Round Five Biddy Beep

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Round Five: Biddy Beep!

Marlene Dietrich sang 'Falling in Love Again, What am I to do' and I want to record a version with the words 'Falling Apart Again'. 

I'm in bed at 7.48pm with a blocked nose and a mild temperature. In short, a head cold.

So what's the problem, it's just a head cold? For you maybe, but for me, with my reduced immunity, it could be a first class ticket to A&E again!

By my bed is the thermometer, a standard issue Boots thermometer, so the beeps are too high pitched to hear and the screen isn’t illuminated but apart from that it’s great. Oh and it’s lime green, which is soothing not! I’ve also got an assortment of the usual potions and lotions, such as Vicks and Sinex and a box of tissues. I'm not allowed paracetamol. It would mask any fever delaying me from getting the necessary urgent medical treatment. See my earlier blog about A&E.

One good thing about counselling is that there's always tissues in the house. They’re not the balmy soft ones, but if a client were to need to wipe the snot and tears away after a good old vent (highly recommended), these will suffice. The same goes if repressed emotions surface in the form of a sneeze (it happens).

I soothe myself with a dollop of industrial strength zero base cream. If cream were classified from pampering to matronly, this gunk would be in an episode of Call the Midwife! I need it because my skin is dry.

All the world’s an Italian restaurant and I’ve brought my own parmesan!

Down stairs is the A&E bag, packed and ready, locked and loaded. If I revealed the contents, I’d have to kill you! The 24/7 Lymphoma helpline number is stored in my phone in case my trump gets to 37.5 degrees and we're literally ready to go, which is ironic as I’d only be going because I’m not very good at all.

Practicalities aside, it's anxiety I want to talk about. I'm scared, or in grown up terms: anxious. My inner child is scared so 58 year old me is scared too.

Fear no 1:

Going to bed not knowing if I'll wake up needing an ambulance scares me. And Batman’s still constipated.

Fear. no2:

I've been so lucky with my treatment so far and I'm nearly there. On the 23rd Nov '23 I'll have my last immunotherapy and that will be it! Then I'll enter the post ChemoLand world. The expectation is that I'll be cancer free, which means the good doctors cannot detect it. There will probably be a few bad boy cells knocking around my system and the process will start again. White cells doubling every 10 to 18 months until treatment is required. Lymphoma the sequel; Lymphoma with a Vengeance; or Lymphoma II the Red Cells Strike Back! At least eventually, I’ll be played by a younger, better looking version of me.

I tend to look at it like this: Picture a valley with a river meandering through it. To the left of the valley are the lush hills of luxury and joy. That's my best case scenario i.e. cancer free forever. It's possible, but since we will never get to experience forever, I'll never experience it. (That may be so philosophical that your head could explode at any moment! I suggest the age-old antidote of saying the word ‘Twat’ out loud. It usually does the trick.)

To the right of the valley are the poor arid soils of the badlands. That's my worst case, which is more treatment within three years. I've a lot of plans for those years and I will be monumentally pissed off if I have to spend them in and out of hospital! Are you listening, Universe?

Now to the river. The left bank represents a reasonably good realistic outcome i.e. 5 to 8 years cancer free. The right bank represents a reasonable bad outcome i.e. 3-5 years cancer free.

Staying in the river is a nice little technique of avoiding the catastrophizing and unrealistically optimistic outcomes.

All very grown up, but the problem is, I'm scared and fear doesn't go away with rational arguments. Fear wants to shout and scream until someone rescues!

The big trap many people including myself make is to mitigate the fear by comparison. Compared to others, I've had it easy. Fear isn't grown up, it's a childlike emotional mechanism of survival and therefore has to be self centred. If Leonardo De Caprio was trying to get onto my raft, there would be a polite 'sorry we're full' and a boot to the head. By the way Leonardo Da Caprico has never featured in my fantasy world before so I'd better check my temperature again.... 36.1 phew.

Fear no 3:
Each round of chemo has produced less side effects (excluding colds), but each round has produced more emotional discomfort.

I was describing the biddy beep to a friend and I could feel the anxiety in my chest. Biddy beep is the sound the drip pumps make near the end of an infusion. As the lifts open at UCLH's chemo floor, there's often a biddy beep chorus to greet you. And I'm feeling anxious again.

Only one blood test and three cannulas to go, which is about six hours of biddy beep.

A final note on anxiety. It stops you doing things without you realising it. It's what I call ' it drives the bus'. The only solution is to drag your fears into your awareness and face them, own them and express them. Easier said than done when the go to response for most is the ‘carry on, keep calm and get busy’. As Carl Jung said: “What you resist persists”.

That's all, so all so, it's biddy beep from me :)


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