Different people react in different ways to their chemotherapy. Having to spend time in hospital either as an in-patient or an outpatient will inevitably lead to some disruption of your normal life. There may be times when you feel low physically or emotionally, and you will need extra support from family and friends. On the other hand, there may be times when you feel stronger and are able to work or follow your usual daily routine. The trick is to recognize when your body is at a low point (your doctors will be able to advise you about this), and not to try to fight it. You will recover more easily between cycles of treatment if you don’t try to pretend that your body is at full strength. Do take it easy and rest when you need to: you will find that your body responds better if you take notice of what it is telling you. Of course, this is easier in theory than practice, and it is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.
Neil underwent four separate courses of chemotherapy. The first was a ‘standard’ regimen for testicular cancer which lasted six cycles and initially appeared very successful. The others comprised different combinations of drugs to try to bring his cancer under control after it recurred.
I had no idea what to expect from chemotherapy, or even what it looked like. At first, I had a needle inserted in a vein in my arm, and the drugs were infused from a drip through a tube into the needle. Because of other complications, it was soon decided to insert a Hickman Line in my chest and my chemotherapy was administered through the line. The idea of a length of tube protruding from my chest was not a pleasant prospect, but it is surprising how quickly you get used to these things! When I went home, I was taught how to keep it free of blockages by ‘flushing’ it, and this simply became part of my routine. Not being allowed to soak in the bath was a minor source of irritation as the line has to be kept clear of germs, but this was not a big deal in the overall scheme of things.
I tolerated my first chemotherapy regimen relatively well and had few side-effects other than losing my hair – not a major issue for me in the context of getting rid of my cancer, although some people feel differently. The same applied to the second course. But the third was another story. I was very sick, which meant I didn’t feel like eating for several days – although I was more than aware of the need to ‘keep my strength up’. My recovery time between cycles was greater and maintaining levels of resolve and determination was, at times, an effort.
This period was hard work but I had learned by now not to fight the effects of these drugs. Our lives were pretty quiet for a while – coping with my cancer and treatment took a great deal of our time and energy. But we stuck together and managed, and made the most of my ‘good’ days. When my chemo ‘cocktail’ was changed again, most of my side-effects disappeared, and life became much more normal once more.