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Diary of a Cancer Patient: The First Few Weeks of Chemotherapy

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I think I have come to terms with it all, having cancer, I think anyway. I'm now on my way to recovery, I hope. Now the challenge is getting through treatment and overcoming the day to day practicalities.

I started chemo two weeks ago and it's going as well as can be expected.

Before all this happened, I didn't really know what chemotherapy was. I think there are lots of different perceptions and to be honest, there are various types of chemo treatments. Mine involves going into hospital as a daycare patient, having intravenous injections and enjoying a diet of delicious tablets morning, noon and night. That said, I am still eating like a horse.

All treatments can cause different side effects. I am fortunate, and will probably speak too soon, but haven't been too sick. The fatigue kicks in towards the second week and you have to start adjusting how to live your life to get through it.

The main risk at this time is catching an infection as my white blood count is so low, I have no ability to fight disease. And as if on cue, I developed an infection within two weeks of starting treatment and had to have a few MORE injections and MORE tablets. The injections stimulated growth of white blood cells in my bone marrow which caused pretty agonising pain in my leg and thigh muscles. This meant a few nights not sleeping but I'm prepared for the bad sides, I know it's not going to be an easy ride. I'll find I have a bad few hours then a few good, then who knows.

Living day by day is the only way and it's a learning curve really. People talk about listening to your body and that is what I am starting to do.

It's funny how I've adjusted and developed some weird resilient approach to getting through it. Maybe it's just my way but having spoken to people in my situation, I think they would say the same. My particular cancer, Hodgkins Lymphoma, is just unfortunately bad luck. There is no real evidence as to why it happens, it just does. And you just have to deal with what life throws at you. No choice really!

Being fiercely independent, my main hurdle has been to try to relax and rest. I lived to work, I loved it and being told I'd have to take time off to go through cancer treatment was really tough. I'm settling into it now though.

It's strange how you learn to deal with the things you never thought you would when they happen. And weirdly, I feel positive. In light of everything. I feel grateful now for my life and the rest of it.

I am lucky to have been diagnosed and once this horrible nightmare is over, I fully intend to go back to living and enjoying life. I sound so airy fairy but I really think there are always people worse off than us and you can always find good in situations - and that is how I am going to see it.

I'm not sure how that will help with the financial side of things but a positive mental attitude hopefully will prevail! It's something you never really consider, well, aged 30 I hadn't. The bank had tried to convince me to purchase life insurance which would have supported me through this time but at my age I really didn't think getting cancer was an option. You live and learn. I'm trying not to let it get to me.

So then what? No job/salary/income - as I had recently taken a new freelance position. No insurance - as I didn't purchase life insurance. Mortgage lender unable to offer me a mortgage holiday.

What am I entitled to? Minimal benefits of around £60 a week, no housing or rental support in my situation, unable to register for Disability Living Allowance as you need to be out of work for nine months and no carer allowance despite needing someone to be with me most of the time and take me to hospital.

The council allocated me a blue badge for the car so I can at least get to hospital, no congestion charge, and there is a scheme called 'Taxicard' where the council supplements some of a taxi journey.

MacMillan have been a great support, the only cancer charity able to help in my situation. Within a week or two of being diagnosed I had received a small donation to help pay a week's rent. However, with another six months to go, it's appreciated but obviously will not go the distance.

So all in all, I still have my rent to pay in a lovely flat - I live centrally because I need to be near the hospital. And the bills don't stop just because you have cancer. If anything they increase as I'm now in 24/7 and need more food, heating and electricity plus communicate more on the phone to friends and family to keep them updated.

I did consider moving somewhere cheaper or even moving back up north with my parents but as I am going to effectively going to be holed up for the next six months, I want to be somewhere I am comfortable and happy. It's horrible enough going through it. My location also means its easy for visitors to pop in and I genuinely wouldn't be able to get through this without them.

My family have been hugely supportive and offered to help financially but we are not a well-off family and it's something I don't want to accept. I don't want self pity either, I am keen to just get the message out of what happens in this situation.

For now, I am going to try to work from home as and when I am well enough and hopefully that will get me through it.

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