cruising through chemotherapy

After the initial hiccups, the remaining four cycles of chemotherapy treatment passed (thankfully) without any further significant excitement.

After one session, I left the hospital and when I went to open my car door, I felt a strange feeling of pins and needles in my fingertips as soon as I touched the metal. This was the neuropathy side-effect I had been forewarned about. The feeling wasn’t painful – more of a surprise – and it was short-lived. In the following weeks, I experienced neuropathy quite often and it was always associated with cold temperatures; for example, getting milk out of the fridge and once, my voice went all husky when I went outside on a nippy winter’s day.

At Christmas, I had a conventional winter cold, with a runny nose, sore throat and a couple of mouth ulcers. This caused my final chemotherapy session to be delayed by one week to early January but to be honest, as I felt pretty lousy, I was almost quite relieved.

I was aware mouth ulcers were a cause for concern during chemotherapy as they appeared on the ‘Call us immediately if you get any of the following symptoms’ checklist. Inevitably, my oncologist seized on this – ‘When did you first notice the ulcers ?’ ‘On Christmas Day’ ‘Did you ring the hospital and tell us ?’ ‘Err, no’. ‘Why not ?’ ‘Well it was Christmas Day and I was having fun, eating nuts and playing Scrabble’.

The oncologist sighed, smiled and told me to sluice some white, creamy mouthwash around my mouth three times a day. The truth was there was no way I was telling my wife about the mouth ulcers let alone calling the hospital on Christmas Day and risk being summoned for a consultation or, worse, being admitted again.