The Red Devil

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After some hope that I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy, it was decided that the best course of action after surgery was 4 rounds of AC and 12 rounds of Taxol. I go with my mum, dad and Aunty to met with my oncologist shortly after my surgery. Here is where we were going to discuss side effects and how everything will work. The biggest concern and I know some people will find this weird but it was losing my hair. I never wanted to look ‘sick’. Literally I was fine, you couldn’t tell what I was going through. It’s not like you find out you have cancer and all of a sudden your super sick. That’s the chemo that does that. The option was a cold cap which is a frozen cap they place on your head during treatment. Some women will keep their hair using this cap, in my case I was told that I would most likely lose my hair regardless. Hearing that was like taking a bullet. The side effects in general were written down like a check list.

  1. Nausea/vomiting
  2. Fatigue
  3. Hair loss
  4. Constipation
  5. Weight gain

There were 12 altogether. He explained that in some cases you could get every side effect but in other cases you might get 1 or 2 it just depends on your body. And by the way, these side effects were only for the first round of chemo. The second round would be a whole different experience. By this time mum had started to cry. Hell, I wanted to as well, ‘what was I about to put my body through’. Fertility was another component that came up. I was 27 at the time. Chemotherapy is quiet dangerous on your fertility, I remember being worried for Bianca falling pregnant when she did chemo at 2-4 now here I am doing chemotherapy at 27. Obviously having a baby was something Patrick and I had spoken about after we got married. He wanted to have children straight away however I thought we should wait a bit just so we could be married for a while. I enjoyed it being just us two. Now I’m hearing we can’t do this for at least 5 years. We would be shutting down my ovaries using an injection called Zoladex. There was a 10% chance my ovaries wouldn’t wake up after I was done with my treatment so the other option was IVF. For anyone going through IVF you are more amazing then you know. I had ran the IVF plan through and figured with being poked and prodded from chemotherapy there was no chance I was putting my body through the extra pressure of IVF.

After meeting with my oncologist, it was like being told all over again I have cancer. The reality was that the next 6 months my body will go through hell, my life was on a complete pause and my future was going to be fucked. I had all these plans, and now the terrible ‘C’ word, the one we all fear so much was going to happen to me. I tried staying positive, but every time I thought about what I was about to go through I’d cry. I began playing around with scarves to see what I would look like and booking myself into makeup tutorials to make sure I knew what to do when I lost my eye brows. I was preparing myself for whatever was about to come my way.

I start chemo of the 15th of August with the Red devil. I remember walking in with mum and seeing other women, with no hair and feeling numb. I was trying so hard to be optimistic but inside I was dying. Chemo with AC is a process, first you do your pre meds which is an anti-nausea tablet, then they find your vein to be hooked up to fluid. You then have steroids injected in you. A nurse comes over to give you an icey pole (for ulcers during treatment) and then they explain that they need to sit next to you while the chemo goes in because AC is so strong it could burn your veins. That’s not scary! Once this is finished, a bigger bag of liquid (The C in AC) is injected. Then I have a flush of fluids before I leave to go home. I make it a point of driving myself there and home the whole time just so I know I can do this. The whole process takes about 4-5 hours. The first chemo is a tester, you have to figure out fast what the side effects are on you so you can plan for every other treatment. My first feeling when I left was my whole body was sore and I was very tired. We drove to my house so mum could make dinner, we had prepared for the worst. My expectation is that I would start profusely vomiting and be bed ridden. After a few hours however I realised aside from being in pain I wasn’t feeling ill. Mum left when Patrick came home. I told Patrick I would try to go to sleep earlier, take some Panadol and see how the rest of the night went. Little did I know the steroids would keep me awake all night so waking up the next day was a challenge. Lesson learnt, I need sleeping tablets. I woke up straight away and took an anti-nausea tablet, some Panadol and 2 glasses of water. I grabbed a blanket and set the couch up again anticipating a day of vomiting. It’s really hard to explain how I felt after treatment on Fridays. It was an all over soreness like you just finished a hard core gym session but everywhere. I also felt a little drunk, my eyes were burning and my head was sore. Hungover HA I’ve done this before this should be easy. I had my cousin baby sit on some of these Friday’s to help me out a bit just in case. Once I got through my first 6 days after treatment and headed into my second round of chemotherapy my nurse explained that this was it, this is how I was going to feel every round and not much will change with side effects. I had no nausea or vomiting, I was just sore on days 1 to 5. I felt tried, like couldn’t walk for 1 metre without feeling it. My treatments were always on a Thursday so by the Tuesday the next week I got a pretty decent head ache and by the Wednesday I felt fine. I asked for sleeping tablets for the remainder of my treatments and asked Patrick to sleep in the spare room for a couple nights so I could have a proper rest while I was taking steroids. I was totally prepared. My first round of treatment no hair came out. I honestly felt like there was a chance I wouldn’t be losing my hair. I remember telling people that it wasn’t thinning out so I must just be the lucky case. When I attended my second round, I met with my chemo nurse and oncologist so they could assess how I have been traveling. I tell them this theory and politely they say ‘Alana wait till Saturday’. I do my 4-5 hours and return home. It was the same feeling on Friday morning, I prepare to relax on the couch with my cousin and I notice that my hair is slowly coming out in strands. It’s happening, here we go. Saturday morning, it’s now coming out in huge clumps. The best way to describe it is there is a movie called ‘The Craft’ which has witches in it. One of the witches puts a curse on her bully for her to lose her hair. There is a scene where she is in the shower with strands of hair attached to her bald head. This was exactly how it was. I remember I went for a walk in the morning with some girlfriends to try and keep my mind off it. I had tied it in the back and thought if I just left it up it wouldn’t fall out. The whole day to me now is just a traumatic blur, I remember crying so hard in the shower and pulling my hair out and Patrick collecting it and putting it in the bin. I don’t think I have ever cried so hard in my life to be honest. I decided that I would shave it the next day. I wasn’t going to allow myself to go through this for longer than I had already. My beautiful long hair. It was time to go. It was Fathers Day, my whole family was at mum and dads so we decided to do this together. There were a lot of tears. Everyone had a turn in shaving a bit off. We all did this together which is exactly how it should be. My hair!! I was the happiest with it at this stage and it took forever to be happy with it. It was gone in about half an hour. The realisation has now set in. I have cancer. I’m going through treatment.

The Red Devil took a lot from me. I had 4 rounds every fortnight and was finished by the start of October. It took my hair and changed my whole perspective of cancer. For the first time simple tasks were hard to complete. For the first time I understood the feeling of fatigue. It took me to such dark places mentally. My whole focus was to finish this part and to move onto Taxol which was the next chemo. The side effects of Taxol were better on the body and I was going to return to work. To be honest time went incredibly fast at this point. I look back now and can’t believe I went through it but when you’re in it, you have tunnel vision to get to the end.

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