Thursday, November 6, 2014

sometimes birthdays aren't easy

Yesterday was my birthday and I have to admit that it took a lot to find the heart and energy to celebrate it. I recently spent ten days in hospital dealing with serious side effects from Round 3 of chemotherapy. My white blood cell count fell really low and I developed a condition called neutropenia. Due to this low blood cell count the chicken pox virus I had as a child was also reactivated. Without white blood cells to fight it, it returned with a vengeance. Apparently this is a rare complication so it made me very ill, with rolling fevers of up to 39.9 degrees. I was in and out of consciousness continually, with mild hallucinations. Apparently I told Mere I didn't like the landscape of Rangitoto in my room because it had goblins in it. When I woke up, she said she couldn't see them. I looked really hard and couldn't see them either! My family are now regaling me with all the funny, bizarre conversations I had with them.

At one point, when they finally worked out what the spots were, I was woken up by four oncologists in full masks, gowns and gloves peering at me over the bed. I had lost all sense of reality and thought I was in a scene from the movie Contagion. It turns out I was highly contagious so they wanted to move me out of the Oncology ward as soon as possible. I was a risk to all the other patients there with low blood cell counts. So they whisked me up to a pressurised room in the Infectious Diseases ward. Everyone who treated me from then on were fully masked, gowned and gloved.

It wasn't this bad but I was hazy with sleep and fevers.
I was actually taken to the Infectious Diseases ward on a bed!

I had severe nausea and headaches and to be honest, it felt like one endless nightmare. My family took turns sitting with me during the day, which helped to separate the days from the nights. I saw at least twelve Oncologists, checking in and monitoring my condition. One thing they all agreed on was that I should not have any more chemotherapy, that the risk to my life and health was too great if I continued. I started to recover very slowly. I was so desperate to be well enough to leave. They set me the goal of eating, drinking and taking my medication in tablet form rather than needing a drip. Yay! I got there but I was still very ill when I got home. Beth and Mike were champions making sure I was well fed and looked after. I felt very loved. It was good to be home.

So even though right now I am physically at the lowest point of this breast cancer journey, feeling completely broken in my body... I can appreciate the love and support of my lovely family and friends... I can hold onto the hope of future health and wellness... I can remind myself that I don't have to do anymore chemo! Yay! That is such a relief... I can be thankful for my birthday and making it this far... I can remember and celebrate that I am beloved by so many.

I had the loveliest birthday in the end. I found flowers, treats and surprises on my doorstep. My phone and Facebook overflowed with wonderful birthday messages. I had cake with the family and a delicious dinner made by Beth and Mike. I feel so loved and blessed. Thank you!

This is not my current birthday.
I thought we'd all enjoy a flashback 
to my very, happy 50th birthday!

Biohazard suit image from Resident Evil, Sony Films
50th birthday photo credit: Rachel King

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