Well Folks, We’re Down To The Final Three Chemos

WORDS: Corrine Barraclough PHOTOGRAPHY Corrine Barraclough

CB’s BC Journal

I’ve had some very random thoughts this week so please bear with me and don’t think I’ve finally lost the plot…

You know when you’re a child and you’re counting down to Christmas to see what Santa bought you, and then as it gets closer and closer you want to press pause so you can enjoy the moment of excitement and anticipation for longer? Yeah, I’ve got that. Whatever that is.

I keep looking across at the countdown to my final chemo treatment that I stuck on the fridge 14 weeks ago in near disbelief. Did I really do all of that? I made it through those absolutely hideous first four rounds of dose-dense AC? And then I fronted up to Chemo Fridays week, after week, after week? During that time I got COVID and somehow, absolutely miraculously, tested negative within just three days and was able to resume chemo treatment?

It all feels very surreal.

After my last chemo last Friday, I woke up on Saturday feeling like my middle finger on my left hand was going to explode. Another joy of chemo is that it totally f**ks up your fingernails and wreaks havoc with your skin.

I said it was infected, I never said it was pretty.

As the hours ticked by it became so painful I had tears running down my face. I called my GP practice and managed to get an urgent script for painkillers, but knew that was just putting a band-aid on whatever was really wrong.

By Monday, I had an appointment booked with my regular GP, had alerted my breast cancer nurse and oncologist. I was relieved to be able to report it was an infection, and heavy-duty antibiotics soon seemed to be working their magic. My white blood cells are struggling so much now, infections are the new black round here. I’m so thankful that I haven’t had to have a blood transfusion yet, I’m praying I can make it to the finish line without.

The pain in my purple fingertip began to subside. Between you and me, I quite enjoyed being able to squirt totally rancid yellow liquid (yes, it’s the p word, but I can’t bring myself to use it) for a couple of days like a warped, gross version of Spider Woman.

And, as I sat looking at my fingertip returning to normal by Thursday, I took a moment to chuckle at the shocker of a roller coaster ride that has been this breast cancer journey.

Old me, BC, before breast cancer, would never in a million years have imagined that a sore finger would have triggered such an intense, swift reaction involving so many medical experts. And yet, here we are, three weeks before the end of chemo, and everyone is on speed dial. I have my medical emergency card, which I take to emergency if I need to go, which means I’m seen within 30 minutes. I have a Rule Three exemption card which I take to wave like a VIP card at the pathologist every Wednesday. I know my way around C Block at Gold Coast University Hospital like it’s my office, and pop into Room 79 every week to be weighed and have a string of observations taken. And, of course, Chemo Fridays have become such a regular part of my life that my close circle of friends have adopted the term like it’s no big deal anymore.

Funny old life, isn’t it?

I wear my headscarf every day and it’s become like putting on a jacket. No big deal.

I have zero body hair. Got used to that too.

Just a typically healthy, forty-something sober chick on the Gold Coast, making hospital dashes because she’s fighting an aggressive cancer that no one can see.

In three weeks, random infections may be little more than part of an uncomfortable chapter she’s very happy to close…

More next week!

Corrine x

Corrine was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, which has spread to her lymph nodes. Her medical oncologists are pursuing a “cure”, which will begin with a six-month course of chemotherapy at Gold Coast University Hospital, followed by surgery at Robina Hospital and then likely further treatment. Corrine will be writing a weekly blog journaling her personal journey for Ocean Road Magazine throughout her breast cancer.