A Positive Chemotherapy Story

chemotherapy side-effects positive story

So in late 2018 I received the phone-call no daughter wants to hear, that my mum received a diagnosis that she had ovarian cancer. I was shocked, burst into tears and instantly started googling cancer, the side-effects and the side-effects of chemotherapy which was the route she eventually had to go down.

In October 2018 she had her first operation where she had a full hysterectomy  and once they analysed what they took out, they saw cancer had moved into one of her Fallopian tubes, so they arranged another operation where she had her lymph nodes and omentum removed.

Two major operations one after another would ordinarily take their toll on most people, but my mother had a positive attitude and with some care and attention recovered quite well. Because they found cancer in the omentum they said she needed chemotherapy, even though there were no visible tumours there, but just to be safe.

Once this had been confirmed and she had said yes to this, I frantically started googling side effects, what could happen when she had the chemotherapy, the long term effects and more. All of us as a family were extremely worried, the negative side effects were rife across the internet and we genuinely expected an awful experience.

And while I know people who have had awful experiences and challenging side-effects, it can really be different for everyone and depends on the drugs used and so much more.

A Positive Chemotherapy Story

Because of this I wanted to share my mother’s positive story, because she is in her sixties and chemotherapy was not a dreadful experience for her. This is absolutely not to negate anyone who has really been through the mill when it comes to chemotherapy, but just to give another perspective on the internet for anyone searching and to let you know, sometimes expectations can be far worse than the actual experience of chemotherapy.

My mother had 6 cycles of two drugs. The drugs she had intravenously were Paclitaxel and Carboplatin. These cycles took place once every three weeks at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead in the United Kingdom.

I bought her many different things to help with the side effects, Gin-Gins, crystalised ginger, unscented heat pads in case she was cold and a few other things. Needless to say I was glad I did, but she did not need them as much as we expected.

Chemotherapy fortunately is not as awful as it used to be, when people would suffer extreme sickness. Nurses and doctors can adapt to the symptoms that happen, change the dose of chemotherapy, increase or decrease doses of steroids and anti-sickness drugs and so much more.

My mother had some symptoms but not as many as expected. The main side-effects were tiredness, but not as intensely as she or we expected and we all thought she would lose her appetite and have a yucky taste in her mouth the whole time, but that only happened for a few days after the chemotherapy and after that her appetite returned. She actually ate really well and could taste things fine.

She did lose her hair, but she kept her eyebrows and her eyelashes. She adapted to no hair by wearing a funky chemotherapy cap and occasionally her wig for special occasions, which in the UK you get a voucher for.

The actual chemotherapy treatment itself was a bit strange at first, but she got used to it pretty quickly. Everyone in the chemo ward was on the same journey (albeit different drugs, different cancers), but there was such a lovely connection between everyone going regularly that in a way it became a small family for several months. 

The nurses laughed and joked, brought round tea, hot chocolate and biscuits. My mother lay back on a reclining chair and read magazines or books or played on her Ipad. She felt a little lightheaded getting up to use the bathroom but that was about it when it came to going for the treatment she was on. Some attended treatments alone, my mother did once and she was fine. Often the ward sisters will show you around the ward before you start your chemotherapy so you don’t feel overwhelmed on the day. The nurses are so down to earth, they do everything they can to make you feel at ease.

These Came In Handy

The crystalised ginger and Gin-Gins came in handy, the boiled sweets were a great help, as were ice lollies and having easy meals in the house for the first week after chemotherapy. All these little things made things easier, but most of all just getting on with it, accepting this was what was happening helped her tremendously.

The main thing about having anything like this is to make sure you learn to accept ‘what is’, try not to fight against the condition or the treatment if you have opted for chemotherapy. 

The Internet Is Full Of Terrible Stories

Not everyone opts for chemotherapy and that is okay too, everyone needs to do what feels right for them. But I wanted to alleviate many of the fears I had as her daughter to anyone searching. Yes, maybe you will have a crappy chemotherapy experience, BUT most of the stories online are of those crappy experiences, whereas those who have an easier time rarely share their stories. Think about this. Know that while one person may have terrible time, nine more may breeze through it with minimal symptoms and really not all drugs are the same.

My mother had different drugs to those who have breast cancer and that may be more challenging or it may not, depending on your own personal experience, attitude, body and life mindset. You can never know until it happens.

My eyes were certainly opened wide when I saw my mother go through this. She lived alone and I feared she would not be able to cope but she did. We are far tougher than we believe ourselves to be when it comes down to the challenges of life. We survive and some of us even thrive from the lessons that come along with major life difficulties.

If you are going through a cancer journey right now, I send you love and warm wishes. I know it is scary, but know you are supported. The nurses and doctors are really good nowadays and will answer any questions you may have. And if you are struggling, my friend Karin Siegerhas a podcast she set up to help support those on the cancer journey. Pop by her new podcast called CANCER and YOU here

Positive Chemotherapy Story

Because of this I wanted to share my mother’s positive story, because she is in her sixties and chemotherapy was not a dreadful experience for her. This is absolutely not to negate anyone who has really been through the mill when it comes through chemotherapy, but just to give another perspective on the internet for anyone searching and to let you know, sometimes expectations can be far worse than the actual experience of chemotherapy.

My mother had 6 cycles of two drugs. The drugs she had intravenously were Paclitaxel and Carboplatin. These cycles took place once every three weeks at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead in the United Kingdom.

I bought her many different things to help with the side effects, Gin-Gins, critalised ginger, unscented heat pads in case she was cold and a few other things. Needless to say I was glad I did, but she did not need them as much as we expected.

Chemotherapy fortunately is not a awful as it used to be, when people would suffer extreme sickness, nurses and doctors can more adapt to the symptoms that happen, change the dose of chemotherapy, increase or decrease doses of steroids and anti-sickness drugs and so much more.

My mother had some symptoms but not as many as expected. The main side-effects were tiredness, but not as intensely as she or we expected and we all thought she would lose her appetite have a yucky taste in her mouth the whole time, but that only happened a few days after the chemotherapy and after that her appetite returned. She actually ate really well and could taste things fine.

She did lose her hair, but she kept her eyebrows and her eyelashes. She adapted to no hair by wearing a funky chemotherapy cap and occasionally her wig for special occasions, which if you are in the UK you get a voucher for a free wig.

The actual chemotherapy treatment itself was a bit strange at first, but she got used to it pretty quickly, everyone in the chemo ward was all on the same journey (albeit different drugs, different cancers), but there was such a lovely connection between everyone going regularly, in a way it became a small family for several months. 

The nurses laughed and joked, brought round tea, hot chocolate and biscuits, she lay back on a reclining chair and read magazines or books or played on her Ipad. She felt a little lightheaded getting up to use the bathroom but that was about it when it came to going for the treatment she was on. Some attended treatments alone, my mother did once and she was fine. Often the ward sisters will show you around the ward before you start your chemotherapy so you don’t feel overwhelmed on the day. The nurses are so down to earth, they do everything they can to make you feel at ease.

These Came In Handy

The cristalised ginger and Gin-Gins came in handy, boiled sweets were a great help, ice lollies and having easy meals in the house for the first week after chemotherapy. All these little things made things easier, but most of all just getting on with it, accepting this was what was happening helped her tremendously.

The main thing about have anything like this is to make sure you learn to accept ‘what is’, try not to fight against the condition or the treatment if you have opted for chemotherapy. 

The Internet Is Full Of Terrible Stories

Not everyone opts for chemotherapy and that is okay too, everyone needs to do what feels right to them. But I wanted to alleviate many of the fears I had as her daughter to anyone searching, yes maybe you will have a crappy chemotherapy experience, BUT most of the stories online are of those crappy experiences, those who have an easier time rarely share their stories, think about this. Know that while one person may have terrible time, nine more may breeze through it with minimal symptoms and really not all drugs are the same.

My mother had different drugs to those who have breast cancer and that may be more challenging or it may not, depending on your own personal experience, attitude, body and life mindset. You can never know until it happens.

My eyes were certainly opened wide when I saw my mother go through this. She lived alone and I feared she would not be able to cope but she did. We are far tougher than we believe ourselves to be when it comes down to the challenges of life we endure. We survive and some of us even thrive from the lessons that come along with major life difficulties.

If you are going through a cancer journey right now, I send you love and warm wishes. I know it is scary, but know you are supported. The nurses and doctors are really good nowadays and will answer any questions you may have. And if you are struggling my friend and psychotherapist Karin Sieger  has a podcast she set up to help support those on the cancer journey. Pop by her new podcast called CANCER and YOU here

This is a photo of me and my mum after her last chemotherapy treatment in May 2019. After her treatment mum gave the cancer nurses some chocolates and also biscuits to share with the patients. She then got her photo taken by the ‘What I am grateful for’ section on the ward. We left the hospital and she walked back to her home (around 25 minutes away), a slow walk in the sun through the nature reserve.

She still managed to keep smiling. I am incredibly proud of all she has gone through this past year. She is a real hero and so brave as are all who are on a Cancer journey. It is not an easy one, but it’s something we can’t avoid if it arrives at our door. 

Be well x

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Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin is the author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ , a passionate writer and blogger questioning life’s illusions. After what seemed like a decade of intense anxiety, feelings of failure and grief from the loss of her father she chose to take a mindfulness path and has not looked back since. Kelly encourages people to find the treasures that lie within the pain and suffering and to learn to see themselves as ‘enough’ exactly as they are, right now through her writing and You Tube channel .

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