Rollercoaster Day

Today was utterly absurd and I still haven’t gotten my head around it.

It started innocuously enough with meeting my friend Jude, who had travelled all the way from Canterbury on a ridiculously early bus.  After a coffee, I felt ok.  ‘Let’s make at least something out of chemo eve,’ I thought, so we got on a train for to take a very gentle stroll, heading to the south bank.  I took things pretty slowly and after not many steps, we headed into a cafe for a sit down.

Suddenly, a wave of anxiety hit me.  I have a history of panic attacks, so I knew this wasn’t one. But it was accompanied by some alarming symptoms.  I wrote them down so I’d be able to make sense when calling the emergency chemo hotline and they included dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, being weak/shaky and an overwhelming impending sense of doom.  My fancy running watch has a pulse oxometer which read 94 and my resting heart rate was almost double my pre-treatment norm at about 80-100.  The oncologist though I might have a blood clot on my lung and ordered me into hospital.  Following the most gentle and breathless shuffle to mansion house station, we got to Queens bloody hospital (do I get a loyalty card yet) within an hour, in which I still felt all of these things, but perhaps not as much.  Within minutes of arriving, I was hooked up to a machine that made me out to be a complete hypochondriac.  Oxygen SATS up to 100%.  They didn’t care about my elevated heart rate and put the distressing episode (that I’m still reeling from many hours later) down to a sleeping pill I took last night.  I was told something else whilst I was there but didn’t really take it in.

Jude insisted on seeing me home in a taxi.  This may sound great but over months of of living hard, like I’m about to be disabled and weeks of being effectively disabled, my flat was an absolute tip.  But with exhaustion added to dizziness etc. I just didn’t care and let her in.  Completely undeterred by the mess, Jude asked if she could could tidy up.  I told her not be ridiculous and began to order her a taxi.  Jude completely ignored me and immediately got to work.  I was then sent to my sofa to eat pizza, not get up and feel uselessly guilty but too tired to stand up.  But over the two hours + my protestations turned to profuse thanks.  So many people have offered to do this exact job and assured me that it would be no problem.  But, in all honesty, it took someone to barge in and just get it done.  I can’t describe what this act of kindness meant in that moment.  I can now face keeping the place in order as I go along invite people to visit without shame and that means so much. I’m incredibly reluctant to accept support of any kind.  Not because I want to be stubborn or independent.  But because it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll be able to return the favour.  I was utterly overwhelmed.  I don’t deserve people like this in my life but Jude is one of so many friends who have given me so much when it really counts.

When Jude eventually left (without letting me even pay for taxi) I scanned my emails to see a reply from my oncologist to a report of the above symptoms.  There was a graph at the bottom of the email.  Something about CEA and the blood tests I had yesterday.  Then I looked at the graph and this had fallen from 34.2 to 14.4, 2.5 a normal level for someone who doesn’t have bowel cancer. Then I recalled that hazy conversation and processed (ok – processing) that I’d been told this fall indicates that treatment is having an effect.  I don’t quite dare to hope until the 3 month scans but that is the only promising news I’ve had in many many months.  This was too much day to fit into one day.  Definitely time for bed – definitely without the sleeping pill!