Part 3: Getting ready

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

I now know that 26 August (a Wednesday) is the day that I will face that chemo shizzle. The stuff of multiple films and books. You have a picture in your mind: hairloss, nausea, vomiting, weakness, exhaustion.

So, it’s time to get ready.

The great thing is that I was able to ask a number of people who have been through this and had an appointment at the Onkoszentrum with my lovely Dutch nurse. So I have the information I need.

Tips I got:

  1. Chemo care shopping list:
  2. Soft toothbrush, no-alcohol toothpaste and mouthwash
  3. Non-perfumed lip balm
  4. Tablets for constipation
  5. Natural body lotion
  6. Nail hardener
  7. Wig
  8. Soft hair covering (my Auntie Angela recommended buff.com neck/headwear)
  9. Oodles of courage
  • Don’t plan anything the days after (obvs)
  • Everyone is different
  • The anti-nausea drugs work
  • Tell the nurse every symptom – they are there to help
  • It is going to be horrid!

Surgery

I had my surgery to fit the port-a-cath. And this was a grim 30 minutes under local anaesthetic. Thank heavens for a great surgeon Dr Sager and a really kind anaesthetist… Having had 3 surgeries this year, the fourth was the worst – something to do with being awake! But, after one really uncomfortable day, it really isn’t too bad. More weird to have a lump of plastic just under the skin.

My other key part of preparation has been to meet three amazing Mums from my children’s school. Two who have been through breast cancer and the other ovarian cancer. I was keen to understand what to expect and how to prepare. And what I have learned matches everything I have read. The tough part is everyone is different, so until you have the treatment you can’t know how bad it will be. Just that it will be bad.

And then there is the work preparation. The good news is that one of the fantastic, brave fellow cancer club members said that she wishes she did what I plan to do – and start off with the intention to work as much as is possible. She described how hard it was to go from a demanding job she loved one day to being a cancer patient only the next…

At work I am putting in the plans with the goal to manage the scenario of me being available about 50% or if I just don’t feel physically or mentally able to work. The thing I love about my job is the complexity and the adrenalin of the challenges of deadlines or many balls in the air. What would be ideal now would be routine and calm! I have superb colleagues from my own team, my CEO, COO, CFO and peers and a network of communications professionals all around the world. The offers of practical and emotional support have been a great comfort.

The challenge of my life

So how I see this is that, like sport and pretty much any challenge, it is a mental as well as physical challenge. So, I am meditating daily, filling up my gratitude bucket and getting ready for the challenge of my life so far. I am getting the visions of the end goal in mind: being back in control of everything and loving it in the office; enjoying everyday family life; an amazing beach holiday (that normally my family wouldn’t indulge me in); a trip to the Ile de Re with the Hicksons; a trip to Champagne with the girls… etc, etc, etc…

And the analogy that I have in mind is when we visited the Colca Canyon (one of the deepest canyons in the world) North of Arequipa in Peru. We stayed in a wonderful Peruvian family home of our guide, Remy, and trekked to the bottom (easy, pleasant, amazing views) and then got up at dawn (less hot) to trek back up. I had always followed my Mum’s notion of ‘I don’t do hills’ – I did them, but thought it was a bad idea. But then Remy taught me to walk… his approach was to get ‘rhythmo, rhythmo’ (rhy-them, rhy-them) going in your head and to just walk.  A bit like a metronome… this chanting changed my view of hills. At the top of this arduous hike, it’s one of the best places in the world to see the condor soar on the thermals. I breathtaking experience, all the more satisfying because of the climb.

So, I face Wednesday with the idea that each moment when it appears that I don’t have enough energy to step towards the beautiful condors. So it will be ‘rhythmo, rhythmo’, one foot in front of the other and taking in the amazing scenery and drawing energy from my incredible crew as we go.

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