Venturing into the Chemotherapy World
Along the way of my chemotherapy treatments, my parents were literally and figuratively by my side every step of the way. The outpouring of supports from all my dear friends were overwhelming! Nevertheless, the nurses’ tender care in the hematology ward during my stay was as crucial.
The notion of having a lethal blood cancer is terrifying, but the scientific breakthroughs on the road to cancer cure are indeed fascinating! Reading through books and articles on past cancer survivors and their stories with the dreaded side effects of chemotherapy, as compared to mine, they were all non existence, none of the expected effects materialized! In contrary to the olden days chemo, the introduction of the antidote – folinic acid in later years, I believe, is the chief reason for the riddance of my chemo side effects, thanks to the medical advancement!!
My second and third chemo cycles were just inescapable routines that drift along smoothly with no obstacles. As and when the chemo drips threaded its way into my vein, a journey of this nature cannot be undertaken without much support and love. The thoughts of how the vibrant-colored drugs harm every single particle in my body while killing the cancer cells were horrifying, not knowing what kind of damage they will cause. It wasn’t the physical torture, but it was the daunting mental distress chemotherapies induced that was worrisome.
I did not portray the usual nauseated feeling, or any diarrhea or so, but was kind of losing sensations at my fingertips, aside from being bald. My sense of touch wasn’t as sensitive as previously and my body muscles were aching for a few days after the chemo cycles, feeling like my inner body was burning in flames. “One day one coconut” was my policy then to reduce the heatiness and to increase the fluid intake , hence flushing out the toxic chemicals in my blood stream.
Just at the time we needed encouragement, my hematologist ordered an MRI scan three weeks after my third chemo, right before my fourth cycle. Thank god that the results avowed the tumor at the right cerebellum had shrank to probably just a scar. And the previous lesion at the parietal lobe was most likely not malignant, since it did not respond to the chemo drugs.
At the meantime in between chemo cycles, at home, I picked up a new skill of my interest – sewing and crocheting amigurumi. I made quite a few cute dolls during my free time, meanwhile keeping my mind away from the intense treatment. Here are some of my precious masterpieces.
1. My creation of a mini decorative key holder that is too precious to be used, just for display
2. My first crochet doll – baby hippo
3. Little papa and baby duckie
4. Baby octopus
And many more in my gallery page
Besides, during my chemo stays in the hospitals, I made paper flowers, and daddy made some handcrafted dolls for my kind nurses to kill time. Imagine if you are stuck in the hospital for five continuous days, what will you do?
5. Handcrafted flowers to my beloved nurses
6. Paper-clay gold fish
7. Daddy and daughter
8. Dr. Alan figurative
We had already accustomed to the life in the hospital as it had became part and parcel of our lives. The times when i was out from the hospital, on weekends, i would usually go for a slow walk at the Taman Tun recreational park to breathe in fresh air after a long stay in the stale hospital environment.
During my outings, the awkward glance from outsiders as i was wearing a head scarf to cover my head made me feel uneasy at times but i got used to it soon after. I remembered there was a friendly uncle at the park who had asked me to participate in the group event, as soon as i open my mouth, the uncle said i sounded like a Chinese. (I was wearing long sleeves, with long track bottoms and a head scarf). I replied “I’m indeed a Chinese” and his respond was “A Chinese-Muslim?” In another circumstance, when i was back facing a sales person, looking at his products for sale, that guy popped out a statement “Boleh cuba.” Oh… whatsoever, they treated me like a Malay!
There are nothing much to say about the fourth and fifth cycles as they were pretty customary with no extraordinary events. However, after my fifth chemo was the extraction of my stem cells to be preserved for the later transplant after my chemotherapies. On the 10th of October, day 10 after the fifth cycle, I had a minor surgery for the insertion of a catheter for stem cells extraction. In order to hike up my stem cell counts, I was given a booster jab directly into my tummy tissues.
Do not underestimate this booster; it costed a whooping 3k for just an injection. This miraculous jab worked astonishingly well on me. My stem cell counts peaked and were high enough on the 13th when the stem cell extraction was permitted to proceed. Just when I was about to be wheeled into the blood bank’s stem cell extraction room, along the way, my nose bleeded profusely and stained the pink blanket into bloody red, most probably due to the heaty booster jab. It lasted for half an hour and once the bleeding stopped, the stem cells extraction was insisted to be carried on with no delay.
I presented a tiny hand-crafted “cherry pudding” to my doctor as a belated doctor’s day gift since he was jokingly asking for a cake on doctor’s day. My souvenir is more longer-lasting than an edible cake, more practical!
The extraction was a four-hour long process whereby I had to sit on a reclining chair in a freezingly cold room. I believe the reason of the super low temperature was to keep my stem cells fresh. I couldn’t even stand the chilly room temperature even with four layers of blanket, kept requesting for hot milo and biscuits to stay warm. Not being able to do any reading or anything to pass time as I was hiding under the blankets at all time, and not being able to go to the washroom when the extraction is ongoing since the tubes on my neck were connected to the machine, were torturing.
During the extraction process, you will be able to see how the machine separates out your red blood cell, plasma and only collect the stem cell portion while transfusing the remaining blood back to your body concurrently, indeed a very eye-opening experience.
The former picture shows the cathetar connected to the tubing into the machine, whereas the latter is the collection of stem cells into a bag through the complicated stem cell extractor
I looked a little pale in this photo because they sucked quite a lot of my blood out and was shivering throughout the entire four hours.
When I changed my facebook profile picture into this, tonnes of well wishes message stormed in, flooding the comments section, making me sounded sicker than I actually was. Do i really look so sick here?
From the collection of my stem cells, I don’t know how on earth did the laboratory people compute the stem cells count, judging whether it was sufficient or not, but the same evening itself, my doctor emailed me with the good news of an excellent cd 34 counts of 25 million, which I had no idea what it meant but assuming from the word “excellent”, it must have been great!
The superb results turned the average of a three-day extraction into just one, since the accumulated stem cells count far exceeded the threshold, saving a cost of almost 5k. What a blessing!
I hope that my posts can provide little contribution to encourage all who are going through the same journey, either as patients, as caregivers or as family and friends. If I can make it through, why can’t you! Have the leap of faith, and don’t be frightened by the word “cancer”!