A little chemo holiday

I had a telephone review with my oncologist on Tuesday, and we’ve agreed to defer my next chemo session for a fortnight.

I’ve now had 10 doses of docetaxel. It’s kind of OK, but I’m knackered. I feel pretty shit for a week, kind of OK for a week, pretty good for a week, and then it starts all over again. I feel very hungry a lot of the time, but don’t really enjoy food because everything tastes weird. I have a loss of sensation in my feet. I get so tired. I have a couple of days when I feel deep, dark, utter despair.

I do my best. I rest a lot for the first few days. I eat small, regular amounts. I try and walk as much as I can. I have kept a symptom diary, so I know the pattern of my side-effects – so I know I can get through them and things will get better. It gives me a sense of control. But I’m knackered.

There’s other stuff going on. We’re looking at universities for my son – he’ll be leaving home in September – a whole stage of my life over. We had planned to do a lot of travelling once he left home – big drives down to Italy, or maybe the Balkans. Camping, or staying in small hotels. Maybe a long distance walk – I was eyeing up the Via Francigena. Now we’re tied to my 3 weekly infusions. I have to have a blood test two days before the infusion, so even my good week is not my own.

We’ve been talking about moving. I’ve always said I’d retire to a city, and it would be good to have access to more culture, more art, more poetry readings. I’d like to find a regular poetry group. My local one (3-5 attendees) seems to have evaporated with lockdown. I’d like all that, but I’m not sure I have the energy to start all over again. I’m not sure I’m a good friendship investment any more.

I have very strong feelings about the body/mind divide. I know how much emotional content affects the body, and I know how much physical things affect the mind. I know that some of this is horribly real, and I also know that some of my emotional response to it all is coloured by my physical state. It’s complicated. So a little break makes a lot of sense – it will give me a chance to recharge my batteries, to eat some seafood with joy, to have a glass of wine – maybe even a Campari and orange. To go out for coffee and really enjoy it. That’s what I’m hoping for, anway.

What I didn’t reckon with is the feeling of guilt. I self-identify as stoical, but I try very hard to resist the “battle” language of cancer treatment. Once we’d agreed this (two week!) break, though, I felt really guilty. I’m not trying hard enough. I should be battling on. I’ve not been strong enough. How stupid is that? I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s so hard to resist.

My priority should be living well. I need to hold on to that.

About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.
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15 Responses to A little chemo holiday

  1. Ms. Liz says:

    A 2-week break sounds wonderful Sarah! A wee respite perhaps would do a world of good. Enjoy!

  2. even stoics take a break Sarah – all that you wrote about above takes some digesting and you need space and relaxation for that

  3. memadtwo says:

    Illness is neither a fault nor a sin. Yes, take that break, enjoy and savor all of it.

  4. pvcann says:

    I have no personal experience of this, but sit with others who do and a break seems like a wonderful thing, Be gentle on yourself. I hope you find a worthy group.

  5. Sherry Marr says:

    I think a two week break is needed and is the highest form of self-care. Enjoy without guilt. This is how you are soldiering on – a break, before it begins again. Sarah, I so admire you.

  6. merrildsmith says:

    Enjoy your break, and enjoy yourself a bit–in whatever form you can and want to. Sending you hugs, wishes, and lots of good thoughts. Rainbows, not battle language.

  7. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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