Pre-Chemo (Pt.1)

This one’s more of a “dealing with cancer” post than a comedy post, so, much like a Lisa episode of The Simpsons or a Meg episode of Family Guy, nobody will blame you for turning back now

So, at this point in my story, I had just been fully diagnosed and had about a week and a half before I started chemo. This gave me a bit of time to get the last bit of sessioning out of me before I would be “officially” off the drink for a number of months. (I say officially but there’s always room for the odd sneaky can.) One thing that I really wanted to talk about in this post was my last full-on madouvih session before starting treatment, which was at the Trinity Ball, however, I have since realised that absolutely fuck-all of it is repeatable. I will however say this; if you and your stomach can withstand the absolute horrors of an event that necessitates you to drink to the point that you forget that you’ve just splashed out 80 quid to listen to a harrowingly sub-standard lineup surrounded by posh twats in tuxes, as you trudge through a cobbled sea of vomit, yokes and despair, in search of toilets that may or not be there, if you can fit an unforgiving digit in the front, not in the bum, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

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Yes that last line was crass…. or was it….. POETIC?!

OK, I got sidetracked by the opportunity to throw in that weird Rudyard Kipling reference (Seriously though, when else would I ever get the opportunity?), but my point is that I was absolutely bricking it about what chemo-induced nausea would be like. It is something that, in my experience of watching shows like breaking bad, is represented as being this very dramatic unavoidable side-effect, where people are puking their brains out in some grotty toilet, gasping for air like a dying fish. The fact of the matter is that, in the last 10-15 years, the drugs for combating chemo-induced nausea and vomiting have been improved and developed by leaps and bounds, to the point that, as I write this (a good 2 months or so into my treatment) I have not gotten sick once due to my treatment. Given, there is the occasional bout of mild nausea, but nothing that can’t be sorted out by a little bit of vitamin THC.

ANYWAY! On my third attempt at making this point; the bottom line is, if you’ve ever had a night out where you’ve simply had way too much and puked your ring up, this, in my experience, a lot fucking worse than chemo is. If you have never done so and are starting chemo soon, I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough!

Meeting with my chemo nurse pt.1

As I explained earlier, the anti-sickness/nausea drugs for chemo have improved dramatically in recent years. All of this was explained to me at an information briefing session with my chemo nurse, Caroline, who has been just awesome and did a great job in helping me get my head around what chemo would be like. I was to be undergoing the ABVD regimen of chemo (It’s an acronym for the different drugs they use). My treatment would basically consist of being hooked up to an IV drip for a few hours every two weeks, along with daily medication to prevent the chemo drugs from damaging my body.

I won’t go through the long list of potential side-effects, which were explained to me, as I have not experienced most of them and I see little point in speculating as to what “terrible things” may/may not happen to you. One piece of advice, which I have found to be invaluable throughout my treatment, is to listen to other people’s experience of cancer and take in as much positive as are made but for the love of god, don’t sit there and let people tell you about how awful things are/were for them/their loved one unless you are currently experiencing those symptoms. In my experience, the best approach is to take everything as it comes. I understand that it is important to have a basic understanding of what may/may not happen to your body, in order to differentiate between what is happening because of the chemo and what may be another additional health problem.

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For if my hair does actually start falling out; this is what it looks like. From a gig I did for Trinity Fringe 2013, where I feigned an on-stage breakdown and shaved off my dreadhawk for the Irish Heart Foundation.

This is undeniable. However, I feel that this is best explained in an utmost objective and scientific way due to the fact that the body’s reaction to chemotherapy drugs is EXTREMELY subjective and varies greatly from person to person.Hence, I simply do not see the point in adding unnecessary fear and anticipation based on anecdotal observations from anyone. For example, I’m about 2 months into my treatment, I haven’t lost my hair (yet, at least), haven’t spewed my ring up once and I genuinely feel healthier than I have in about a year’s time. Focusing on these positives has been invaluable to me.

I do understand the importance of these back-from-the-brink stories and I found them to be of great value to me around the time of my diagnosis. However, I feel an important proviso with listening to any of these stories/watching any of these youtube videos, is to take in as much positivity as you can from these people’s experience of cancer and their fighting spirit but also to filter out any negative descriptions of anything that you are not currently experiencing, as, in my own opinion, there is fuck-all to be gained from anticipation of such negatives. That’s like deciding to show someone Braveheart to inspire them to fight for freedom and then fast forwarding to the bit where they’re tearing the poor cunt apart like a fucking brioche.

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“Jaysus, some slap off these yokes!”

I have looked up to/modeled myself on two key role models throughout my whole journey; MMA fighter, Conor McGregor and fictional spy, Sterling Archer. Something about the brash, over-confident, dickheaded nature of the two was inspiring, like their attitude towards life was the same that I should have towards cancer. Yes, this type of persona can be really fucking annoying for people when this is your attitude towards all of life. But life and the many people within it, who I have surrounded myself with, have earned my respect. Cancer, on the other hand is just a cunt, so why not be a conceited prick towards it and use all of that positive “I’m gonna wreck this prick!” energy  to fuel your way through treatment?

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*Spoiler alert for Archer Season 2* If you are currently/expecting to go through chemo at any stage, I highly recommend watching the few episodes towards the end of season 2 of Archer, where he gets cancer. It’s weirdly inspiring. I also just realised, upon re-watching it, that he too had stage 2 lymphatic cancer, which was also weirdly inspiring for some reason.

Anyway, back to my chemo briefing session. The obvious initial question, for some strange reason, for most people about to start chemo is “Will my hair fall out?” I’m not going to lie, it was one of the first things on my mind but it’s not something that really mattered to me. It just seems like such a tiny inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. I understand that it can be quite traumatic for some people, especially women, however, realistically, if you have the capacity and head space to be able to be upset by something that is relatively insignificant such as this, then I see that as being a good thing because that means your brain isn’t entirely pre-occupied by the thought of “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, I might die!” One thing I noticed when I was being diagnosed was that my OCD left me alone because I was so busy being worried about dying and what might happen to me, that I simply didn’t have the head space for irrational worries, there were already enough rational ones there. The point is, if you have the capacity to worry about trivial shit, like missing hair that will grow back, or lost nights out that you will have once again, or a year of college that you will be able to resit, then deep down you’re probably doing OK.

Anyway, I was told that I’d probably lose my hair (again, still hasn’t happened a good 2 months or so in) and I’d most likely get to keep my eyebrows. As you can see from the picture earlier on in this post, I have shaved my head before and I know what I look like bald, so losing my hair isn’t really a worry for me. Plus I’m a big dirty punk, so I have a fine supply of boots and braces to get me through it. Funny enough, I actually had an idea for a joke a while ago about beating up a skinhead, who turned out to be a chemo patient. Maybe karma gave my cancer on the foot of that but either way, Larry David did a much better job of it than I would have:

 

Thank you all for reading!

Again, I had a plan to write about some really gritty shit (I assure you, the IVF wanking room will be discussed in the next post.), however I was horribly sidetracked by a number of thoughts I’d been having about attitude, positivity and the value of other peoples experience/how to use it (y’know, all that “dealing with cancer” crap, that actually aims to help other people going through treatment.)

Anyway, I hope I didn’t shite on too much and that this was of some use to some of you. Again, I love hearing from y’all, so feel free to get in contact with me through this or social media if you want to throw in your two cents on any of the issues discussed or just want to say hi 🙂

 

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2 thoughts on “Pre-Chemo (Pt.1)

  1. Hey Ben. I finished my chemo for Hodgkins about 2 months ago, and like you, I didn’t lose my hair or vomit once. I did end up with changed tastebuds for a few days after each treatment, and I still have the reduced sensation and tingling in my fingers and toes (peripheral neuropathy), but apart from that I’m fine. The ABVD did the trick, and I hope it does for you! Good luck on your chemo journey, and keep up the blog posts. Richard

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