21. As bad as it gets… hopefully! A bad reaction to chemotherapy

Today was the worst day I have ever had, health wise. At times I thought I was going to die. It was the sickest I have ever been in my life and I hope never to repeat it. Where to start…. So Monday is chemo day in the clinic. I went in this morning at 7:30 to start the day. I started by having my bloods tested to check if the white blood cell count was high enough to proceed with chemo. It was 4,500, normal range is 4,000 – 10,000 so we went ahead. I was fasting from 6pm yesterday, part of the protocol is a 14 hour fast before chemotherapy is delivered. Then on chemo morning, I get an insulin injection to reduce blood sugars. Chemo is delivered with a glucose solution so it goes straight to the greedy cancer cells and kills them. It’s a clever way to do it, it’s called metabolically supported chemotherapy. But it can make you feel weak and sick.

This morning, I felt very tired coming into clinic. The doctors and nurse commented on how tired I looked. Are you ok Mairead? I’m wrecked I said. I’ll try have a nap here on the chair. After the first drip of chemo was delivered (there are about 6 altogether), I was allowed to eat. Jess, my friend who is here with me for this visit had plenty of snacks packed for my post fast feast. I’m allowed to break the ketogenic diet on chemo day because I get glucose drips so it doesn’t matter if I eat sugar. So I had some lovely fruit; peaches, mango and coconut and a cereal bar. Shortly after, I started to shiver. Then the shivers turned into stronger shivers and I couldn’t control them. Then I started to have tremors or convulsions, it’s hard to describe. My whole body was shaking violently and I couldn’t stop it. Jess got the nurse. She came and looked at me and left again, it was clear she had seen this reaction before. She got the doctor and a couple of other drips to give to me to help with the shaking. He said it is an immune response to the chemotherapy. My spine and nerves in my back were pulsating very strongly, it was painful and scary. I started to cry. My leg muscles seized up and became rock hard, the rest of my body still shaking. It was so weird and uncomfortable and terrifying. It looked like advanced stage Parkinson’s, I thought it might be permanent. Will this ever stop? I asked the doctor. It should stop in a few minutes, don’t worry, just breathe through it. Breathing deeply made it worse, I couldn’t take a deep breath without convulsing.

The nurse started me on a couple of drips and stopped the chemo. They said they’d resume it later. No bloody way I thought, I’m not getting any more of that today if it does that to me. My poor body was out of control. I went to lie on a bed to try to calm my body. I was shivering cold. The room was warm. I used my scarf and a blanket to cover myself but I was still freezing. The nurse checked my blood pressure and temperature. My blood pressure was 90/54, quite low. My temperature was sky high, it was 39.7 degrees. The doctors came in to see me and said my body is in hyperthermia. I wouldn’t have to do the hyperthermia chamber today (I always have to do that on chemo day). This time, my body had put itself into hyperthermia. It was horrible. I dozed in and out of a snoozy state for a couple of hours. I couldn’t talk or look at my phone or do anything only lie there and wait to feel better. They resumed the rest of the chemo drips.


And then it got worse. I started to feel nauseous and ended up getting sick, a very violent puke too, couldn’t just be a little one. I could barely walk to the bathroom, I had to get Jess to help me. I’ve never been so weak in my life. After I got sick, I snoozed a bit and my temperature went down. I started to feel a bit better. The nurse took my temperature again and it was 38.1, still high but not fever high. When all the drips were done, I was brought down to a taxi in a wheelchair. I didn’t even have the energy to walk to the lift. That was my first time in a wheelchair, apart from messing in them as a kid. I hope it’s not a sign of things to come. I’m typing this from my bed in the apartment now, got in and had a quick shower to wash the smell of the clinic off me, put on the pyjamas and Jess made me some ginger tea. Bless her, she’s had a serious day of it, watching that happen to me and then having to look after me all day giving me sips of water, chewing gum to mask the taste of the drips, calling the nurses and doctors, spraying my hot body with cold spray. She was busy in the clinic today! I asked her at one stage what she would do if I died. She said, sure I’ll carry you home, you’re only a small thing. Making light of it but watching intently over me at all times to make sure I was still breathing. It was a scary few hours for both of us. I’m glad to be home, well, home in Istanbul. I’ll be glad to get to my real home in a couple of days. This process is getting harder. It’s no walk in the park. I can’t wait to be done with it all. I hopefully only have one more trip left but the thoughts of that is making me feel sick. For now, I’m going to have a nap, hopefully be able to eat something later and possibly feel well enough to watch Game of Thrones. Don’t know how I managed to type this, my hands are still a bit shaky and I’m weak as hell. Sleep helps everything though so I’m going to try to snooze. Slán for now!



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