I feel as though I can finally relax a little. I am back at home in Bakewell knowing that I don’t have anymore hospital appointments in London for three whole weeks. Frank is asleep. My egg collection and first round of chemotherapy are out of the way. I have to get some blood tests done and a fair few telephone consultations coming up but I don’t mind those.
Last Thursday morning I went into the fertility clinic with Tom – hopefully for the last time. We had to go through consent with Litha and some paperwork regarding the storage of eggs/embryos (embryo = fertilised egg). We were getting close to the procedure so Tom and I asked when we should let them know what ratio of eggs:embryos that we would like to be frozen. She seemed pretty shocked to find that this had not already been discussed with us. This whole fertility preservation journey had been a mess.
It had been briefly mentioned at our first appointment that we could decide further down the line if we wanted to freeze eggs alone or embryos or a 50/50 split. Apparently this decision should have been made already and Litha was under the impression that we only wanted to freeze embryos. The advantage of freezing embryos is that they have a better success rate than freezing eggs alone. The benefit to freezing eggs is that they would be solely mine to decide what I want to do with them in the future. I love Tom very much but we are not married (yet!) so I may still run off with a tall dark handsome stranger! No, on a serious note, if something happened to Tom then I would have liked to have my eggs frozen just to keep that option open. I am only 28 and keeping all options open at this time seems to be a wise decision.
Litha explained that they only really offer to split freezing eggs and embryos if they can collect more than 12 (which was unlikely for me). So, we decided that we would have whatever was collected frozen as embryos. Little Cara & Tom groups of cells!
I was completely knocked out for the procedure, I don’t remember a thing. This was a huge relief as I am learning that I am not a very good patient and much prefer to be on the other side of appointments.
I woke up in recovery with the nurse asking me to tell her more about Frank, I must have been talking about him earlier but I don’t remember that at all. As soon as I was able to eat & drink I was allowed to go home.
Tom drove me back to the flat and we had a duvet day binge-watching TV on the sofa. I felt quite sleepy all day, drunk from the anaesthetic. Tom suggested going for a walk at about 4:00 so we ventured outside. I knew I still wasn’t quite right when I bent down to smell a flower and fell over. Back to the safety of the sofa!
On Friday morning I received a call from the embryologist letting me know that 15 eggs had been collected in total. Of these, 12 were viable and 9 had been successfully frozen as embryos. It is normal for a few to be lost at each stage. Litha was right that we didn’t have enough to safely split into freezing eggs and embryos separately. I felt a huge sense of relief when I heard the news that we now have 9 embryo’s frozen. This does not guarantee 9 future babies as they’re not always successful but it’s a good number! I can put that part of treatment to one side for now and concentrate on my next battle.
On Friday afternoon I went back to St Bartholomew’s for my first round of chemotherapy. As mentioned before, I am trying to be more glam. It makes me feel better if I get dressed up for an appointment. I almost felt guilty walking onto the chemotherapy ward with my hair done nicely. It reminded me of the scene from Fleabag when she thinks she looks too good at her mum’s funeral.
It was easy to tell how far through their treatment the other patients’ were. They probably looked at me thinking ‘it’s her first time, she’ll soon look like one of us.’ The majority of them had little or no hair. I asked to try the scalp cooling.
Cooling your head in certain ways during chemotherapy may reduce or prevent hair loss. Scalp cooling can reduce the blood flow to your scalp. This can stop the chemotherapy drug from affecting your hair.
I’ve heard that it has mixed results, some people saying that they managed it for the duration of their treatment and it worked very well. Others say that they just couldn’t bear the pain or that it only delayed hair loss.
My hair had to be wet before putting the cap on, to make sure that the scalp really froze. My good hair day ended abruptly! When the cap went on, it had to be tight so that the cooling was most effective. The feeling of the freezing liquid being pumped into the cap gave me an instant ice cream headache, only without the tasty calories! After five minutes I was sure that I would have to take it off but I’m pleased to say that I managed the duration with it on!
The cap had to be on for half an hour before I was given any of the chemotherapy drugs. This coincided well with the anti-sickness drugs that they gave me via cannula for half an hour. A nurse had to sit with me to give me the first chemotherapy drug – Tanya was a lovely friendly nurse from the Philippines. She said that she loved dogs so I showed her (probably too many) photos of Frank. It took another hour to receive the second drug. Once both had been given I had to keep the cap on for another half an hour before I was allowed to leave.
Since Friday I have been feeling mild nausea and tiredness – nothing too bad. I’ve been given a great cocktail of anti-sickness drugs. Daily, I am currently taking: Ondensetron (3x), Dexamethasone (2×2), Donperidone (2x), Doxyxyxline (2x), Fyremadel injection (1x) & Antihistamines (1x). I would need one of those old-people pill dispensers if it wasn’t for Tom being such a fantastic pharmacist and keeping me drugged up!
Round 1 is done and out of the way (woopah!) only 7 more to go…