This has been a period of weird ups and downs.
I'm now into the second full week of my treatment, and I'm starting to feel it, with days where I feel completely washed out and quite sick. I knew to expect this – nausea is the main side-effect of Temozolomide, my particular flavour of chemo, and although it is controlled with anti-emetics I was moved to milder ones after day five, so I anticipated a certain queasiness – but I hadn't anticipated such an impact. The nausea has been mild, but it ruins my concentration and leaves me oddly devoid of ideas. And that is buggering up my day, to be frank.
Last week, for instance, I started writing a blog entry about what is offensive these days; starting with my own propensity for cancer jokes, pulling in some recent remarks made by Frankie Boyle, making a brief visit to Chris Rock as portrayed in the American Office, and ending up on the Scottish Government's shiny new anti-sectarian legislation. I thought through my argument, did my research, sorted out my links and… couldn't bring it together. It just wasn't working. Sure, I could physically write the piece, but I realised as I was going that there was nothing compelling in it, nothing interesting, funny or hmmm-worthy. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't make it gel on the page. And it was because I felt sick – although not terribly, I've frankly had worse hangovers – and it was throwing my mind all over the place.
This was quite disturbing. You have to realise that I can normally churn out 1000 publishable words in just over an hour, slightly more if they’re also to sing. And I've done it through colds, flu, food poisoning, and (you may remember) from my hospital bed six hours or so after brain surgery. So this was a bit like having a hand off but not noticing until you go to use it. Still, writer's block happens, I supposed, so I put the piece aside and went to bed.
The next day, I felt worse. The day after, fine. Saturday, I felt crap in the morning then perfectly OK in the evening. On Sunday I felt terrific. Then yesterday I felt absolutely bloody awful: fine in the morning, but sick and tired from lunchtime, and by the time I got back from my late-afternoon cranial zapping I was shattered – sick, headachey, and unable to regulate my own body temperature; sitting in a warm room in a heavy jersey, under a blanket, hugging a hot water bottle and with a heat-pack at my back, and still shivering. I assumed I'd caught flu, probably from hanging about in hospitals – why do they let all these sick people in? – and went to bed when I felt warm enough to move.
And then, this morning, I felt fine again. Not flu then. Not the chemo, either, as it turns out: I reported my symptoms during my weekly guinea pig session at The Beatson's clinical research unit, and apparently this is the accumulated effect of radiation therapy. My brain's swelling.
So I'm back on the steroids once more, my old chum Dexamethasone. I had it in the weeks around my surgery, you may remember, and it's great. Sorted out some bruised ribs, too, as a welcome side-effect to keeping my brain smaller than my skull.
A less welcome side-effect is that I have to watch the booze a bit, since the combination burns great holes in the stomach-lining; but since I feel immeasurably better, I really don't care. Anyway I get Losec for that, so that's the chronic acid indigestion I've had for the best part of 20 years and which no-one medical I have ever met has seemed inclined to treat or even investigate, sorted for the duration as an added plus.
I received the sacrament of one small white pill this afternoon with the benediction that it would make me feel better "almost instantly" and, while I wasn't actually feeling particularly unwell, I did. Still do.
Ah, Dex. Dexy, Dexy, Dex-Dex. Pal. Welcome back.
It seems pathetic to be happy about just feeling normal, but I suppose this is what addicts must feel when they have their first morning dose of whatever it is that for them staves off the shakes, sickness and spiders. It's just a huge sense of relief.
Dex is also addictive and has a spectacularly gory range of side-effects. So I can't be on it for long. But, for now, it's great.
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