Olivia Rose Smith

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

A day in the life - on a chemo day

I couldn't wake up that morning because I had been awake half the night excited, excited that tomorrow I would be hitting the half way line. Its funny what I get excited over. In my head I have climbed the mountain now I’ve just got to come down the other side. Easy.

What can I get you to drink this morning? asked Dad, as he always does if I am awake before he leaves for work. Gin and tonic. I mumbled. Tea then? he replied. I pretty much downed my cup of tea as I always wake up so dehydrated in the mornings now, probably because of night sweats. Glorious things.

I hopped in the shower, not forgetting my Picc line cover, a huge plastic tent for my arm to stop the wound or the line getting wet. I can’t wait to wash my arm properly I thought, as I do every day. I washed my hair with baby shampoo, it seems to be falling out more and more at the moment so I thought I better use something a bit more sensitive. Is that even more sensitive? I doubt it. It makes my hair even more limp than it already is. I put on my full face of makeup, moisturiser, charlotte tilbury light glow foundation, highlighter, bronzer, eyebrows, mascara. None of this was to be seen on my face by the end of the day of course. And a light summer outfit, it was boiling outside, but freezing in the hospital, obviously. I always want to at least look the best there -  which is entirely pointless and probably really annoying for everyone else who turns up in their PJ’s. I feel like a fake turning up with my head of hair and face of makeup looking like the picture of health.

I had my blood tests done, and made my way up to clinic, where we meet with an oncologist and talk through all the retched side effects to have graced my body these last two weeks, and prescribe more hundreds of pills to take home for these new side effects, to add to our own mini pharmacy on the kitchen work top. Its always a long wait to see the oncologist, its always over subscribed so they run at least an hour late without fail. Don’t think we will bother with the last few months, joked mum. Its getting boring. 

I get called to get weighed before the oncologist see’s me. 61KG. Yesss I’ve lost 2KG I thought. But thats not praised by cancer nurses. Its like weight watchers in reverse. They want to see you putting weight on. Makes you stronger I suppose. But I’d just gone gluten free and cutting out the fresh french stick my Papa buys me everyday and wedge of butter has definitely been in my favour. I had actually managed to put on a stone in 2 weeks on previous occasions. Doh.

Olivia Smith? The nurse called. The oncologist will see you now. YESS! I threw my arms up and cheered. The waiting room full of 90 year olds always seem amused by me. 

I swear she hates you. Mum said as we left the oncologists room, but then we never have liked that oncologist. She always seems full of bad news and fills me with dread. Yes the side effects will be worse and worse from now on she assures me. Great thanks hun.

We now have to wait in the queue to make next times appointment now, a man in front of me in a wheelchair sneezes/coughs/gags and deposits a pile of snot, maybe flem, maybe sick, you cant be sure, onto the floor in front of him. We need tissues over here! Shouted his wife. I took a few steps back. Wow. I should probably feel bad, but I don’t. I just want out. I do not fit in to the cancer community, theres no doubt about that.

Mum and I always leave the hospital between clinic and chemo, at about 10:30, theres a couple of hours where you have to wait for the chemo to arrive. We usually go for brunch, or go to west quay. I then come back to hospital at 1, which is the time I am due to start chemo. 

Did you not have a blood test this morning asked the nurse? Yes. I replied. Well we have lost your blood it so we will have to do it again. Gahhh. Classic. Theres always something. We didn’t end up starting chemo until about 2:30 meaning I wasn't home until about 6. The day is always long and drags like hell watching the bags of poison drip into me and the colour quickly drains from my face. I sit there eating nuts, sweets, raspberries, mints anything to take my mind off the fact I swear I can taste the chemo. I’ve said before but I am so lucky that I get to be treated in a Teenage Cancer Trust unit. I get a nurses full attention all day, my own bed, usually surrounded by other teenagers going through the same thing. Instead of the 90 year olds in wheelchairs who swamp the other wards. 3 hours later, and a dressing change for my Pic line and I'm done.

Travelling from the hospital bed to my bed at home is always a chore. The car journey makes me feel sick, and we always leave at rush hour. I get home to everyone asking how did it go, how are you feeling, can I get you anything. Mum made me sausage and mash and I cleared the plate and then Harry went and got me chips from the chip shop. Yes I had mash and chips. Standard chemo food for me. Harry and Archie are such feeders. Always asking if you could have anything to eat in the world what would it be and they will go and get it. Doesn't help because I am literally a hoover. I cant stop eating. I wish I was the opposite, I wish I’d lost weight. I’d rather not be fat and bald. Not the best combo. The nurses always put on their sympathetic voice and ask how am I getting on with food, as if its supposed to be my worst enemy, mum and I just crack up. 

I feel like everything is ‘mum and I’ in this blog post. But actually I guess we are practically one person at the moment. She lives in my back pocket, or I live in hers as she drags me round delivering me to various appointments. Both having withdrawal symptoms whilst she works.

I had told the oncologist that last time I had chemo I had felt a lot more sick than in the past, I didn't even like water anymore. She told me she expected that this would be the case and prescribed me with more anti sickness medication, just to take at night because they would knock me out. I took one, a tiny tablet, half the size of a tic tac at 9 and by 9:20 I was fast asleep. It was bloody lovely to have a proper night sleep. They worked a treat. Unfortunately I was told not to put them eBay, sorry guys.


  1. Hi Olivia as someone who has recently been told that I have cancer and most likely lymphoma I just wanted to let you know that your blog has helped ease my mind especially today as I just found out my biopsy surgery has been pushed back, only by a week but it feels like a race against time to get treatment started and also this last week and a half has felt like a month worrying about what type I have and what stage. Also reading about what to expect from chemo and the little things that make it more bearable has been helpful and I will be making myself a shopping list once I get a start date for treatment. Finally seeing that someone close to my age has been in my situation and is doing so well is so uplifting and I just want to thank you for taking the time to make this blog. And yeah night sweats suck don't they.

  2. I just stumbled across your instagram tonight and spent the last half hour reading all your blog posts- you’re so funny and a really good natural writer. ‘I’d rather not be fat and bald’ legit made me laugh out loud, and the bit about the guys snot. If anyone else going through a similar situation can have even 10% of your positivity and ability to make light of hospital appointments etc then they will be doing well! Keep up your amazing writing, i’m going to be constantly checking for new posts! Xx

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