The first two or three days after Chemo Round One mainly consisted of lying on the sofa, watching TV and trying to take the right drugs at the right time (top primary school teacher tip – make a chart!). Not too bad, I thought. Sure, it tasted like I was sucking on 10p all the time and I didn’t feel brilliant, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
However, things deteriorated and I spent the rest of Week 1 trying to be as still as possible in bed, via a quick overnighter at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital with a high temperature. Early afternoons seem to be the best time for me, but some mornings and evenings have been spent writhing around and whimpering, unable to find a comfortable position and with positivity in short supply. You heard it here first: chemotherapy sucks.
So when I got an email from Ellie’s Friends, a charity offering cancer patients free and discounted services and products to improve their quality of life, I jumped at the suggestion of writing about them. That is actually a lie. I got the email. Read the email. Felt sick. Forgot about it. Read it again. Felt sick. Forgot about it. Read it to my boyfriend. Thought about it more. Felt sick. Forgot about it. Read it again. Then acted on it. This is a reflection of chemo, not of my feelings towards the idea.
Before starting chemo, I knew to expect that I would roughly operate in this cycle:
- Week 1: feel rubbish (tick!)
- Week 2: have no immune system
- Week 3: start feeling better
My boyfriend suggested that a great way to try and feel positive about things, and to have something to look forward to, was to start making a list of possible Week 3 activities – anything from a beauty treatment to a holiday, just as long as they were ideas of fun things I could focus on during the yuck weeks.
My Week 3 List (so far!)
- Day Trips:
- More wig shopping – have only got the one so far, so I intend to go back for more.
- Whipsnade Zoo (a childhood favourite, and lots can be done in the car).
- Last minute West-End shows – especially matinees. Big shows I’ve always fancied seeing such as War Horse, or The Lion King.
- Live sport events – one-day cricket, tennis at Queens or Wimbledon, etc.
- Lunch or Afternoon Tea out (appetite-depending!).
- Pottery class – have always wondered if I could make a good plate/mug.
- Cinema (thanks Cineworld Unlimited passes – doesn’t even matter if the film is dire!).
- Buying new lounge pants.
- Barnes Wetland Centre (because I am obsessed with Springwatch).
- Weekend Trips:
- Make the most of family/friends who live in scenic UK places I could lie low in for a few days, especially by the sea.
- Stay in a Landmark Trust property (because they don’t have to be far away and are very quirky).
- Short trips to places by train (e.g. Paris, Amsterdam, etc.)
- My brother’s wedding in Bulgaria
Looking at Ellie’s Friends, helping cancer patients to get out and do these sorts of activities is exactly what they’re all about. That means that even if it’s just for one week out of three, you’re actually enjoying days as opposed to just gritting your teeth and getting through them. Of course, we’d all love to spend all of our time swanning from Lord’s to the Lyceum, but unfortunately another super amazing thing about cancer is that it doesn’t leave you with much disposable income. Enter Ellie’s Friends.
I especially think that spare tickets for sports events, shows, filmings etc. are brilliant for people in my position, as it might not be until the day itself that you know if you feel okay or not. Hospital appointments aside, I don’t have any standing commitments, so I could be that happy person who scoops up a last minute return or cancellation to spend the day doing something I’d never otherwise be able to do (because I would be at work!). Most importantly of all though, it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in a whole new world for a few hours; a world where cancer isn’t the main event.
Any ideas to add to my Week 3 list? All recommendations/suggestions very welcome!