Part 10: After chemo – the road to recovery (almost)

The joy of finishing chemo was everything I could have hoped for. I was blown away by the messages, the flowers, the gifts and the response to publishing my blog.

(A reminder again to get those health checks booked in. It really made my day each time someone committed to get checked.)

My previous experience of rounds of chemo showed me that it would be a lottery as to how I would feel on Christmas Day – two days after the last session. My oncologist gave me an extra 10% of the chemo as it was the last one (I said to him to blast me with it knowing it was then over) and he also gave me extra steroids to get me through. I was delighted to be able to really enjoy Christmas Day – especially the children’s excitement, that isn’t a guarantee at 15 and 13. I managed to cook Christmas dinner and even have a snowy walk as a family. Then from 26th on it was tough again. My iron levels were lower than ever which certainly didn’t help. So, then it was a matter of each day hoping that the recovery would start. Headaches, no energy, feeling generally unwell and with no oomph for the most mundane tasks.

Patience is a virtue

Anyone who knows me is aware that patience is not a gift of mine. A week after chemo ended it felt amazing not to have to go for another dose, but I was still very weak. I made a plan to get out to walk each day and to set goals to do more of everything incrementally, while also not being too hard on myself.

About 10 days after, coinciding with New Year’s Eve, I finally started to feel the recovery start. However, now looking back to the photo I took on Jan 1 (to start to track hair growth), it’s clear that I was still pretty unwell. I look dreadful! So I was getting better, albeit not as quickly as I would like and then a week later again, it felt like a fog had lifted (probably iron levels getting back on track). And while I still haven’t got my previous energy levels back I am now able to enjoy each day and feel a sense of progress. I have started my online German learning, reading The Economist again, resumed my physio for my new hip, meditating once more… and this weekend we walked about 6k each day.

The only negative has been that I had to come to terms with my hair loss again. Somehow, having no hair when you’re going through chemo feel ok. But the moment it ended, not having hair felt awful all over again. Not for long, but I had a day when I felt really upset at the idea that it will be months and months before it isn’t obvious that I have had cancer treatment. And it’s hard not to be obsessed looking and feeling if it’s growing – especially eyelashes and eyebrows, the lack of which make you look exhausted! However, I am being positive about it and have even discovered that rather than scowling at my bald self in the mirror, I try to smile so I don’t look quite so stern!

What does feel fantastic is that people are still kindly asking how I am doing and being able to respond positively feels wonderful. During December, feeling rubbish nearly every day got repetitive.

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