You know that feeling when you get a hair stuck at the back of your throat? Your body goes into gag reflex mode and you stick your tongue out like a cat coughing up a fur ball? Well that’s my morning wrapped up in one unattractive image. What’s worse than the stubborn strand of hair lodged in my throat, is knowing that it isn’t actually mine! Being bald should at least have some benefits but in this instance, it certainly isn’t the case.
And to really add fuel to the fire, I’ve also had a chronic case of ‘chemo mouth’ for the past week which leaves me with this really rank taste/flavour in my mouth and on my tongue. (sorry sounds really gross, because it is.) I can brush and mouthwash until the cows come home, but it still lingers which leaves me gaaa haa-ing all day.
Taste changes are common side effects of chemotherapy which often leaves a metallic taste in peoples mouth and often patients become disinterested in food. Having been aware of this side effect before commencing my own treatment, I just couldn’t imagine anything stopping me from eating. And funnily enough, I was right.
Where most patients taste buds can’t tell Arthur from Marthur and are so off that they can’t even eat, my taste buds are in full force welcoming everything and anything in an attempt to rid my mouth of this awful taste. Soda water + lemon are a winner, as are avocados, scrambled eggs and to my naturopaths dismay, buttery toast. I mean if Cancer can’t kill me, a few carbs surely wont. This feeding frenzy is in vain though, as the bad taste returns pretty much right after I’ve eaten. It’s like when you’re super hungover and crave everything under the sun but nothing actually suffices your booze soaked body and then all you’re left with is a bloated -worse-for-wear belly to deal with.
I had an expectation that chemo gets easier as time goes on. But I was wrong. Chemotherapy is cumulative. It actually stays in your system for up to 12 months with some side effects, such as fatigue lingering longer than desired. Hopefully that wont be the case for me. With each chemo session, the side effects intensify so as time goes on, and as I near closer to the finishing line, the side effects are more likely to occur to a greater degree. So even though its been weeks since I’ve suffered chemo mouth, it’s no shock that it’s come back with a vengeance.
I am literally 4 days away from completing my very last chemo session. I’ve completed 15 out of 16 sessions. That’s 19 out of 20 weeks worth of systemic treatment. As of next Tuesday April 18 that will be 5 months done and dusted. I actually can’t believe it. At the start of this journey there’s no way in hell that I would have imagined feeling this ambivalent at this point in time.
Before I started chemo, I had read blogs and personal stories of “survivors” who on completion of chemo treatment had actually felt anxious and apprehensive as they finished up their final session. At the time I vividly remember thinking “as if you’d feel like that!” imaging that I’d be full of excitement wanting to celebrate and party.
But these ambivalent feelings do in fact resonate strongly right now. It’s confusing because I’ve crossed off each session with such pride and excitement and now that I’m 4 days out from reaching what has been my ultimate goal for the past 5 months, I’m actually at odds with how I feel.
Is it separation anxiety from my medical team that scares me? Or is it being worried that I might not perhaps have a sense of purpose now that my weekly appointments won’t be scheduled? Or am I worried that I wont have an excuse to fall back on if I’m not ready to jump straight into ‘normal’ life with guns blazing once treatment ends?
Perhaps these feelings are due to the expectation that things will just go back to ‘normal.’ Someone the other day made the presumption that my blog will obviously finish now that chemo is coming to an end. What will you write about now they said, as if the cancer conundrum comes to an abrupt halt once chemo finishes. Well it doesn’t unfortunately.
I guess it’s the presumption that chemo signals the end of the cancer journey that perplexes me because if anything I feel that the end is actually just the beginning. Its the beginning of the next few stages of treatment which will bring new physical challenges and a need to re-wire my mind to focus on the next milestone: Surgery.
I might be close to completing Part 1 of treatment but there’s still Part 2 (surgery & recon), 3 (possible radiation) and 4 (IVF in a year or two) to still face which may present to be the most emotional of them all. Maybe that’s why I’m not shouting from the tree tops just yet knowing that I have a couple of tough hurdles to still overcome. I guess these anxious nerves have been laying dormant as I’ve had chemo to shield behind but soon I guess this won’t be the case. But I’ve surprised myself with how I feel right now, so who knows what Tuesday will bring.