This morning I wake after a lousy night. My anticipatory nausea kicks in especially early and I am gagging before I drift off. I'm awoken by gastric reflux. I lose a few hours sleep.
In the morning, Al and I are little disorganised as we are both tired. We have to pick up Nim from Cleveland and then drop Ben at school. I'm concerned about being late but it looks like I needn't have worried.
We are right on time when we arrive at the Hospital, me bearing some love cake to share, Nim with a fruitcake for the nurses, rolls and fruit salad for us. (She is happiest I think when she is sharing food).
Tracey has arrived quite early and is waiting for us. Lindar is running late as she has school drop offs. Janet is a no-show because of work commitments. Linda C is dropping by later.
Before going in I dutifully take the extra anti emetic Dr Choo has prescribed. Here's hoping it kicks in quickly.
So my support group accounted for, I am shown into my cubicle fairly quickly. As we sit down, Tracey gives me another beautifully wrapped gift of a hot pink, hot and cold eye mask. I keep telling them to stop giving me things but it hasn't seemed to work.
This time, I have a young English nurse, Lisa, who seems reasonably efficient but I have to just find out how experienced she is.
She's been practicing for 7 years and says she's put in 100s of cannulas. Still, I notice the absence of that calming banter older nurses are so much better at. To the younger ones, the job is about process, not niceties I think. There's less small talk and no attempt to make a connection.
Lisa seems to take a longer time than usual trying to find a suitable vein and when she does, the cannula after it's inserted malfunctions - and it hurts like buggery. No, it REALLY hurts.
Tracey clutches my hand and I say "I really, really love you Tracey". I feel teary thinking of my friends, not just these two, but everyone who has been cheering from me from the sidelines.
Nim is standing and holding my other hand. She's trying to take my mind off the pain.
"It's because you've helped so many people," Nim consoles.
"I'm not that special," I snivel. "I don't do that much."
Lisa is flustered and realises more veins have popped up. She asks if I want her to get someone else to try. I say no (I don't want to hurt hurt her feelings).
But the sight of a nice plump vein has her hopeful and confident. She says she's very sure she'll get this vein. She says a failure to properly place a single cannula can ruin her whole day.
And so, again I'm pricked. This time it's a success but it still hurts.
I try to make conversation through it, trying to think of what I might actually resent about all of this. Surely there is something.
Lisa is ecstatic, she connects the saline drip and leaves the room.
The next thing I know Nim has burst into solid tears and is weeping into her hands. Tracey leans over to comfort her. I'm feeling sad too.
"I just want my old friend back," Nim sputters.
"It told you not to come. I knew it would upset you, Nim," I say.
I try to keep talking so Nim isn't so upset so I say what I resent is losing my body. I worked so hard all these years and now I see my friends going running and gymming and dragon boat racing and soccer training while I have been transformed overnight into a bald, retching frump.
Another nurse realises it's an emotional scene and asks us if we'd like some privacy. For the first time, we are curtained in so that we can collect ourselves.
I also ask for some tissues for Nim.
By the time Lindar arrives, we are ready to have the Adriomyacin injected and she's missed most of the drama. She gives me a present of a Guatamalan Worrry Doll. It's really cute. Apparently you whisper your worries to the doll and put it under your pillow.
It's really nice to chat away with my friends while all the time I'm just aware of the now familiar cold feeling up my arms.
We talk about how amazing my brain memory has been, nauseating me a good 24 hours out from this session. We talk about how memories are trapped in bodies and how unhealed emotions, grief that has not been addressed and other emotional roadblocks are now being linked to dementia. We agree that seeking therapy or talking openly and honestly about your feelings to someone, anyone, is essential to moving on.
When it's time for the Taxotere, I'm feeling nauseous as predicted and worried that that damn tablet didn't work.
Through this Lindar, Tracey and I reminisce about our Sallyanne days. I tell the story of the Marketing Director who thought I needed help with my English and made me buy a Roget's Thesauraus, English Oxford Dictionary and Fowler's English Modern Usage before writing a speech for the Lord Mayor who wanted to suss out my potential to be speechwriter. I took a whole day to write a 5 minutes speech for The Great Aussie BBQ. When he saw how fabulous it was, he looked sheepish. And it was only then I realised this chap must have thought I was illiterate, just because of my then still thick Sri Lankan accent.
I'll tell you this at least. I've written literally hundreds of speeches over the years and I've never, ever, ever needed to cheat the dialogue from 'Wall Street'. Surely there are some pretty lame speechwriters out there Mr Albanese.
It's only after the Taxotere is finished that Tracey quizzes Lisa as to why she didn't put the fingernail-protecting ice gloves on. Lisa had forgotten and I was in too much of a state to pick it up.
And so, it could be that my nails will be ruined after this treatment. What to do?
Nim notices my dry lips and distributes her delicious freshly prepared fruit salad including cherries and lychees (my favourite).
I start to feel better when I'm finally eating the roll.
Soon after this, Linda C arrives. She looks lovely I think to myself. She brings an upbeat vibe to the room.
We have a cup of coffee courtesy of the hospital and eat it with a piece of my delicious love cake.
I'm feeling okay by the time the Cyclphosphamide is injected, the nurses moving quietly in and out of our cubicle to change the drugs.
And then I'm done. I can't believe I got through it.
In the foyer we are met by one of Nim's Turkish friends. She's absolutely lovely and arrives in a taxi, bearing turkish delights. She's made a special stopover. I can't believe it.
The four of us - Nim, her friend, Linda and I go up to see Dr Choo.
In the waiting room, we are so loud and chatty that the receptionist asks us to keep it down. What a spoilsport. There are only other elderly people there. They're probably half deaf anyway.
Afterwards, my meeting with Dr Choo is brief. I wheedle my way out of the blood test next week by saying that I know my counts will be low.
She checks my last blood test and in fact, it looks like the white cells had rallied strongly and the platelets were sound. That explains why I had the energy to run last week!
As Al is still working in the man pad, Linda drives me and Nim home. I'm feeling drowsy. A little worn out.
When I get home, it's funny because I don't have a key so I have to let myself in through the doggy door.
I'm praying that the extra kilos I've hoiked on won't mean I am irretrievably wedged. But as it is I'm able to drag my bum through there getting only a little mud on my pants.
I am reminded that Dexamathasone, one of my prescribed drugs, is not only used to enhance the effects of anti-emetics in chemotherapy, but is also prescribed by some vets for the treatment of ear infections in dogs.
There's probably a good reason why I chose the doggy door today. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel the need to go and bury some bones, chase my tail or scratch the back of my ears with my feet.
Dexamethazone is also abused by Bangladeshi women who want to get fat. It's 26.6 times more powerful than human cortisol, 2.6 times more powerful than prednisone. It can lead to irrational feelings of feeling good, and dependence. It's also uses to enhance athletic performance and improve weight gain. How that works I don't know. Stuff your face then go for a 10KM run? Seems counterproductive.
Anyway, I am now packed up to the gills with a load of drugs fit for any fading AFL star.
Al and Harry get home and not long after that Vlad and Evelyn drop by with a book called "Superfoods". It's sweet, really, the way people want to reach out to me. They have a quick glass of wine and leave as I'm clearly a little dopey.
It's grey and drizzing outside. I don't feel like going for a walk but content myself with finalising a painting I'm working on.
Today has been a stressful day I think. It wasn't a particularly good one. I think it was quite awful for my friends and, even though we had our usual conversation, I felt bad because I am not really handling things any better.
The place where the cannula went in is still hurting a bit. I'm retching miserably as I write this.
I apologise for the poor calibre of this post but my hurling innards have made this one particularly hard.
Oh well, things can only get better after this. After all, there is this to shout from the rooftops today: HOORAAAAYYYY! ONLY ONE MORE CHEMO SESSION TO GO.