Chemotherapy is the treatment of disease by the use of chemical substances.  These are ‘cytotoxic,’ meaning they kill living cells.  The aim of these drugs is to kill cancer cells.  But in so doing, it kills healthy cells too and that is why, today, I feel like utter rubbish.

I’d forgotten quite how bad this point in the cycle is.  The steroids have long since worn off.  The sickness is barely kept at bay, I’m dizzy and there’s an aching tiredness that goes right to my bones.  My guts aren’t sure whether to block or free flow and it’s a small mercy that I have a stoma and therefore not as much intestine to ache.  I hate sitting around being useless, but right now, in this moment, I’d pay anything you ask not to have to do anything besides get through this rough patch.

Besides keeping myself alive, I had one job this morning.  To get up and take the chemo tablets.  I barely managed this in time.  It’s important to take them exactly twelve hours apart, after food.  Something to do with toxicity and half-life.  Yes these are terms relating to substances that I’m voluntarily ingesting under medical direction.

Putting myself through this, especially as I’ve been pretty much asymptomatic for months, is a real show of faith.  Medical science shows that this often works.  My own blood work from a year ago shows this works.  My cancer has a gene mutation that means recent advances in immunotherapy won’t work.  So here we are using this blunt instrument to pound me – all of me – into submission.

At around GCSE level, I remember studying the history of medicine.  It started with trepanning – the prehistoric practice of cutting a piece out of a person’s skull in order to let out evil spirits.  From the balance of the four humours being achieved through blood letting through the Middle Ages to barber surgery, horrible ordeals have been endured in order to keep patients alive and hopefully make them better, with casualty and suffering shrugged off as collateral damage.

What about chemo?  I wonder if in a few decades’ time, this treatment will be considered equally barbaric.  This is a cruel and unusual punishment.  I’ve already forgotten what it’s like to not feel sick all the time and it’s making me – to say the least – a bit grumpy.  I’ll go so far as to say that if every day were going to be like today, I’d seriously consider throwing these damn tablets in the bin and – even if it meant shortening my life – having done with this entire chemical therapy business.

But I’m desperately clinging on to those ten or so decent months that I had after the last lot kept cancer at bay.  And that was only after two cycles out of four.  What if this shrinks it enough to give me another good year?  I just have to believe that’s worth it.  I can do three horrible months for one good year.  Half a year?  I don’t know at this point.  2 good days for each chemo day?  At 1:1, I’d struggle to see the point.

But the honest truth is that no one knows how much health this will give me or if it will even be that effective.  There’s the distinct possibility that my body won’t respond as well to chemo this time round and this is being done for nothing.  Today, that is such a soul destroying prospect that I just don’t want to consider it.  I’m again at the point where I’d wish this hell on absolutely no one.  However much you’ve wronged me, you don’t deserve this.  It’s mental torture not knowing if it’s working.  And if not, well that is probably defined as physical torture because there’s no medical benefit.

This dip was coming and it’s possible that tomorrow will be better.  I hope so.  It’s not yet 10am and I’m already done with today.

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