Apparently this set of chemotherapy was supposed to be less nauseous than the FEC, but achier - like the flu.  I had had plenty of time to consider the Hickman Line and decided against it.  The thought of it terrified me and I was worried about infection or things going wrong when it was inserted. Sleep had been evading me because I was so anxious about more chemo and I had a bit of a rattley cough - another side effect from the radiotherapy.  The day before Taxotere was due to start I had to have a blood test done at my GP's.  What a total disaster that was!!  The nurse tried twice to get a vein and couldn't and when she wanted to try a third time, I point blank refused!  This was not a good sign!  I ended up going up to the hospital to get one of the chemo nurses to do it for me. 

Optimism was fading fast and the Hickman Line was looking more and more inevitable!

Session One 
Wednesday 21st February 2007.  Oh dear God!!  Why did this have to happen!! 
If I'd thought that I'd been through my worst session before with one of the FEC treatments - think again!

Mum came with me this time and Linda was ever hopeful that the day before hadn't been a pointer to more problems. However, right on cue, my veins retracted every time Linda even so much as produced a needle!!

First attempt - back of hand, second attempt - inner wrist, third attempt - thumb, fourth attempt - inner wrist again.  My veins were collapsing every time a needle went near them!  I was getting all upset again and we were sent away for something to eat and a cup of tea and I was advised to give serious thought to the Hickman Line.  When we returned to the ward it was the head of haematology that finally managed to insert the canular.  Five attempts again!!  I couldn't handle this any more and said yes to the Hickman Line out of sheer exhaustion.  I couldn't take any more of the trauma and pain of trying to get a vein every third week any more.  So Dr Gilbert said he would get an appointment arranged for the insertion of the line before the next session of chemo. 

Bloody hell!!!  I never expected this!!  I felt like I'd been hit by a 20 tonne truck!!  They said to expect aches like flu - not like you'd been mowed down by a lorry!! My throat was so sore and my jaw ached like hell.  My stomach felt like someone was twisting it in different directions and my back and my joints were very, very painful.  I found it hard to swallow and wasn't drinking or eating very much, and sleep was elusive.  Ibuprofen wasn't even touching it and I cried and cried.  I had constipation one minute and diarrhoea the next.  My mouth was sore inside and everything tasted of cardboard!  I felt totally steam rolled.

At the GP surgery I saw a locum - I have a severe dislike for locums these days! First I got Dr Van Evil and then I got Nurse Incompetent! She gave me some antiseptic mouthwash - which was vile - and she gave me Tramadol for the aches and pains and told me to take two.  I insisted there was a problem with my throat, but she insisted the mouthwash would help it!  At home I took the two Tramadol and waited for it to take effect. Oh Jeezo!!  I couldn't be a drug addict that's for sure!!  Apart from the fact that my veins would never let me inject anyway, I wouldn't be able to handle the "tripping" sensation!!! One minute I felt like I was floating then I would feel like I was plummeting down!  I would fall asleep and waken to think I'd been asleep for hours, only to find that it had been a matter of minutes! My body didn't feel like it was mine and I didn't like the feeling of not being in control of it.  I wasn't going to be taking Tramadol again!

When I went to the hospital for my blood test I spoke with Dr Gilbert about my sore throat.   He was not impressed at all and phoned my GP surgery!  I had a throat infection and that was what was causing the severe reactions to the first load of this chemo.  I was put on a strong course of antibiotics immediately.  My bloods came back seriously low.  Neutrophils (white cells) were sitting at only 0.08, which were dangerously low.  Dr Gilbert kept taking my temperature and told me that had it not been normal that he would have insisted I was admitted onto a ward there and then!  I was only let home on the condition that I take the antibiotics and check my temperature religiously, and if there was any change whatsoever I was to return to hospital straight away.

This time round I think I got everything going!!  Throat infection, thrush, constipation, diarrhoea, wind, mouth ulcers, exhaustion... you name it! 

Finally the antibiotics started kicking in and I began to feel much better than I had done.  My hair was thinning a bit but not totally falling out.  I could only taste really sweet things, so began to add maple syrup to almost everything.  Ice and ice cream helped to alleviate the mouth problems, but I really missed being able to enjoy a cup of tea!

The appointment date for the Hickman Line was approaching fast and I was freaking out about it.  At the appointment at the hospital I ended up getting quite emotional about and Dr Gilbert told me that I couldn't be forced into having it, but it would be the sensible thing to do.  Made up my mind there and then not to have it.  The stress of the thought of it was affecting me more and more and I couldn't go through with it, so he cancelled the appointment. 

Session Two

 Wednesday 14th March.  I was careful to do absolutely everything that I'd been advised to do before the second session.  Drank loads and loads of water, had my hot bath and was pumping my arms big time (clenching and releasing my fist to pump the veins up).  I took my Lorazepam - the loopy relaxant pill - and forced myself to be positive.  Linda managed to get a vein on the first attempt and we were both so excited about it!!  I came home with what felt like half a chemist!  Stuff for my mouth, thrush, constipations, antibiotics and the usual anti sickness drugs.  Shake me and I'd have rattled!!

My taste buds took their usual vacation from my mouth and I awaited the 20 tonne truck - and it never came!!  I felt really tired and slightly achy and stiff but not steam rolled like the previous time.  The throat infection had since cleared up, and it turned out that it was because of that underlying infection, that I had been so bad the first time round.  My mouth felt furry inside but I forced myself to eat and kept drinking plenty of water and crushed ice.  One good thing from drinking so much fluid was that my skin was wonderfully smooth and clear!  I couldn't taste sweet things this time, but really spicy things seemed to leave a bit of a taste, so I stocked up on Tangy Doritos! I watched as many cookery programmes as I could find on the television, as food and taste was becoming an obsession again. 

Other symptoms that I started to experience were a sore nose - it seemed to run a lot - and tingling in my toes and fingers, in fact any extremity!  Some things proved to be difficult.  My hands didn't seem to work properly so I couldn't unscrew lids or do up buttons, but the kids helped me out with anything that I couldn't manage.  I felt quite isolated some days which made me feel low, but I busied myself when I had enough energy to do so and I slept when I could.  Driving was sometimes quite difficult because of the problems I was having with my hands, but I just took my time and was careful.  It wasn't so much the tiredness that affected me either - it was the overwhelming feeling of apathy. 

I just didn't know what to do with myself and felt very agitated sometimes.

Session Three 
 Wednesday 4th April.  I did the usual routine of hot bath, chill out and take the Lorazepam, but it took four attempts to get a vein. Thankfully though, it wasn't overly traumatic or painful and I only had 2 bruises this time. 

The Difflam mouthwash that I got given from the hospital numbed my mouth a bit and masked the horrid taste I was now getting. The feeling of agitation was still with me and I felt like a caged animal - just so restless all the time, and tired.

My hair!!  Well if you ever seen the film The Shining with Jack Nicolson - you can get a pretty good picture of how I felt I looked!!  It was quite sparse and thin and gave me this really manic look about me, as what hair was left was all tufty!
 I could have gone for Jack Nicolson's role with the words.. "Here's Jilly!!!".

The doubts play havoc with rationality.  All the what if's and buts that went cruising around in my head.  What if it comes back?  What if I'm going through all this for nothing?  What a horrible bloody word Cancer is.  I hid away when I could feel a break down coming on for it was my job to stay strong for everyone else around me.  I couldn't break in front of them because then I wouldn't be coping with it all.  And I thought I was - I thought that considering everything that had happened and was still to come, that I was doing a pretty damn good job of coping and dealing with it!!  My mind won't ever be able to return to a pre cancerous state.  It will always be lurking there somewhere in the recesses of my brain and every so often something will trigger it off. 

My hands and feet were still painful and I still struggled with buttons and lids but we coped with that.  I found that bicarbonate of soda worked wonders in a bath and I used lots and lots of it!  The skin started to peel off my toes a little bit, which was really weird, and my toe nails and finger nails were looking strangely like they would fall off.  And they did!  Not all of them but a couple of nails did actually come away.  I expected it to be really sore, but oddly enough it seemed to relieve some of the pressure I had been feeling. 

I was encouraged by the fact that I was almost there - it was almost the last session!!
Session Four 
 Wednesday 25th April. The last one!!!!!!  God I was so tired with it all. The culmination of approximately one year in hell and the finishing line in sight.  And I was running towards it at full speed!

I did all the usual preparation and the canular went in on the second attempt.  Throughout the three week cycle the previous side effects were still there and just as bad but I kept telling myself that this would be the last time I'd be having them and that it could only get better after this. 

With my feet and hands being so sore, Mum organised for me to have a massage on them.  Sheer bliss!!!  It was just heavenly having someone rub them and make them feel better - even if it wasn't for too long.

All in all the final cycle wasn't too bad - I was just so glad it was all over!!