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Rod Starts Chemo

It all happened very quickly once Rod got the final diagnosis. We had to wait a couple of weeks for Rods wound to heal after the surgery before he could start chemotherapy. There were more blood tests to undertake and another PET scan to see if the cancer had spread in the last two months and we were hoping to get a molecular testing done to see if there was any targeted treatment that could be undertaken.

The appointment for the PET scan was on the 14th March and the Oncologist appointment and Chemo booked for the 15th. I remember being so anxious about the PET scan and terrified of the chemotherapy. I had been down the google rabbit hole once more, researching chemotherapy side effects, what to expect. As it got closer to the day, I now know there's a term that most people who have been diagnosed with cancer experience, its called "Scanxiety". I had a great deal of scanxiety that week. My mind was continually on a loop, what if its spread, will that affect the chemotherapy, what will the oncologist tell us?

We sat nervously in front of the Oncologist as he pulled the scan up on the screen. Then he told us the bombshell news "I'm sorry Rod, but the cancer is far more advanced than we first thought", the tumour had almost doubled in size and it had metastasised to both his lungs.

This was not the news we wanted to hear, I was fighting back the tears and trying to stop the screaming that was going on in my head. All I could think was, we've waited too long, if only they had started treatment earlier. The Oncologist told us he needed to treat this aggressively as it already had a run on Rod and we needed to make up some ground. They were starting him with a combination of weekly Paclitaxel and another drug called Doxorubicin, known as "The Red Devil" every 21 days. They would continue this for a period of 12 weeks and if he could tolerate the drugs he would keep going without a break.

As we nervously headed down to the The Ivy Suite in the Bendat Cancer Centre, St John of God Hospital Subiaco WA, we were silent and still trying to process what the Oncologist had just told us. I could tell that Rod was nervous but he still held up that calm demeanour he has. One of the things about Rod is that he uses humour to cover his nervousness and always tries to look at the lighter side of life, but this was one time he was silent and thoughtful.

Because it was our first time there, we had to have an education session which covers what the chemo is, what side effects to look out for, what to do if Rod has any symptoms or signs of infection, what medication to take etc. There was a lot to process before he even started treatment. This meant our first day was going to be a long one.

They always seem to have difficulty getting a canula into Rods veins and this was no exception. It took six attempts and three nurses to finally get it in before they could start administering the drugs. I was so upset for him, it was a painful process, but fortunately my breathwork training helped and I got him breathing deeply to help relax not only him but the nurses and his veins.

That first treatment day was very overwhelming for us both, especially when you look around the chemo suite and see so many people being treated for cancer. It was a harsh reality of how many lives and families are affected by this disease. As soon as one chair was empty it was filled again and this went on all day. The nurses tried to make the process as easy as possible and their light banter is very much appreciated.

We got home very late as it is a 3 hour drive back to Collie where we live. I was anxious about how Rod would deal with the side effects and I was probably annoying the living daylights out of him, asking him if he was ok all the time. He took the medication they prescribed and to be honest the first few chemo sessions, although uncomfortable, were not too bad. He had the anticipated skin rashes, headache, metallic taste, watery eyes and nose and digestive upsets but fortunately escaped the nausea. This was going to be our reality for the next three months.

There are a few tips I would recommend for anyone starting chemo:

  • Try not to google what to expect. Everyone reacts differently to chemo and not everyone has all the side effects. Google is full of horror stories.

  • Be prepared to be overwhelmed, there is a lot to take in. If you can play a meditation, listen to music or read a book to help keep you calm I would suggest doing so.

  • Have a notebook handy to write things down. There's a lot of information and you won't be able to remember it all.

  • Have a chemo bag packed and ready to go for each session. We take things like an extended iPhone charger, tissues, wipes, snacks, a beanie (Rod has since lost his hair), anything you think you might need to make yourself more comfortable.

  • If you are the partner, don't hesitate to get up and go for a walk outside or around the hospital. Movement is a great way of releasing tense and fearful energy.

  • Pre-plan your meals for when you get home. Both of you will be exhausted and probably wont feel like cooking. Take the pressure off yourself.

  • Refrain from asking them how they are all the time. Something I have learnt how to do now. I check in with Rod once or twice but trust that he will let me know if he's not ok.

  • Try to look at the treatment and chemotherapy as being a good thing, not a negative one. It's going to help treat this cancer or the cancer symptoms.

  • Take each day as it comes. Some days are easier than others. On the good days try to go about life as normal and on the not so good days rest. That goes for partners as well where possible.

In the next blog I will be discussing how cancer affects your relationship.

In the meantime I wish you much love

Christine x

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