We Brits are known for many things; talking about the weather, drinking tea, producing an array of epic Christmas songs… When it comes to the latter, we often have favourites (the original Band Aid being the best, obviously), but we also have our nemeses. And for me, this is Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas.
Today, I even found myself contemplating whether or not to buy a particular box of Christmas cards, just because they said ‘Driving Home for Christmas‘ on the front! I don’t know if it’s the jolly, bouncing rhythm (which sounds like it’s come straight from a 1986 Casio keyboard), or the blissfully happy lyrics (driving anywhere in the UK over Christmas is far more akin to ‘Road to Hell’ than a jolly Christmas singalong), or because my mum used to play ‘On the Beach’ so much when I was young (another of Chris’s bouncy guitar riffs, which sticks annoying in your head like oedema after brain surgery).
Anyway, I digress as usual! Back to the point…
So lots of people are asking me if I’m going home for Christmas. And the answer is, you guessed it, we don’t know yet. But we have a plan, kind of…?
What we do know – chemo 2 is done: I’m back into rebuild
After the initial hit of Carboplatin (by IV) and 14 days of Capecitabine (tablets), I have seven days without chemo, to give my body chance bounce back. Like last time, the Oncology team will do blood tests to see how much of a hit my body’s taken and how well it’s recovered, before they make a call on whether I’m strong enough to go into cycle 3. The first blood tests are tomorrow, so I’ll be heading back to the prikkammer, rolling up my sleeve and hoping there’s enough platelets in my blood for the prik to clot…
What else we know – that clothes horse doesn’t know when to quit!
Based on how my body reacted to cycle 1, the thing that’s likely to be low is my platelets. So you can imagine my reaction this morning when, whilst hanging out the washing, successfully folding the bedsheets and smugly grinning at said clothes horse in a Mr Bean sort of way, I managed to catch my ring on the corner of the damn thing, digging it into my left hand.
Never before has anyone stared in such panic at such a pathetic injury 🤣 It was ridiculous! I was literally sitting with my arm in the air, staring at it, willing it not to bleed. The tiny graze slowly went red. I’ve drawn blood. Shit. It’s getting redder. Is the blood going to actually come out? If it does, it might not stop. It’s only a tiny opening – how big is a platelet? How many does it take to form a clot? If it doesn’t stop bleeding, I have to go to the ER. It can’t be that bad, can it? How do I know?
Deciding that I sounded more like Adrian Mole (aged 13¾), than a logical adult (who managed to ‘survive’ a 12-minute nosebleed during chemo last time without keeling over), I decided to have a cup of tea, see what the weather was doing, and not look at it for 10 minutes, during which time it got no worse, obviously. F***ing clothes horse.
What we think we know – chemo 3 is currently scheduled for 19th December
Back to tomorrow’s blood tests… whilst these will let us compare the hit my body took in cycles 1 and 2, it’ll probably be too soon to determine whether I’m strong enough for cycle 3. I’ll still have four days of rebuild, so they’ll probably want to check again next week. I’m therefore expecting to be heading back to the prikkammer on Tuesday…
If we go ahead on Wednesday …
I’ll be home for Christmas – we have a plan!
After the IV on day 1, I tend to feel tired for a few hours, so I usually head downstairs to the Espresso bar in hospital and just sit quietly with a coffee for a bit, then go straight home. The next day, I’m usually a little jaded, but I pick up on day 3 and am generally good on day 4, but then start to feel fatigued from day 5. (This is because the meds I take to offset the side effects of chemo are out of my system by day 4, so after that my body’s fighting on its own.) Around day 8 or 9, the Carboplatin I got by IV is out of my system, so it’s just the Capecitabine tablets left to deal with and I start to pick up again (albeit with a weakened immune system).
So if I start chemo on Wednesday (day 1), we have a ferry booked to head back to Yorkshire on Friday (day 3) before the fatigue kicks in, and I’ll spend Christmas back home with the Olds (during the fatigue period), before coming back to Amsterdam for next Year.
If we get delayed…
I’ll start chemo 3 on Boxing Day – but we still have a plan!
Mum and Dad have a ferry booked to come over here and we’ll spend Christmas in Amsterdam. Whilst having chemo isn’t the way I’d choose to spend Boxing Day, it’s often just a day spent recovering from the excess, or driving back from driving home for Christmas. Well i’ll hardly be hitting it hard on Christmas Day, and it’ll mean I won’t have to endure Chris Rea… winner!
I’d love to host Mum and Dad over here for Christmas; OK maybe not when I’m having treatment, but we can still enjoy Christmas Day. The Dutch don’t do so much on the 25th (they make more of Sinterklaas on the 5th) so we won’t have to order a turkey three weeks in advance, or face horrendous queues in the supermarket to get whatever we’ve forgotten, and probably don’t even need, but we have to have, because it’s Christmas, even though we never want it the rest of the year, like Advocaat, although that’s Dutch so no-one over here drinks it anyway, except tourists…
What we definitely know
If we do spend Christmas in Amsterdam, Dad will go to the supermarket regardless; I’m not sure even Christmas would stop his daily visit to Albert Heijn 😉
Joking aside; if we get delayed, it would mean I get two weeks to rebuild again, sending me into chemo 3 stronger. I know my Oncology team won’t start cycle 3 unless they feel I’m physically strong enough, but that extra week of rebuild after cycle 1 was when I saw the strength start to come back in my arm and hand, so seeing that again before cycle 3 would give a boost mentally too, and that makes a huge difference.
Looking back at cycle 1, I went into it frightened, as I honestly didn’t know if my body would be strong enough to take it. We nailed it last time, but I was super fit back then; I hadn’t had brain damage, neuro surgery and targeted radiation; I hadn’t had a lung collapse; I didn’t have a second tumour still lurking in that lung; I didn’t have a compromised immune system, with 6 of the 20 lymph nodes in my left arm having been removed during breast surgery; and the drugs I was given last time were different…
So whenever anything happened in cycle 1, I questioned it, tried to rationalize it, and ended up having meltdowns when I couldn’t understand why things were or weren’t happening.
In cycle 2, I had a much better idea of what to expect, so while the physical effects have been quite similar to cycle 1, I’ve been able to manage it much better emotionally. Close friends have said they’re starting to see ‘me’ come back and I’ve certainly started to feel more like ‘me’ again. Not being ‘me’ was something which really got to me before, and why I hid in my cave, so hearing that from my friends means a lot.
Not the blood tests tomorrow. Or whether or not chemo is delayed. Or even whether I have to endure Chris Rea in the car on the way home.
Whatever happens, I have another awesome friend coming over from the UK next week, to be here to support me. Clare is driving over on the Monday night ferry, and if I do have chemo next week, she’ll come and help me take Christmas goodies (read as: provide light entertainment and cause a general nuisance) to the nurses on Wednesday. I’ll then go back with her on the Friday night ferry and spend Christmas in Yorkshire.
So either way, I’ll spend Christmas with my friends and family. And that’s what matters to me.