• Rachel Vercoe

From one drug to another

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

THE past three months have pushed me to my limits physically and mentally. I always knew they were going to be hard but you never quite know just how hard until you’re smack bang in the middle of it.

The strangest part about chemotherapy treatment is walking into the cancer clinic feeling strong and healthy but knowing you’re going to leave feeling sicker than you’ve ever been in your life. The opposite to why you normally go to the hospital.

I still find myself in shock daily, thinking how bizarre it is, it’s actually me going through this. You see and hear of other people getting cancer and just hope it won’t be you but the reality is, it doesn’t matter what age, gender, race, religion or health you’re in, cancer doesn’t discriminate.

I don’t have the BRCA1 gene, which is the genetic gene for breast cancer, I don’t smoke, I hardly drink, I lead an active and healthy lifestyle, yet I still got breast cancer. I hope this encourages people to get to know their bodies, check for lumps and GO TO THE DOCTOR. Never wait until it's too late, even if it's just for peace of mind, get checked.

I’m not asking why me and I never will because it’s a useless and unnecessary question. I believe everything happens for a reason and somehow this is the card I’ve been dealt.

A lot has happened since I last wrote something. I’ve now finished 4 out of 4 rounds of AC chemo, a combination of doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide. Every round knocked me off my chops for approximately a week yet after 3 to 4 days, I was back at work.

Thankfully, that’s all finished and will just be a phase of my life I had to endure. After these four rounds were finished I had an ultra sound on my breast to see if the lump has shrunk, it hadn’t.

Dad and I after a successful day out in the water.

There have been some positives and perks during these past months though. I had a goal to get out in the water and spear a nice fish, to achieve something while going through hell and was beyond happy and thankful when I landed a beautiful jewfish while diving with my dad. Another positive is showering is now super duper easy. My razor has been deemed useless as there's no hair to shave, I'm saving money on shampoo and conditioner and all I have to do is pat my head with a towel and it's dry! Thankfully, I've also been able to ride when I feel healthy and still see Willow everyday.

I can't even begin to describe how much it means to be able to spend time with Willow during this process. She's the best distraction and my best friend.

I’m now on a chemo drug called Paclitaxel, which is given every Monday for 12 weeks. I’m currently 2/12 down and had my third treatment cancelled due to low white blood cell count. Round three has been put off for another week. I also started another drug at the same time called Herceptin, which is given every three weeks for 12 months.

It’s disappointing to skip a week as it delays my treatment and the end of all the drugs I’ll have to take but I also know there’s nothing I can do. It’s my body healing and trying to deal with everything that’s been pumped through my veins in the last few months. I don’t blame it for running low every now and then.

I’m tired. I’m very, very tired and the road just seems to go on forever. In saying that, I know there will be a day when this will all be a distant memory and something I’ll be able to look back on proudly and draw strength from. This thought doesn’t make it any easier in the moment though.

I’m currently dealing with one of the worst side effects from chemo, which required me to go in for day surgery. This still didn’t fix the problem and I’m in excruciating pain for a part of everyday. It has to be one of the worst side effects of this whole process so far. It’s never just a smooth path and I find myself getting frustrated and deflated as one thing hits after another.

The day after my first round of Paclitaxel I was feeling great. Compared to how I felt on the other drug, I was surprised. So the day after, I met up with a friend and we did a 23km-training ride on our horses. When I got home I had to go straight to sleep and my body was aching.

For a couple of days after I had muscle aches which then turned into bone aches. It was awful and I was so annoyed at myself for causing it by pushing myself too far too soon.

It’s hard to just stop, or even slow down. Before I was diagnosed, I would leave home early in the morning and not get home until around late in the evening or at night because I was always doing something. Work, Willow, diving, taking Belle out for walks, taking photos for clients, etc. Even now when I’m sick, not much has changed but I know it has to.

I’ve come to a point where I’m just so worn out physically and mentally. I think I need a holiday.

This week, mum, dad, Natalie and I will head down to Sydney after chemo on Tuesday for an appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday at Westmead Hospital. This is another stage I’m ready to get over and done with. It will be good to know what the plan will be and when to expect surgery so I can mentally prepare for the next few months.

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