I was admitted to St Anne’s Ward of St Vincent’s Hospital at the end of September 2015 for my first round of chemotherapy. I had been told my by specialist that due to the aggressiveness of the cancer I would have to undergo a very heavy treatment plan of both chemo and radiation, but that he was confident it would put me in to remission. He explained that only due to my young age (32) and my fitness, was he able to put me through such an intensive and aggressive treatment plan.
I was beginning to have bad headaches, pains behind my eyes and extreme sensitivity to light, so much so that I had to wear sunglasses, even indoors, it was pretty distressing. I was sent for an MRI of the brain to try and discover what was going on, nothing was found. It was getting worse so I kept pushing, telling them that something was not right and was subsequently sent for one or two more head scans. Only after the third scan it was found that the cancer had spread up to my sinus, which altered and extended the course of the treatment.
The treatment plan involved seven sessions of high level chemo over the course of about 5 or 6 months. Five of those were for my body and legs, and the other two were straight up to my head to provide protection for my brain. It consisted of 21 days cycles, one week in hospital, two weeks out. Each session basically lasted five solid days where I would be hooked up to the drip for 24 hours straight, with just a half hour to shower between each bag of chemo. In total I would be in the ward for just over a week, and then home for two weeks to recover until my body was able to start the next session.
I found it very difficult to be hooked up to the drip for 24 hours solid, basically confined to your room having to do this for five consecutive days each time. I found it tough mentally and physically, I felt trapped, but it had to be done and that was that. I think throughout the process one of the things that kept me going was the fact that my specialist was adamant that the treatment would put me in to remission, and after a long period of recovery I could return to running, despite the serious damage to my femur. Getting back running seemed to be a huge motivation for me from day one.
No word of a lie, this was one of my first meals in hospital. Hospital food is as bad as the stories go, there isn’t the biggest selection of foods to order from, it’s not great quality, and when you’re in for months on end, it gets tiring fast. No harm in keeping your own stash of snacks to keep you going, I also brought in a mini fridge to keep a few bits in.
I’m not just a chart number!
My specialist knew I was a runner, he was extremely impressed with my running backround and my determination to return to running, he referred to me as his marathon runner in his weekly meetings. A lot of nurses and doctors would be in and out of my room throughout the day and I didn’t like to be seen as just a chart number, so I filled the noticeboard in my room with my running photos and also hung my marathon medals from the wall. It created plenty more chat with the doctors and nurses and I just felt it helped them to see who I really am, and not just a cancer patient. Although it’s a hospital room, I feel you should make it your own while you’re there.
Qualified Financial Adviser 🙂
On October 21st while in for treatment I received my exam result from my final QFA exam, and I PASSED! I was in a fair amount of shock seeing as leading up to the exam I had been in hospital most days of the week due to the diagnosis, and had stopped studying. I was absolutely delighted, delighted that I had passed it, but even more so that I sat it, and didn’t have to worry about sitting it sometime after the treatment. I remember calling my girlfriend and asking her what she thought of the sound of Chris Proby QFA, needless to say she was ecstatic about it, especially considering everything that was going on. Of course being the amazing girlfriend she is, when she visited later that day tea and treats were on the menu. I suppose what I would like people to get from telling this piece is that even with a difficult diagnosis, don’t just give up on your plans and goals. Stay motivated. Remain determined.
There were a lot of side effects to the chemo treatment but they had a tablet for everything, so if you had nausea you got a tablet, couldn’t sleep you got a tablet, vomiting you got a tablet. As a person who really doesn’t like taking any form of tablet I really hated having to take so many, but going through that type of treatment it couldn’t be avoided. As for hair loss, I did lose all of my hair, every last one, but I was told it would grow back, I didn’t like it, but got myself a hat and rolled with it until it grew back. As for the food cravings, they can’t really be avoided, whatever it was you had a craving for, you had to eat it. I did find the cravings fairly constant and for someone who tries to eat quite healthy I just had to let it slide for a while, but I still tried to remain relatively healthy which was important to me.
The treatment plan was a 21 day cycle which consisted of one week in hospital and two weeks at home for recovery, and it was my sister who came up with the idea of carrots, the metaphorical kind. She said that each block of two weeks I have out I should have something organised to look forward to, perhaps a night away with my girlfriend, a nice meal out, anything that I would enjoy but obviously this would depend on my energy levels. It definitely helped keep me going while in hospital. I realised it was better to organise it for the end of the second week out of hospital, because when you first get out after being blasted by chemo you are absolutely drained. Each chemo session has an accumulative effect, so the further in to the treatment the tougher it got.
Maintaining a relationship
One of the most important things my girlfriend and I spoke about was the importance of doing our best to maintain our usual relationship and for it not to be taken over by hospital. Due to my fatigue and sickness, she did have to look after me a lot, whether it was doing the shopping, cooking meals, driving me to appointments and so on, but when I was able I did what I could. I was still on crutches so it made a lot of things quite difficult for me to do. So when we could, we had our movie nights, had nights away, dinner out, small walks out, treats, and just whatever we could do to keep having fun and keep enjoying ourselves, and it really helped us get through it all.
Christmas of 2015
The hospital team managed to ensure my two week break from treatment included being home for Christmas and New Year’s Eve which was great, because the only place you want to be for Christmas is at home with loved ones. I’ll be honest though, I don’t remember much about that Christmas at all. I was shattered from the treatment and slept through a lot of it but I was just happy to be at home and with my family, but it just wasn’t a normal Christmas.
I was happy to be home, and I was even happier to put 2015 behind me so that I could focus on my remaining few months in hospital and then hopefully get the hell out of there. 2015 for me was both one of my best ever years and also one of my worst ever years. I started a new job in Dublin, I met the girl of my dreams, I moved in with her, I ran a 3:06 marathon in Manchester, and I got my QFA, but unfortunately things turned nasty with my diagnosis.
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