Have you ever given blood? Then you're a hero. Much more so than I ever could be. I have no choice, going through this is pure survival instinct kicking in, but you, you've willingly and selflessly parted with an integral piece of you for the sake of a stranger, like me. You're a hero.
Unless you're 'one of the gays'. For some ridiculous backwards reason gay people can't donate, which is absurd. For the record, I'd lap up your blood, fellas. Would probably make me cleaner and more stylish.
Anyway, for about three months I'd been staggering about on a half load of red blood cells, it turned out. It explained my translucency and inability to ascend a flight of stairs in the months following my crimson anal evacuation (coincidentally the name of a new Death Metal band), and was a nice thing to hopefully be able to fix in a relatively short space of time.
A few days after round 1 of Chemo I was back in the hospital for two units of delicious, sweet blood to top up my haemoglobin levels and give me some fighting strength. It's the easiest thing in the world, like having your batteries charged while you lie there. Just don't watch it going in, it's a bit weird to think about. But thank you, nameless donor. Thank you from me and those who love me. I just don't know where I'd be without you. Or the 4 others who helped me later on.
Anyway, as the side effects of Round 1 wore off I hoped to see, naively, some improvement. But what happened next has made The Bourne Legacy unwatchable for me (no great loss), and my Mother in Law's slow cooked ham inedible (shhh- don't tell her). It was 9pm Tuesday and I was watching said film and snacking on said meat when I broke into a sweat. My bowels suddenly became sentient and the concept of sphincter control a distant dream. Thank The Lord for downstairs toilets because I made it just in time and evacuated a child's paddling pool full (I think, I didn't have time to measure it) of effluvium into the bowl. Shaking, I stood and did the standard wipeage. Then I crashed back down for an encore. This extravaganza continued for around 2 hours - you know you're in trouble when a) you decide to leave your trousers off and b) the 9 pack of Andrex is looking insignificant. I can never quite look at Jeremy Renner and ham the same any more.
I made it to bed cautiously around 1pm but there were repeat performances all week. Rather than bouncing back from Chemo I was wiped. I slept all night and half the day in between violent bouts of diarrhea and felt as exhausted as ever. This wasn't great.
Just before round 2 I had a follow up appointment with my Oncologist to see how I'd coped with my first session. Of course, I brought Kerry with me, but for the purposes of this next section we shall refer to her only as Dr. Blabbermouth. The session starts pleasantly enough. Now, one of my big fears since my diagnosis is deviating from plans of treatment. Come hell or high water, I'm getting the Plan A of treatment. It's my only slim hope at survival. I don't want this Chemo but I NEED it, like a fat kid needs cake. So, like when a Ghostbuster should say they are a God when asked, I said my first Round of Chemo was OK. I had some diarrhea and have been tired, but I'm fine.
BUT WAIT! Who else is in the room? Why, it's Dr. Blabbermouth! Say that again, Dr. Blabbermouth, I can't hear you over the filthy looks you're throwing my way!
"I'd hardly say that's exactly true, hun".
She must not be able to see the desperate looks I'm giving her and the rapid cut throat motion I'm making with my index finger. My movements become more intense.
"You've been in and out the loo all week and in bed 80% of the time"
As always, Dr. Blabbermouth speaketh the truth and rightfully so. But now was not the time. It's too late. The Oncologists eyes have narrowed to tiny slits. The game is up. He suspiciously asks how many times I've gone to the loo in a single go. Judging by his comic reaction and need for an eye-popping 'AWOOGA!' sound effect, 18-20 times is too much.
Honestly, I'm scared witless that the treatment might stop. I have no other option and I'm as scared as I could ever be that this is the end of things before I even had a chance to fight. But there's a simple option. Chemotherapy doses are given according to the square footage of your body, so the bigger you are overall, the bigger the dose. But after a certain dosage there's no appreciable further benefit. There's so much of me I can drop 20% of the Chemo administered with no impact on the effectiveness but hopefully an impact on the side effects. Although, as per his follow up letter, my doctor 'fears he is putting on a brave face', he agrees to continue my treatment on adjusted doses.
Dodged a bullet on that one. And, as always, it turns out Mrs. Nicky was right.
Round 2 went without a hitch and the initial side effects (tiredness, nausea) kicked in as they always did, always would. But then something magical happened. You'll be delighted to hear that it's poo related.
Day 5 Post-Chemo, late afternoon. I have an urge to go to the toilet. What I unleash is a statuesque creation King Kong would be proud of, the sort of stylised creation only seen scrawled on the toilet doors of mens bathrooms. I feel much better for it, and get back to, I believe, watching Peppa Pig. 30 minutes later it happens again, same deal. For the next 6 HOURS, like clockwork, I drop off a handsome log within seconds. It's like a turd conga line. It's as if someone has opened the door to a faecal party and only the most handsome of plop-plops have been invited. These are the body builders, the supermodels of the dump world. Where they'd been hiding I'll never know. But I felt great for the next few days.
I'm well enough to go and see World War Z with my brother but first he takes me to a follow-up with my Oncologist, who, thanks to forgetting to charge his phone, completely forgets he has private appointments that evening and is running an hour late as a result. My anger at potentially missing a film suggests an improvement in my condition. He's pleased too and sneakily makes me switch chairs a few times to test my fitness. He can't believe the change in me and I'm happy to say is as interested in my poo as I am. He was worried about the tumour forming a bowel obstruction and feels the chemo may have 'loosened things' in layman's terms. I go off with a spring in my step and just make the film in time.
Each round I feel better once the side effects worn off, and for the first time in months, we get a family day out. Something is finally going right, so I'll leave you with a happy memory - me and my bestest buddy riding the Legoland train in June 2013.
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