MarySmith’sPlace ~ Cancer Diary #10

Monday, November 09: Each round of chemotherapy seems to bring a new addition to the range of side effects. There’s always tiredness and feeling generally horrible. Constipation. Heartburn. Not sleeping well is a regular side-effect – whether from the chemo or just because when you have a stonking great tumour in your lung you tend to be a bit anxious about what’s going to happen.

I’ve been lucky in not developing peripheral neuropathy as a side-effect and hope it stays that way – the tingling and pain in the fingers and feet sound very unpleasant. And, I haven’t lost my hair, though it has become thinner. In fact, since my last haircut I don’t think it has grown at all – may even be shrinking. At least it takes no time to dry nowadays and from what I’ve heard from others it will thicken up again once the chemo is over.

Last time I had a sore mouth. When the nurse phoned to do the pre-chemo assessment and ran through her list of possible problems, I told her. “Oh, did you use the mouthwash, we gave you? It really does help.” I admitted it hadn’t used the tub of sodium bicarbonate they’d given me to make up a mouthwash – I didn’t admit I’d used it make Irish soda bread. It’s a big tub so there’s plenty left to use as a mouthwash.

Of course, this time, I didn’t have the sore mouth – instead I had a really dry mouth with very little saliva. Fortunately, my lovely dentist had already supplied me with artificial saliva in the form of pastilles, gel and spray.  

I know I had a bit of a whinge last week but looking back, the week after round two of chemo was far worse emotionally, if not physically, than round three. I’ve been thinking about this and why it might be so. I wonder if after the first chemo cycle, we’re so glad treatment has finally started and are feeling positive about its effect on the tumour. The side effects are not as bad as we feared and we feel we can cope.

By the time we go through it a second time, we’re perhaps not quite so positive. More side- effects appear which are harder to deal with and we have absolutely no idea if this toxic mix we allow to be dripped into our bodies is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. We feel crap and begin to wonder why we are putting ourselves through this hell. For me, one of the worst aspects of cancer and its treatment is the never really knowing what’s going on. The endless waiting to find out is also pretty tough. No wonder we get so bad-tempered and don’t sleep well.

I am astonished, when the side-effects wear off to find I feel perfectly well. How can this be when a malignant tumour is inside my lung, hell bent on killing me?

I think this time round – third – I kept reminding myself I would feel better after a few days. It took a bit longer this time – but I don’t think I was as bad-tempered as before – though you might have to ask the DH for his opinion on that statement.

Realising I can’t influence the action of the chemo I’m trying to block thoughts about whether the tumour is shrinking, growing or remaining stable. It’s pointless worrying about it. I said to my friends Sue and Lynn, “You can remind me of this, when I’m suffering from ‘scanxiety’ after the final dose and am waiting for the next scan results.”

We’ve had a few dry, bright days so I’ve been able to get out for walks – both along a beach and in the countryside. That’s when it feels the healing is happening.

The coast walk – dry but chilly
Near Rockcliffe
The countryside walk
These placid cows, met on the walk, are specially for Beetley Pete
I love this walk – we have moorland, woodland and the loch
And who lives here?

And with only one medical appointment this week – a Vitamin B12 injection this morning – I threw clothes into black plastic bags and am now installed in a hut on Carrick shore for the rest of this week. This is why I’m so late putting up this post. I arrived here mid-afternoon full of good intentions to get cracking on the blog after a quick wander along the shore, but then was seduced by watching and listening to the tide come in, sea birds calling, the sun setting, the light fading and the stars appearing. It may not shrink the tumour, but it makes me glad to be alive and still able to savour such times.

121 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace ~ Cancer Diary #10

  1. Mary, Carrick Shore sounds ‘the very dab’ and I like to think breathing in the air there, taking in the sights and sounds will be doing as much or more than the toxins. But bring on anything at all that will work. So glad you are in beautiful Galloway and can have such times while going through all this.x

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  2. I loved how you made the soda bread with the prescription powder. And I like the idea of being in a shoreline hut; cancer or no cancer. The mention of cows is interesting, as only this afternoon I spoke to two elderly ladies who were ‘unnerved’ by the same cows on Hoe Rough that I am still avoiding.
    You are a brave lady, Mary. But I already knew that.
    Alays rooting for you, from our little village hundreds of miles south.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

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  3. Thank you for the update, mary. Good to hear the weather was dry and you could go out for walks. The photos are beautiful. The chemo shocked your hair growth but good to hear you didn’t lose your hair. It will be back to normal in no time. Pray that the third round of chemo shrinks the tumor.

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    • Thanks, Miriam. Glad you like the photos. I am lucky to live in such a beautiful place. A friend recently went through chemo and his hair became thinner but is now growing more thickly than before. One more round for me then a scan to see what has been happening to the tumour.

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      • Yes, Mary, you’re lucky to live in a beautiful place. I know it is something I don’t take for granted. I don’t do too well in the cold. Times like these, you would wish you could fast forward to see what happens. But I’m sure the good news will come very soon.

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  4. Mary, you are appreciating the many wonders of being alive—moments of awareness. As I read your blog, I was able to capture your feelings. Again, you are facing your cancer diagnosis and treatments with more courage than I could muster. Although sharing your journey might be cathartic for you, it’s inspirational for the rest of us. Prayers and blessings, Linda 🙏🏻❤️

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    • It’s strange isn’t it? We could be appreciating all those wonders of being alive and moments of awareness all the time but it’s only when we realise we may not around for long they suddenly become so much more important. I hope to spend the next few days enjoying what’s around me and not thinking of tumours, cancer or chemo 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments and prayers.

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  5. Thanks for your weekly posting, Mary. I hope it’s as good for you to tell it how it is as it is for us to know how you are feeling. Funny that about cows. I always find Scottish cows placid & easy going but friends in England often seem to have bad experiences with cows when out on walks.Great photos, what a great place to stay.

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  6. It’s one thing to hear, “S/he’s going through chemo,” and it’s another thing to read it as someone is surviving through it.

    Odds are, one or more of the people reading your blog will have cancer. Writing about the experience is cathartic; know that you are helping others at the same time.

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  7. Lovely photos, Mary. Thanks for sharing them and for updating us. Had a giggle at your use of the sodium bicarbonate. Hope you’re having a lovely time by the shore. Sending positive thoughts your way.

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    • Positive thoughts arriving as I type this, Wendy. Glad you like the photos – I hope to have some of the shore and surrounds next time. It is a pretty big tub of soda bicarbonate, which would last for months even if I used it as a mouthwash every day 🙂 And soda bread is lovely.

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  8. Being ‘seduced by watching and listening to the tide come in, sea birds calling, the sun setting, the light fading and the stars appearing’ sounds like good medicine to me! ❤
    Did you ever find a source for medicinal mushrooms?

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    • I think it’s good medicine, too, Eliza. It might not do anything for the tumour but for my peace of mind it’s definitely healing.
      No, I haven’t sourced the medicinal mushrooms. But, a friend is going to find out where her friend sources hers. I’m also going to take it up with the oncologist and show her the research I found plus the info you sent as I’m still not happy with the pharmacist’s dismissive rejection of the idea.

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  9. I am of course happy to read about your struggles even if ‘happy’ feels as inapt a descriptor as you can imagine. But you make it easy by deconstructing your emotions and unpicking the whys behind your responses. And without being told, we can all understand those dark wee hours when your world must seem inside out, when you probably feel most alone. Its then ‘happy to read’ becomes ‘hard to bear’. Just know that’s when many many people are with you, willing you and your chemical crew to repel boarders and avast the cowardly invader.
    And what’s with the little blue door? Does Scotland support a race of microhobbits?

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    • I think that’s as good a response to my post as I could hope for, Geoff. Thank you.
      As for the little blue door – on the walk past the loch, the path comes to a stand of trees and we noticed, first, the blue door at the foot of a tree trunk then saw there were other tiny doors set into several of the trees. I think they must be home to elves – or maybe wood sprites.

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  10. Thank you so much for the updates you give us, Mary. Being at Carrick just has to help a bit – a magical place with the sea and the birds and seals. I hope you feel well enough to walk out to the enchanted bramble island when the sun shines. The cows in the photo look gorgeous.
    Mmmm…sodabread! Bicarbonate also helps reduce the smell of cat pee if Bandit ever has an accident. Dotty and Small have a big black friend/enemy who sometimes comes in through the cat flap and marks (not his) territory so we need a lot of bicarbonate. I’m not sure if everyone wants to read this but thought it would make you giggle Mary. I hope the Carrick sunshine comes out for you.
    Juliet xxx

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    • Bandit is too much of a diva to have accidents but I wish I’d known about the properties of soda bic to get rid of the smell of cat pee when we had our last cat. He was enraged when a stray kitten followed David home one day and from then on went on a territory marking campaign.
      No sunshine yet and it has started raining so the islands in front of the hut are disappearing. I’m snug and cosy, though.

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  11. So grateful for your honesty. Our daughter in law had intensive chemo and radio. We’ve gone through the post treatment MRI scanxiety by proxy at a distance. Clear so far. She’s never shared the complex and increasing side effects of treatment so it’s only through reading your diaries we can get an inkling of what she’s been through. Your generosity in sharing your journey is, I hope, making us more empathetic parents in law.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Carolyn. Of course, everyone’s journey through chemo is different and I am aware I have, so far, got off pretty lightly as regards side-effects. I think it is easier to share through writing than it is to tell someone verbally what it’s like. I hope your daughter-in-law continues to do well.

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  12. Nature, the best medicine of all and there are no negative side effects. And of course, a supplement of laughter. I don’t know if you are familiar with the late Norman Cousins? Among the books, he wrote is Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration. Mr. Cousins was a journalist, editor, publisher, professor of medical Humanities and, activist. xx

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    • There’s plenty left if I need it, Leonie 🙂 The sun is coming out now and everything is glistening after the rain and the islands are re-emerging in sharp relief. I love the way the scenery is ever-changing. And the sea air should help me sleep!

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  13. Seems, one of the Irish Leprechauns – or is there only one of them ? – has taken over to one of Scoland’s trees. 😉 Great getting a chance for a walk on fresh air. You are having such a wonderful countryside. Its so unfair getting such a illness, and after years no universal vaccine against that. Best wishes to you, Mary. Stay save, and dont be away from fun, whenever possible. Michael

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  14. If you walk out to Ardwall Island perhaps you’ll find the buried treasure that our children searched for 40 years ago when we stayed there. Unless of course, the inhabitants behind the blue door got there first. Enjoy your stay, Mary. Sending love.

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    • I didn’t know there was treasure buried there, Lynn – or was that a story you made up for your children? I see there is a tide times booklet in the hut so I’ll check and maybe take a walk over if the tides are right. It is so peaceful here. Love back.

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    • It is wonderful, Jemima. I can’t believe where the day has gone – most of it spent gazing out at the sea and the islands. There are indeed oystercatchers so I’ll say hello tomorrow from you – also curlews, an egret, crows and the little bit of garden outside the hut has a resident robin and a blackbird and wife. I didn’t spot a heron today but there is usually one around.

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    • Thanks so much, Pam. I’m savouring a nice glass of red right now, along with the solitude and the warmth from a wood burning stove – which I have finally sussed out how to operate. The soda bread was god, even if I say it myself. I do appreciate your support x

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  15. I enjoy popping into your place a couple of days after you post to read the comments Mary. Apart from enjoying the bicarb (just had a slice of my own homemade soda bread to bolster me for the grocery run tomorrow) and I have a pot upstairs and use it on my teeth a couple of times a week, great for tea stains. Good that you have put a bit of weight on and right now in your glorious bolt hole you don’t want to be worrying about your hair anyway…it will come back bigger and better than ever. Carrick sounds lovely and full of character.. enjoy the sea and beach and the wood burning stove.. we are all there in spirit..♥♥

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  16. The place sounds delightful. Make the best of it, Mary, and don’t worry about the blog. Just do whatever you feel like doing. I also thought about Pete when I saw the picture of the cows (I have a soft spot for cows, although I don’t see them very often now).
    Thinking of you and sending you sun and positive vibes. ♥

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    • It is, Olga, though it’s becoming pretty chilly now so I’ll be lighting the wood burning stove soon. Glad you like cows, too. You must come here one day and I’ll take you round to see lots and lots of cows! Thanks for your, always appreciated, support. xx

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  17. your treatment options sound similar to mine. 1st Chemo yesterday. I waiting for the heavy duty stuff, I did find the initial day not bad. Of course I can’t sleep; my blood sugar (I’m a type 2 diabetic) is very high.

    thanks for the great info. Great photography.

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    • Hi, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. It’s a weird world we have entered, isn’t it? I find the days I go in for the chemo are generally not too bad (hope I’m not tempting fate there) but it’s a couple of days later when the steroids are out my system the side effects kick in – and never quite knowing which ones will appear. Good luck.

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  18. I hope your time away was well spent. Peace of mind cannot be undervalued when going through treatment for cancer. I can understand how hard it is just waiting. Here, there is a concoction called ‘magic mouthwash’ usually made by a compounding pharmacy. It is used for people going through chemo and I have used it for an episode of thrush. It would not be suitable for bread making that’s for sure. Still praying for you, Mary.

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