Surviving Cancer and other potholes —After my first chemo session

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WHAT is it that it smells so nasty?’ I thought as I sat up in bed. The smell of bacon being fried wafted through my window from a nearby cafe. The smell which I usually relished was alien to me that morning. My stomach felt empty and queasy at the same time. Nothingness was churning sickly in my stomach, I inhaled and exhaled deeply ‘Okay it’s not that bad’, as the deep breathing seemed to soothe my stomach. Two minutes later my sense of smell was assaulted by another familiar scent- Grandma’s perfume made its way through the great expanse of ceiling, wrapped around the high wooden beams and slithered into my nostrils, resulting in my immediate removal from the soft, warm and cosy trappings of my bed to the cold hard bathroom tiles I kneeled on, as I clutched the toilet bowl, my stomach violently convulsed as I emptied its contents.

“How can my body still want to throw up, when there’s nothing left,” I remember thinking as my respiratory muscles forced my digestive tracts one way street into reverse. I continued to retch for about twenty minutes, whilst trying not to pass out from the cold sweat and increased heart rate. The episode finally subsided and I returned to bed, I was exhausted. As I started to get as accustomed as I could to the nauseated feeling, a headache, the size of a freight train was speeding through the canal in my right ear, possibly trying to collide with the one coming from the other side. When they met, it was official- chemo symptoms are the hangover from hell.

Everyone at home dosed me up with ginger tea and mints for the nausea (this helped considerably), fruits, coconut water (I lived on this) handkerchiefs soaked in Shiling oil and Limacol of course, the Guyanese cure for all ailments- broke your foot? Put some Limacol on it, lol. During this first week after my chemo, the feelings of nausea subsided slightly. There was no relief from the hangover headache from hell. At its worse my eyes became super sensitive to light, I finally found utility in the sleeping masks I had accumulated over the years, but had never needed to use. I used the mask for about three days, usually in the mornings and night it was at its peak. I wanted to eat but my stomach continued to be a choosy brat, always trying to return what I gave it. I soon found out that it’s easier to throw up coconut water, watermelons, grapes and apples than bananas. As the week progressed I felt tired, a weary sort of tired. I spent most of my time lying in bed not sleeping, I could never sleep during the day unless I was very sick and the very sick I was didn’t make day naps pleasurable.

The following are journal excerpts spanning the first four days after my chemo on Wednesday:

Thursday
“Completed my first chemo round–took about three hours. It wasn’t unpleasant. I didnt even tense up for the IV. I didn’t throw up until I smelt perfume this morning. I keep bunning down Rome and drinking ginger tea because it helps with the nausea and watching gravity falls…”

Saturday
“So far the best morning I’ve had since Wednesday. Slight headache, not much nausea. I still have my appetite and taste in my mouth. My joints hurt a little, just feel tired. So tired. I also want to go out of the house for a walk but the effort is too much. I am tired just thinking about it. But I will push myself..”

Monday
“Best day since Saturday. Today was very ‘normal’.The slight headace is still existing. Visited Sam yesterday for a few hours. Today Tiffany came and brought me chocolates.It’s been a good day, read some interesting facts on RH Negative DNA (yea that conspiracy stuff). Rewatching The Matrix today. I think I’ll start walking with mom on the seawall. My writing is bad because of the joints feeling weird to write with…”

Tuesday
“Feeling very similar to ‘normal’ self. Supposed to go walking with mom later. I have so much chocolate I have to try not to eat it, lol. Yeap, definitely need to get out if I’m going to be writing about chocolate.” After all the mental kicking and screaming I survived my first week of side effects and was back to my usual ‘foodie’ self by the next, which was perfect timing as it marked the beginning of a new side effect- the one that would attack my vanity.