Chemo information session

Just had a couple of days away & what a difference that makes!  I realised I had hardly thought about the cancer & treatment at all, until the morning I was due home & then it all came crowding back in.

Anyway, today’s appointment was for an information session with a group of others in the oncology centre, specifically for those about to start chemo.  We were a very mixed group of men & women and a wide variety of ages.  I had known the session was happening, but until just the day before hadn’t had any details.  When I got the letter (which also includes the first 3 dates of my chemo sessions, plus follow up sessions each time back at oncology) it said this session is actually compulsory, and your chemo won’t happen without attending – stern stuff!  However, the session itself was, of necessity as we were such a diverse group, very general.  It covered what chemo is, and how it works.  How it’s administered, side effects and things we can do to keep ourselves as well as possible.  The specialist nurse running it was very good, friendly & approachable, and questions were encouraged.  We also heard from a chap from the information centre, run by 2 paid staff and lots of volunteers and the services they offer.

In all honesty, we (myself & daughter B) found that we knew much of the information already, but no harm having it reinforced.  After the talks were finished, the nurse had a folder for each of us.  This bit was a bit odd I thought.  We were all still packed into a room that was too small, and she came round to each of us individually to give us our pack and have a quick talk & answer any specific questions we might have – all with everyone else still milling around.  I suspect there is a better way of doing this.  My main question was around whether I would be able to carry on swimming, as I’d been hearing conflicting advice.  As I am having a PICC line it looks as if this won’t be possible, which is a blow.

My pack had details of the type of chemo I am having (FEC-T) on a sheet I already had been given, plus lots of leaflets from organisations like Macmillan & Penny Brohn.  Once again, I’m blown away by the amount of supportive sessions that are available completely free of charge for cancer patients.  These cover counselling, eating well, fitness, relaxation and massage, and even beauty tips for skin changes and issues such as eyebrow thinning.  Unfortunately, there is just a little help available for parking costs, which are becoming a real worry.  Every time I have to go to the main oncology centre, I am paying about £4.50.  You can get a slip to allow you to park in their car park all day for just the cost of 2 hours, but the car park is tiny & almost not worth trying to get into at all.  I’m so glad I opted to have my chemo at another site – although I don’t know if they charge yet!

At the end of our chat the nurse told me I needed to have blood taken, so we went down to the main oncology bit, where I waited for some time.  When I was called the nurse decided it was probably better to wait until I have the PICC line inserted & then they could take the blood then, rather than another needle today.  All in all the whole thing took over 2 hours, plus travelling time.

Next appointment is for root canal work at the dentist – so not especially looking forward to that either!  It is feeling like it has become an even bigger part of my life now – well, is actually really running it at the moment.  I know this is necessary, obviously, but it still doesn’t feel comfortable.  I’m used to being more or less in complete control of what I do, and at the moment I have to take my cancer and its treatment into account & live my life to a great extent around it – which I rather resent.  Everyone else seemed to be taking the session today in their stride (I know they may well have been feeling quite differently inside) but I found it quite overwhelming close to the end.  Another step closer I suppose.  I don’t think I’m even thinking closer to the chemo itself – I think the biggest thing on my mind is the mastectomy.  It’s visible, and permanent.  Everything else I’ve had so far will pass – hair loss, sickness, surgery scars.  The mastectomy will be a constant reminder & seems to be looming very large.  Everyone says to take it a step at a time & obviously I know that’s right too – but so hard to do!


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