My First Chemotherapy Treatment

My First Chemotherapy Treatment

My first chemotherapy treatment was 14 days ago and I thought I’d share with you how it’s all been going.

There are no ‘gory details’ to share so I don’t think I need to warn you of any possible triggers :)

I had my first session on December 21st and to say I was terrified would be an understatement.  I was scared of the whole thing: sitting in the chair, what it would feel like as the drugs ‘went in’, wearing the cold cap, using my portacath for the first time and of course how I would feel after the session.  I also felt physically ill from the day before as I’d caught a chest infection from my kids and it had hit hard.

I arrived at the hospital first thing and was greeted by one of the lovely chemo nurses.  I should say at this point that they are ALL lovely so far – like the nicest, friendliest nurses I’ve ever met and they do such a good job at putting me at ease and answering my many, many questions.

My First Chemotherapy Treatment - AC chemo to treat Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis Mum with Cancer First Chemo Session

Image Source: Pixabay

After filling in some paperwork, off to THE CHAIR I went and sat down to wait for another nurse to come and help put on the cold cap.  The chair isn’t that bad at all by the way.  It’s comfortable, it reclines, it has it’s own remote control.  It has a telly in front of it.  It’s ok.

I was given a sedative (they asked if I wanted one, hell yes!) and some Panadol to help with the effects of the cold cap.

The cold cap, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a big old effort to try and keep as much of my hair as possible.  It’s a very tightly fitting cap that I will wear for each of my chemo sessions and it’s filled with a gel that actually freezes my scalp to between -15 and -40 degrees (brr).  This narrows the blood vessels in my scalp which in turn reduces the amount of chemo that gets to the hair follicles and this is all in the hope that the hair will then stay put.

Unfortunately it really lengthens the time of each session by about 1.5 hours before and after as it needs to be worn before to ensure my head is totally frozen before the chemo starts and then after to keep doing it’s work.  So each AC chemo session for me is 5-6 hours.

I have major claustrophobia issues so wearing such a tight fitting cap and then the effects of it were not particularly nice but a crappy Christmas film came on as it was starting and watching that helped to distract me.  It wasn’t unbearable so as long as I don’t just go bald this week, I’ll persist with it.  Shame you can’t get cold caps for your eyebrows too!!  As you know, I’m just a bit stressed about the possibility of losing them.

So, in the chair I went, cold cap doing it’s bit, crap telly on and Mr M sat next to me.  They couldn’t use the portacath that first time unfortunately as it had only been in for a couple of days and was too new but luckily they found an arm vein straight away.

My First Chemotherapy Treatment - AC chemo to treat Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis Mum with Cancer First Chemo Session

The sedative definitely helped relax me.  Not to the point I think I could have slept but it took the edge off my nerves and actually the experience wasn’t that bad.  I sat there for 3 hours of chemo and then the additional cold cap time.  In that time, the nurses would come along and hook up my different bags of chemo cocktail and check on me.

I didn’t ‘feel’ anything going in or any other sensations but perhaps it was masked by the (slightly overwhelming at times) feeling of my head being frozen.  I can’t say I’m looking forward to wearing the cap again but I know if it keeps some of my hair, I’ll be grateful for being persistent with it.  Oh they smother your head in hair conditioner first so you can imagine how minging I looked when I left the hospital with greasy ‘hat head’!

After the session finished I went home and was grateful it was all over with.  Then it was just a matter of waiting for my symptoms to start – which is so psychologically weird.  I’m sure you are all aware of some of the possible side effects of chemo but really the list is endless.  It truly is pregnancy’s evil twin and you all know how much I loved being pregnant.

I was sent home with sedatives, a couple of different anti-nausea prescriptions and steroids which would also help with nausea.

I’d been advised by friends and by my Oncologist to keep a diary of my physical and psychological symptoms.  Firstly so I could report back on how I was effected in case they need to help me with anything in the next session but also because it would give me a good guide for future sessions on how I could expect to feel and when.  Apparently chemo is quite predictable like that.

For the first few days I did have nausea but I haven’t had any vomiting thankfully.  It was like the same nausea I had when I was pregnant – not unbearable, just not particularly nice and it definitely made me less interested in eating.  Which is a big bonus as I’ve lost weight over Christmas and New Year – get me ha ha!  I have also had an upset tummy every single day since – sorry if that’s too much information but full disclosure.

The pregnancy acid reflux returned pretty much from day one and lasted about 10 days – fun!  I got one mouth ulcer which isn’t too bad.  I had been warned about them being a common symptom and I’ve been making up the ‘chemo mouthwash’ they recommend which is basically warm water, salt and bicarbonate of soda.  Yummy.

The worst of the nausea was probably in the first week but it was definitely bearable – I just need to be aware that normally with this chemo, side effects worsen with each session so I probably got off lightly with this first one.

Christmas was lovely and very relaxing and I didn’t feel too bad at all.  We were going to travel to see family but my Oncologist had told me I couldn’t travel too far from the hospital after the first session.  Instead we had our first Christmas ever on our own and as a family of four.  It was so lovely to have quiet time, just for us and a little Christmas dinner together.  Miss M loved being spoilt all day.  It isn’t really the ‘done thing’ to not spend Christmas with other people so we really made the most of having a legitimate excuse to spend it alone as we probably won’t ever get the chance again.  Not that we’d want to of course, but you know what I mean.

Two things were not good though.  Firstly, on days 8 & 9 I felt completely wiped out and on one of them I couldn’t even leave the house all day.  We’re in the process of moving house and every other day, I’d been going to the house or shops and getting things moved and set up.

It’s difficult to explain but physically it was like I just couldn’t do anything except lie down.  Mentally though, it was pretty horrible.  A very weird kind of anxious and down feeling that I just couldn’t shake.  It wasn’t that I felt negative as such but it was like all of the positivity had been drained out of me and I couldn’t imagine ever feeling positive and happy again.  That sounds so dramatic I know but it hit me so hard and for those 2 days, I felt very very down.  I had a good cry to my Mum about it.

Thankfully, and with the help of some lovely ladies in an online support group I’m in, the dark cloud did lift and I started feeling much better from day 10 and still do now.  When they advise you to take it one day at a time, they mean it.  It’s good advice.

However, the second thing that hasn’t been good and still isn’t it the bloody chest infection.  Since December 21st I have done nothing but cough constantly and I’m completely exhausted with it.  I’ve been hospitalised with it twice on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and had chest x-rays that have confirmed it luckily isn’t anything more than a chest infection but it’s just been a massive drain on me.

Chemo zaps the bad cells in your body but it also zaps the good ones and that includes my white blood cells which have been very very low in the last few days.  I just do not have the resources to fight this viral infection like a normal person does.

I’ve just finished 2 courses of anti-biotics and I’m now on a steroid spray and a Ventolin inhaler (my new best friend) and I think I’m slowly getting better.

I have honestly never felt more ill in my life than I have in the past 2 weeks and the stupid thing is that really, it has nothing to do with the chemo.  Chemo has nothing on this chest infection!  I just hope I’m over the worst of it because my next session is soon and the thought of going into it when I still feel so ill is upsetting.

That all aside though, my first chemo treatment has been nothing like as terrifying and unbearable as I thought it would be.  Sitting in the chair was fine.  Having the chemo administered was fine.  The symptoms, so far, are fine.

I now know when I can probably expect my worst days to be and when I can hopefully expect to start feeling human again which means I shouldn’t be as freaked out when it happens next time and I can also make future plans around how I will possibly be feeling.

I haven’t lost any head hair yet but friends have told me to expect some shedding at least from now on so we’ll see how that goes.  I have lost a little bit of body hair and when I plucked my eyebrows a bit yesterday, I noticed immediately that they come away straight away.  It isn’t even a ‘pluck’ to be honest, they just come away.  Noooo eyebrows – don’t leave meeeeeeeeeee.  I’m sorry I called you caterpillars, I like caterpillars!

Since I had my hair cut, and possibly since the cold cap, my head feels like it’s in a vice.  It’s that feeling like when you have your hair tied up too tight and you just want to take it down to get some relief but I can’t take it down because there’s none there!  Even when I touch my scalp, it’s numb.  It’s just weird.  Maybe it means it’s coming out soon.  I’m only washing it 1-2 times per week with baby shampoo and barely touching it otherwise.  It looks crap most days but that’s ok, I see other people walking around with crap hair too ha ha!

So, one AC chemo down, another 3 to do.  I’m a 1/4 of the way there!  Then it’s weekly Taxol chemo.  You can find out more about my chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment plan here.

To sum up what chemo side effects feel like, it’s like your worst hangover ever.  Think dehydration, upset tummy, anxiety and that feeling that you’ve gone too far and actually poisoned yourself this time.  And I have poisoned myself but I just need to focus on it being all part of the ‘getting better’ process.  I’m not doing this for nothing.  I’m doing it because I’m doing everything I possibly can to ensure that I’m here for my family.  I’m just hope I’m here with eyebrows on. :)

My First Chemotherapy Treatment - AC chemo to treat Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis Mum with Cancer First Chemo Session

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  1. Carol Hedges
    3rd January 2016 / 9:03 pm

    Read this with huge interest. Just about to have my 2nd year checkup for breast cancer. Op was 2 yrs ago. Managed to avoid chemo as it was DCIS. Always a nervous time though..your detailed and honest description is very helpful! Hope it all goes ”well” for you….

    • 3rd January 2016 / 9:05 pm

      Thank you so much Carol! I have everything crossed for your 2nd check up, best of luck and do let me know how you get on :)

  2. 3rd January 2016 / 9:08 pm

    Oh I am keeping everything crossed for the eye brows. You could try the scouse brow look as an alternative ;)
    Following your journey with love and interest xx

    • 3rd January 2016 / 9:17 pm

      Hee hee I might have to perfect that look! Thank you lovely x x

  3. Mumma McD
    3rd January 2016 / 9:19 pm

    Your positivity is amazing Mim xx

    • 3rd January 2016 / 9:20 pm

      Oh thank you lovely! x x

  4. 3rd January 2016 / 9:30 pm

    Oh Mim – you have written this so wonderfully. It sounds harrowing and you are so brave. You even managed to make me laugh with your eyebrow referral – I totally get it – your eyebrows are awesome but just remember, if they do fall out you can still draw them on. There is always a way and you are beautiful anyway, eyebrows or no eyebrows. Well done on getting through your first chemo and sorry that the chest infection has made it all the worse. You are so so strong lady. Thank you for sharing your story – I can’t imagine how many people it will be helping. Love you huni xx

    • 3rd January 2016 / 9:33 pm

      Thank you so much lovely lady! I am definitely going to have to learn to draw them on – after years of complaining they were too big. That will teach me :) x x

  5. 3rd January 2016 / 9:46 pm

    Oh you wonderful brave person- wishing you all the best and sending heaps of positivity for 2016 xx

    • 3rd January 2016 / 9:52 pm

      Thank you so so much that’s so lovely! x x

  6. 3rd January 2016 / 9:59 pm

    Glad it hasn’t been as awful as anticipated. You definitely rock that cold cap. Much love Mrs xxx

    • 3rd January 2016 / 10:00 pm

      Oh thank you lovely hee hee! x x

  7. 3rd January 2016 / 10:12 pm

    You do have amazing eyebrows, but they’ll grow back if they do go plus think of the plucking time you could save ;)
    Your strength is amazing lady, I have every confidence you can beat this, but you still keep making my eyes water when I read what you’re going through regardless of how positive you sound.
    Stevie xxx

    • 3rd January 2016 / 10:14 pm

      Oh you’re so lovely! My eyebrows do look a little shocking here though as I was too scared to pluck them for ages – they’re unkempt ha ha! x x

    • 3rd January 2016 / 10:14 pm

      Ha ha that is brilliant! Thanks lovely :) x

  8. 4th January 2016 / 1:21 am

    Yay. Well done Mim. One down! Glad to hear you are feeling better now and I’m praying for your eyebrows! Xx

    • 4th January 2016 / 10:17 am

      Hee hee thanks lady!! x x

  9. 4th January 2016 / 3:39 am

    I’m glad the process wasn’t as bad as you’d been expecting, but the anxiety sounds all kinds of rubbish, sorry hun.

    I am LOVING that cold cap though, you make it look all kinds of awesome ;-) Hope the eyebrows hang in there for you and woohoo on being 1/4 of the way through this section xx

    • 4th January 2016 / 10:17 am

      Yay thank you lovely!! I want to fast forward to the end ha ha! x x

  10. 4th January 2016 / 5:24 am

    What a bloody awful time to get a chest infection. You might have shifted it quicker without the chemo but obviously they can’t delay. You’re so brave to try the cold cap- it must feel horrid. I think I’d be more nervous of that although I know chemo is horrible.
    Keep going and keep your head held high, eye brows or no eye brows, hair loss or no hair loss. My meds make me lose a lot of hair although it’s only in patches and it drives me mad! Practice pencilling your brows whilst they are still here and watch YouTube videos maybe to practice techniques. Big hugs and lots of love xxx

    • 4th January 2016 / 10:16 am

      Thank you so much beautiful! I definitely need to hit up YouTube for those tutorials – drawing on eyebrows is a whole new world for me! x x

  11. 4th January 2016 / 9:39 am

    I don’t have much experience of chemo. My grandad had it but obviously he was in a completely different position to you – old and falling apart not young and spritely. This was interesting for me to read but also so sad too – you shouldn’t have to go through this. I am praying your eyebrows and hair stay put! If you ever need a distraction, someone to talk to that literally knows nothing about anything then I am here, anytime. Lots of love x

    • 4th January 2016 / 10:15 am

      Oh thank you lady I appreciate that so so much! x x

  12. 4th January 2016 / 10:10 am

    I’m so glad it wasn’t as bad as you expected it to be…..You are being amazing! x

    • 4th January 2016 / 10:15 am

      Thank you lovely! x x

  13. 4th January 2016 / 6:47 pm

    I am so sorry you’re having to go through this Mim, but it’s so good that you can share it and hopefully feel like you have all your supporters there with you along the way. I know a friend who had the cold cap and it wasn’t pleasant, I hope it works for you and your eyebrows stay! Sending lots and lots of love to you xxx Julia

    • 4th January 2016 / 6:50 pm

      Thank you so much beautiful x x

  14. 7th January 2016 / 8:26 pm

    Ooh gosh, I found this such an interesting read – after all nobody really knows what chemo is like unless they are sadly faced with going through it and even then everybody’s story is different. My dad had chemo at 52 yr old (so older than yourself but not what you’d describe as old) and I accompanied him for some of the sessions. Happily, he didn’t need to wear the cold cap and didn’t loose his hair either, so your mention of it is the first I’ve heard of it – it really doesn’t sound very nice – but if it means keeping your beautiful locks then needs must.
    I totally agree about your description of the chemo nurses, they’re fantastic aren’t they – making what could be a totally depressing experience far more bearable.
    Take care, #brilliantblogposts
    Angela x

    • 7th January 2016 / 8:52 pm

      You’re so right, the nurses are just so so nice and they have such a tough job in so many way – they’re amazing! I hope all is ok with your dad now and I’m so envious he avoided the cold cap ha ha! x x

      • 11th January 2016 / 7:21 pm

        Dad is doing great. His cancer certainly seems to have beggared off since his surgery and chemo – his diagnosis was over 10 yrs ago – so touch wood……I’ve just read Mother Mand’s cancer post – so glad you’ve both made contact she’s a brilliant woman – so grounded and full of zing!
        Angela x

        • 11th January 2016 / 7:35 pm

          That’s absolutely brilliant!! She really is wonderful – if I could have just an 1/8 of her positivity and strength I’ll have no problems beating this :) x x

  15. 8th January 2016 / 8:20 am

    This probably sounds like SUCH a weird thing to say, but this is really interesting. I do of course also think you’re doing so well and are so strong (I’m not just a weirdo). I’d never heard of the cold cap – isn’t it amazing what they come up with? Hope it works (people do amazingly realistic work faking eyebrows, btw – don’t know how, but they do!). Glad that the chemo wasn’t unbearable & didn’t ruin your Christmas, but such a shame about the chest infection. Hope that clears soon. Lots of love. xx

    • 8th January 2016 / 7:58 pm

      Ha I know exactly what you mean and thank you – I suppose part of what I’m doing is trying to ‘normalise’ cancer and cancer treatment – to take away the fear and the unknown x x

  16. 8th January 2016 / 8:46 pm

    Looking truly gorgeous with your short hair darling – keep up the bravery! xxx

    • 8th January 2016 / 8:52 pm

      Ahh thank you lovely! x x x

  17. 10th January 2016 / 8:12 am

    I’m so glad it wasn’t as bad as you thought it might be, but what a nightmare to be ill with an infection at the same time. This is such a great account of your personal experience of the treatment but also really informative. I’ve never looked into what ‘having chemo’ actually means before. You’ve explained it so well. Fingers crossed for the eye brows, hair and any body hair that you are particularly attached to!! Xxx

    • 10th January 2016 / 12:24 pm

      Thank you lady :) The infection was a million times worse but thankfully is on the way out now :) x

  18. Toni @ Gym Bunny Mummy
    10th January 2016 / 8:15 am

    I’ve got to admit I know nothing about Chemo so I’m glad you’ve written so beautifully & honestly about it xx

    • 10th January 2016 / 12:23 pm

      Thank you so much lovely x x

  19. Alison Matthews
    11th January 2016 / 8:44 am

    Such a great blog… I don’t really know too much about Chemo so this is a great help. My Auntie is currently going through the mill with it (2nd time with Cancer – first time she had radiotherapy). Will share your blog with her – she is starting another round of Chemo this week.

    Hope your chest infection is on the way out.

    Been thinking of you and sending positive vibes.

    Your Manchester mate Alison (aka Tat!)

    • 11th January 2016 / 7:34 pm

      Tee hee Tat! Ah thank you lovely lady x x x and I’m sending lots and lots of positive vibes to your Auntie too – tell her we can do this! x x

      • Alison Matthews
        15th January 2016 / 10:16 am

        Will do my lovely xx

  20. 13th January 2016 / 5:11 am

    You are amazing, I am reading this so moved and full of admiration, sending you so much love and positivity you beautiful lady inside and out. Much love xx

    • 13th January 2016 / 12:52 pm

      Oh thank you lovely lovely lady! x x

  21. Hazel Owens
    20th May 2016 / 2:43 am

    I didn’t know that there was something that could help reduce hair loss after chemotherapy. I’m sure the option of wearing a cold cap and having extended chemo sessions is a worthwhile trade for some women who love to keep their hair. I hope that you were able to keep most of your hair, and that chemo has been treating you somewhat decently.

    • 23rd May 2016 / 10:37 am

      The cold cap didn’t work for me unfortunately but it was worth a try!

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