So back to 23 December, I received many positive messages of support from the Pink Ladies, all providing sensible advice on how to manage chemo, what to eat and drink, what to take to the hospital with me – you name it, the advice was invaluable.
But I was still nervous.
First thing that morning I had a quick surgical procedure under GA to insert the Portacath in the large central vein in my neck – one of the best inventions ever as you have the chemotherapy and all the pre-meds administered through the port, saving your veins from potential collapse.
I woke up to the incredible PET scan report, confirming that the cancer had not spread to any other organs, causing me and my friend to cry tears of joy.
My oncologist — the poor guy, I’ll talk more about him later, but what a terrible profession — started me on a course of 8 x biweekly infusions of dose dense ACT that afternoon.
AC is a combined drug that is red in colour so often referred to as the red devil, and is the tougher of the two.
I took mine every 2 weeks instead of 3, hence why ‘dose dense’.”
The worst days for me were days 7 and 8 in the cycle, after 5 days of injecting myself with a medicine to boost my white blood cell count, which stimulates the bone marrow and which was a terribly uncomfortable feeling for me.
I panicked the first time it happened, on New Year’s Eve (a night on the sofa being unable to move) but Dr Maharra had me smiling in no time when I saw her about it!
Emma: "Enduring the painful cold cap for the first two chemo sessions, before I gave up." Cold caps narrow the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles, so hairfall is less likely.
After 4 infusions of AC, came Taxol. Again, I opted for ‘dose dense’ meaning that I took a triple dose every 2 weeks, instead of a single dose every week.
Why? Was I mad?
Well I wanted it over with faster, my oncologist deemed me physically strong enough to take it, and it meant that I got a week off in between each session, a week when I would feel relatively ‘normal’.
A week when I could climb stairs without huffing and puffing, and when I could taste my food properly.
Taxol actually hit me quite hard at first, as unbeknownst to me I had contracted conjunctivitis from my son and with chemo your immune system virtually shuts down so any infection feels a ton worse than normal.
I had begun to think I’d made a mistake choosing dose dense, but again one of the fabulous Pink Ladies, who had opted for a similar path, contacted me and helped me through it.
The second dose was half as bad, and by doses 3 and 4 I barely suffered from any pain.
My last session of chemo was on 31st March 2016, an event where some volunteers from Pink Ladies come visit you with balloons, in fact now there’s a pink graduation gown that you wear for photos with the nurses, and often patients bring in some cake for everyone to enjoy.
It is the biggest milestone and one definitely worthy of celebrating. I marked the occasion by going out and partying with the amazing mums from my son’s class – another group of people I could not have coped without.
They just rallied around me, my husband and my son, and took him for play dates and sleepovers whenever I was feeling below par during the chemo cycle.
My son that is, not my husband!
Have a question for Emma? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a weekly blog, by Emma Rymer. Emma is a long-time UAE resident, employed in a private sector firm. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and was cleared by the doctors as completely cancer-free in early 2018. She writes this weekly blog in the hope that other women or men going through the same process can find strength and resilience from her journey. Emma lives in Dubai with her family.