gluten free – news to me too!), some seeds and some fruit.

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So for the next 90 minutes I will be fighting sleep and tiredness until I can take my steroids and go to bed. In the past this dose of steroids causes me to wake me up about 2am with a burst of energy and I am then unable to sleep the rest of the night – we will see what happens tonight…

Love and light, Fi xxx