This will take a lot less time to talk about as I’ve covered most of it in my previous posts about VIDE. I will include the chemo process and all the side effects in one post, which we are both happy about! As I have previosuly mentioned, after the 4.5 months of the horrible VIDE chemo I started 6 weeks of radiotherapy alongside 6 months, or 8 rounds of VAC chemo (Vincristine, Actinomycin D, Cyclophosphamide). This was termed the ‘maintenance’ chemo and it would be clearing up any little nasties floating around inside me.
VAC is still really shit, after all its toxic chemicals being pumped into the blood stream. However it’s much easier than VIDE, which felt like it was slowly killing me. One massive benefit of VAC is I could be an outpatient, so no more hospital stays!! This felt amazing. Each round the treatment would take place over one day, and then I came back into hospital for a second day to receive an injection of Actinmyocin, and then back home for 19 days recovery before the same again. For VAC I’m sat in a chair for 5 hours instead of stuck in a bed for 18 hours per day like on VIDE. There’s still litres of the stuff getting pumped into me and I still drink loads of water to flush it out ASAP. I was physically pissing the cancer away, I liked that thought. Just like the first 6 rounds of chemo I have an appointment with my oncologist on the Monday before chemo to check my blood counts are back up, and they always sent me home from hospital with a goody bag full of steroids to combat the sickness, other anti-sickness drugs, antibiotics and an injection I had to do myself the next day which boosts my white blood cells. This injection goes into the subcutaneous tissue (fat), which is the only thing on me growing unfortunately!
The plan was to have 5 rounds of VAC chemo, then the shoulder operation, and complete the last 3 rounds of chemo once I had recovered. VAC chemo affected me very differently to VIDE chemo because the drugs were less toxic, and it was just one day instead of three, result! The immediate side effects are; sickness, taste changes, retaining liquid, which makes me feel terrible as it pools around my organs, nausea, chemo drunkenness and fatigue. I had to say hello to new baby hair growth, and then goodbye to it again. VAC chemo seemed to affect me a lot more immediately after, but I recovered faster. My immune system and other blood cell counts were still significantly reduced 7-14 days after but not as much as when on VIDE. One of the best things though was the debilitating pain and blood bath while having a poo had finally gone! Finally I could enjoy my daily rituals again without being in agony, happy days!
The 5 days immediately after VAC are the worst and I have been virtually house bound, the second week is still a ‘lay low’ week because of a decreased immune system but feeling better in general, and then the third week is a mixture of felling good but anxious and frustrated about the cycle starting all over again soon. When I had good days I was able to attend a few friends weddings. It felt so good to get some normality back in my life for a day, however there was no semi naked, tie around head dancing coming from me for once. I did try to take my top off one time and lasso my chest lines around like nipple tassels but luckily a good friend stopped me. Having some energy and hair back was great because I didn’t feel as weak or like I stuck out as much in public anymore, also it meant I didn’t mind being in wedding photos. Everyone says bald suits me but I think I look like an anaemic Mr Potato Head minus the tash and eyebrows. The silver lining to being off work and house bound was having the Rugby World Cup on, despite England’s disappointing display there was some other fantastic rugby on. I was able to watch almost every game and even attend a couple! The feature image to this post is of me, my Amish looking brother, dad and a friend at the Italy v Romania game.
After the operation chemo got a lot harder. I was running on empty, felt broken inside and was struggling to hold it together for the first time. This was down to a combination of a few things. I was recovering and healing after a major op, coming to terms with losing the mobility in my arm and trying to accept it would never be the same again. Also my morale and self-esteem were at an all-time low, I was depressed and frustrated, physically and mentally exhausted after 8 months of chemo and 6 weeks of radiotherapy. On top of all this I went through a really bad break up with my girlfriend whom I had relied on so much up till this point. I dealt with everything thrown at me this year pretty well until now and it would take a lot to recover from it. I wouldn’t wish that situation on my worst enemy, and will leave that subject there.
Just like the VIDE chemo and radiotherapy, the best thing to do is research and prepare as best you can. What to expect and how to combat the side effects, also to prepare food, drink and entertainment for the day in hospital. It helped to make sure I would be comfortable for the week after when hibernating at home. I’m so bored of Netflix and chill time! As always, ending on a positive I have a few weeks recovery then my last cycle of chemo and I’m a free man! I’m trying to employ tunnel vision and just focusing on the finish line ahead, enjoying Christmas and New Year with my fiends and family and finally getting back to training and work in 2016….after a well deserved holiday of course!