Days 84-90 Another chemo bites the dust
05 Jul 2011
Picture: Gate and footpath in the East Devon Blackdown Hills.
Just a quick post this time to say I got through the 4th chemotherapy cycle pretty well. There was, of course, the usual exhaustion but I think I can say that the 4th cycle was actually slightly better than the 3rd. That was a relief as the expectation was that there would be a cumulative effect, with it taking more of a toll each time.
I think there were two reasons why it went so (relatively) well, and I hope sharing them might be useful for others undergoing similar treatment.
Firstly, I was more diligent than before about taking the herbal and other remedies, especially the milk thistle, astragalus and the Liposomal Vitamin C. This was an effort because the chemo not only saps your energy but it makes you more sensitive to taking not particularly pleasant powders. The second reason was that I didn't try to fight against it but was more relaxed, accepting the need to go to bed during the day and sleep whenever my energies dipped.
Perhaps it is like trees in the gales: the ones that can bend with the wind survive, those that are stiff and resist tend to snap. Or like a boxer rolling with the punches. It's not surrendering, just knowing when to reserve your energies for another day.
The other thing that helped, I'm sure, was that we went down to the Blackdown Hills for the week immediately after the chemo. This took me away from any temptation to work or to sit at the computer all day. The weather was glorious and, although I didn't have the energy to cycle or get out much, I really enjoyed just being in the countryside, listening to the birds, and generally doing not much at all. La dulce de no hace nader ('the sweetness of doing nothing' a phrase I remember from Spanish evening classes, although my Spanish spelling may not be quite right). It's not an easy state of mind to get into, but the whole cancer experience has taught me that I need to make this mental shift.
I also went out on a few short walks in the woods near our house and decided it was time I was able to recognise native trees. There are so many but apart from the usual suspects - oak, beech, sycamore, silver birch - there aren't too many that I can recognise confidently. Having recently joined the Woodland Trust, who sent out a leaf identification swatch as a thankyou, I set out armed with this. Soon I was spotting alder, birch, blackthorn, lime, ash, rowan and elm. Having so many species to spot made up for my inability to walk very far.
In similar calm, reflective mood I also dusted down my favourite anthology of cricket writing. Sitting in the garden, smelling the newly mown grass, and re-reading A.G. MacDonell's description of the village cricket match from 'England, Their England' was a very restorative experience. If you haven't read it, please do. It's very funny and you'll never forget the image of the blacksmith coming up to bowl over the crest of the hill or of the final muddled, dropped catch on the last ball of the game. It should be available on the NHS.
The week ahead brings a return to normal and right now I'm off to Nottingham to chair the panel session at the Higher Education Academy conference. It's good to have some energy back.
Thanks again for all your good wishes.