So, the good news is that the chemotherapy is holding the cancer in check for now. Next scan in a month.
The bad news is that the chemo is hard. And the worse news is that after this, when this fails, things will get harder. Eventually, we will have to make some very difficult decisions, and I’m not sure how to do that. That’s for the future, though. Right now, the cancer is being held and the chemotherapy goes on.
It’s hard. Not too hard, but hard. I have four or five days of lurking at the bottom of a dark pool, like a pike. I might well snap, so don’t ask difficult questions, like “what do you want for dinner?”. Or present me with more than one task or thought or idea at a time. Just let me read mild books and rest. Week two is not too bad, week three is pretty much back to normal. My new normal – a slower, plumper, less fit normal.
What’s the hardest thing? I think one of the hardest things is never quite feeling comfortable in my body. I’m losing a bit of sensation in my fingers and toes, and that feels weird. I have lymphoedema in my left arm, so my left hand can get very puffy – and that feels weird. I have a sore mouth. A dry, sore mouth. A mouth so dry that I wake up in the night and have to peel my tongue away from the roof of my mouth. And nothing tastes right.
It’s hard to describe, but if you drink tea AND coffee – and like both of them – you must have experienced the strange thing – being given a mug full of nondescript brown liquid and assuming it is tea (or coffee), taking a mouthful and finding that it’s vile, and then realising it’s actually coffee (or tea). At the moment, everything I eat is coffee when I was expecting tea, or tea when I was expecting coffee.
It’s really quite depressing, because I love food. And I just realised that I have reacted to this by becoming almost obsessional about food. This cycle I have read The Gastronomical Me by M F K Fisher (and had hard-core nostalgic fantasies about provinical France), Appetite by Nigel Slater, M K F Fisher again (With Bold Knife and Fork), and Towpath – which is a book of recipes and stories from a canalside cafe in London that I have, and probably will never visit. I have noted down recipes and planned meals and looked up local restaurants, and made a big lasagne for my wider family, all the while knowing that nothing will taste the way that I imagine it will, or even the way it smells.
My mouth is sore right now. I ate strawberries last night and had to push through the pain to do it. Generally, I can manage frozen fruit (grapes, blueberries, little cubes of melon, a bag of pineapple chunks), but fresh fruit is hard. Savoury is good. Salt is salt is salt. Nice and predictable. Bitter is cranked up to the max – and I generally like a bitter drink. Tea is awful. Coffee, so weak it’s an embarrassment, and mint tea are my hot drinks. Or just a cup of hot water, which is easier to drink than cold water.
And then, in the last three or four days before the cycle re-starts, I guzzle – coffee, cake, G&T, a glass of wine (though I’m now a white drinker, not a red drinker), all the veggie stuff that gives me stomach cramps in week two, spices, everything. Everything.