Dear Chemo Part 2

Dear Chemo,

Well it’s been a good few months since I wrote to you when I took the incredibly difficult decision to resume our relationship back in November. It’s not been an easy ride has it? As I wait for you to cast your spell over my bone marrow for the final time I just thought I’d reflect.

Returning to your poisonous grip was, I think one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life. Knowing that I would be rendered mutilated and incapacitated by your effects, but also fearing on the other hand what cancer had in store for me. Talk about a double edged sword! After round one was just like every other encounter we’ve ever had I decided a time-out to visit California and enjoy a proper family Christmas was in order. That time did me the world of good and gave me the strength to carry on seeing you.

Each time we meet it seems to be getting more difficult and my poor battered body is taking longer and longer to bounce back. The febrile neutropaenia in January was pretty bad, but the febrile neutropaenia in February damn near finished me off. I’ve never been quite so frightened that I might actually die before and perverse as it sounds it seemed a shame to die from sepsis when the cancer hadn’t got the better of me. But recover I did. That recovery has been slow and frustrating though.

So this week we ended our relationship again. Four rounds of huge doses of you is quite enough for me. The early clinical signs are encouraging that you have done your job and killed some cancer cells, although it will be some weeks yet before we see my scan results and the measurable, tangible effects on my tumours. Were you perhaps annoyed with me for walking away again? I only ask because the colicky abdominal pain I have had to endure this week seemed like you expressing your anger. At one point in the early hours of Tuesday morning I could have quite easily jumped off the proverbial cliff and silenced both you and me.

I’m just so bored of all this now. I’m bored of having to sit down while I cook. I’m bored of not being able to go for a proper walk. I’m bored of feeling sick. I’m bored of not being able to work. I’m bored of being too breathless to play my flute. Try as I might to stick two fingers up to both you and cancer I just feel so hemmed in and stunted by your effects. It’s ridiculous that I can’t run up the stairs. I’m 32 bloody years old. And I don’t want to be like this anymore.

I reckon it will be Wednesday when the fever strikes. I’m sure you’ll be looking on with glee at my suffering and no doubt my irrational hospital phobia will kick in yet again. But a few days of meropenem, fluids and GCSF and we’ll be done. Who knows how long cancer control will be this time round and whether we meet again in the future will depend on a huge number of variables.

So thank you for putting the brakes on the cancer; I’m only sorry that has been at the expense of ruining my quality of life for the past five months. I’ll leave you to pick on some other poor soul while I concentrate on getting fit again and back to some semblance of normality. I fear that may take me longer than I hope.

Kind regards,



34 thoughts on “Dear Chemo Part 2

  1. Dear Kate
    I wanted to selfishly thank you for your open and honest posts. My mum has recently been diagnosed with cancer and although a nurse myself oncology is not my speciality so I feel completely out of my depth …. Your post have helped me understand what to expect and how I can support my mum so I thank you for this from the bottom of my heart.

    Take care and thank you

  2. Hi Kate,
    thanks for being honest. I watched my mother suffer from chemotherapy and die when i was ten, finally consumed by brain mets from two different breast cancers. Reading your accounts has helped me get through the bereavement reaction I have put off for 16 years. Thanks for everything.

  3. I think you are very brave to document your journey so honestly and publicly. Frank discussion is one of the keys to a more open and honest understanding of cancer, and how we can still live a fulfilling life with a terminal diagnosis. Wishing you good thoughts and hope the fevers are not too severe. Hang in there Dr G.

  4. You are such a wonderful , courageous person Kate ,
    Who has given so much , be very proud
    Keep fighting and stay strong ..
    Thinking of you
    Big hugs xx

  5. Well done, brave lady. Just finished radiotherapy following chemotherapy and hoping I never have to go there again. Your posts have helped me very much. Thankyou.

  6. Keep going Kate, Your strength is immense and you can’t let Mr Chemo beat you. Sending lots of love and looking forward to the next cake stall XXXXXX

  7. It was lovely to meet you at your recent ‘On the Bright Side’ event, Kate. Sorry if I seemed to come out of nowhere and took you by surprise but I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and I was just thrilled to be able to speak with you. I too, am living with terminal cancer and I find additional strength from other strong people such as yourself. I hope you didn’t mind me giving you a card with details of my own blog ‘Living with Secondary Cancer’. Sara.xx

  8. Kate I am really glad to have found your blog. Your writing is easy to read and I am starting to realise you are absolutely right about so many things. I am an ST3 in O&G and have just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and will start chemo in the next few weeks. Although my prognosis is good I am scared of the chemo and also the side effects that may impair my ability to operate if I develop peripheral neuropathy and also relinquishing control to someone else. I am still at the stage of needing to see and interpret all my results!
    Good luck with your treatment. I have also started a blog x

  9. Having recently found your blog, I admire your courage to document your journey. I have no doubt that you will give support to many, many people as they accompany you along the stony path. There are many reasons to write a blog, but the very best reason must be to gain strength from the support of those who are at first anonymous, then become your back up team. We are here to listen in the main,holding you gently in our hands.

  10. Your writing is truly inspirational, the humour, the pathos and the wonderful honesty is very moving. I cannot think of any one who is braver than you, and I feel you reacted to that and said who me ? But yes, your journey and the way you document it, is the epitome of bravery. You are blessed and in turn you bless others.


  11. I could not agree with anyone more than Roger. Your blog is an inspiration to anyone who reads it. You are true in all you write about your illness & treatment. I am wishing you all the best for future

  12. Pingback: Dear Chemo Part 2 | drkategranger | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

  13. Thanks so much for sharing your own cancer journey with everyone, and I really do wish you a bit of benefit and respite following these gruelling five months. I’ve chickened out of any more treatment, and know just what you mean about the breathlessness. It’s so debilitating and frightening. I only discovered your blogs since your recent interview on Woman’s Hour and have found them so helpful. Thank you so much. Claire W

  14. Pingback: Dear Chemo Part 2 | Health Blog Round-up | Scoo...

  15. Hi kate I just found your blog, I have been diagnosed with stomach cancer, incurable and am close to finishing my first lot of chemo then the waiting game to see what happens, I just wanted to say I find you truly inspirational, myself being 31 it’s a hard road to accept all the things in life that I will miss out on but I will fight this horrible disease till the end so thank you for your blog I’m sure it gives not just me but a lot of others the strength to fight so again thank you Kate I wish you all the best and you will be in my thoughts 🙂

  16. Hi Kate Hope you’re getting through the chemo and that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been thinking about you a lot since reading both of your books recently. I work for OPAAL, the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance and much of what you write about strikes a chord with our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy work. We’d be really chuffed if you would have a look at our blog sometime: Marie

  17. Puts all my minor problems in perspective! Wishing you everything, keep smiling and good luck. Best wishes, Richard

  18. I have not been a regular follower of Kate’s blog but I first want to say that I admire you Kate for your decision to share your journey and I hope it will not only inspire others to share theirs but that it will also go some way towards an openness and more discussion about dying and death and how people want to spend that stage of their lives, whether they choose active treatment or their bucket list or both!

    I am a R.N., currently working in a public hospital that does implement the LCP when it is needed. By that I mean, when a person has symptoms of a condition or disease that has no reversible causes AND they have also been diagnosed as dying. Interestingly enough, it is often the Nurses and other members of our multidisciplinary team who work with the patients on a more intimate basis who generally make that assessment and diagnosis before the Doctors!

    The LCP has never been a perfect tool and the people who implement it are not perfect either. We are currently using Version 12 and (since the media driven, dramatisized events in England) we are revising it yet again. We have amazing support from our team of experts in the areas of Hospice, Palliative Care, Pharmacy and Non-clinical as well as regular meetings amongst the LCP Resource and Link Nursing staff. We share stories (good and bad), brainstorm, give presentations and put together education updates and resources that we can share with our Nursing colleagues in our work settings.

    There are many factors that determine the successful implementation of the LCP and from my own experience, open and honest communication, appropriate to the patient and their family has to be top of the list. (Though before the LCP is even considered, the medical team(s) must also be honest and open but unfortunately this is not always the case and this can not only lead to false hope and unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient and family but also make the Nurses role a lot more difficult and stressful).

    I am not in favour of assisted euthanasia, but I am in favour of the right of the individual to choose their own path, whether it be to accept or refuse treatment or nutrition or medication that they know, although it may relieve their pain, it may also hasten their death. Who gave anyone else the right to make that choice for them? Who the hell are we or anyone else to dictate how a dying person spends their last days, weeks, months or even years based on our own religious, political or societal beliefs?

    I know this has been mentioned previously but I wanted to reiterate that any person on the LCP who is conscious to the point where they can eat and drink safely, without risking further discomfort or aspiration (which can lead to chest infections and pneumonia) is not starved or deliberately dehydrated. If a person cannot open their mouth to accept food or drink, if they cannot chew, if they cannot swallow safely, if they cannot cough, then they are at risk of further complications that neither they or their family needs to see or experience. Who wants to see their loved one being suctioned or gasping for breath?

    Medications are not given to sedate patients. Medications are given with the INTENTION of trying to relieve or minimise symptoms of the condition causing death and of the symptoms of dying. As a result of those medications, the person may become sedated. The most important word here for me is INTENTION. If my patient is in pain or breathless or nauseated or agitated or restless, my INTENTION is to do whatever I can to relieve those symptoms.

    The western world, and medicine, still have some way to go in accepting that dying and death are part of the human life cycle. This will not happen soon.

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