Before starting chemotherapy, my doctor at the time insisted that I have a portocath inserted. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically a metal ring with a tube that is attached to it that is inserted into your chest by making a small pocket just under the skin. The tube is then threaded to a major vein in the neck or other area. This makes it much easier for nurses to administer chemotherapy instead of having to battle to find a vein in the conventional manner each time. As a patient progresses through their chemo sessions, the harsh chemicals tend to damage the veins where they either shrink beyond use, or collapse or roll over. Once I was in theatre lying on the operating table, I realized to my horror that they weren’t going to put me out completely but just sedate me. I was lying there practically begging them to anesthetize me completely. I didn’t want to be even slightly aware that an incision was being made in my chest and a metal ring being inserted with a tube going who knows where. They eventually agreed to put me out and before I knew it, I was in recovery and was even strong enough after that to go for chemotherapy right away. With every tiny movement that I made with my arms and shoulders making me acutely aware that there was now a foreign object on board, we made our way to the chemotherapy suites.
On my way to chemo, I was very focused on walking in with a clear head. I didn’t want to talk myself into becoming nauseous, or assume that the medication was going to make me ill. So many patients suffer from anticipatory nausea because of the preconceived idea that chemotherapy makes everyone sick to the stomach full stop. I was determined to not fall into that trap. After being hooked up, Jaco and I watched as the red fluid inched it’s way down the tube. We held hands tightly as I closed my eyes and waited for it to be all over. Almost immediately I developed a metallic taste in my mouth, but three hours later the chemo was over and I was fine. I was dazed and tired from the anti-nausea medication, but wasn’t nauseous at all…just very eager to go home. I would have to repeat this process once a week for three weeks with a week break in between, for 6 months.
A few months after my mum passed away, I adopted a gorgeous male kitten through feline friends in Abu Dhabi. My husband named him Goemal. By the time I was diagnosed he was already just over a year old. After a while I ended up rechristening him chemo cat. There is definitive proof that animals can sense when a person is sick and in need of comfort. Perhaps they can smell the chemical changes that a persons body goes through when they’re not well. After each chemotherapy session, although I didn’t suffer from nausea (queasiness at the most) I was still flat on my back for a day or so afterwards. I would lie in bed and sleep the next day away, but I was never alone or lonely for a second. Jaco would lie vigil on the bed next to me keeping himself busy with something or other, and then there was chemo cat. He never left my side either. He would lie curled up next to me the entire time and would only move away to go and eat or drink and to relieve himself. He would then come straight back to me and at times he would lick my feet and pat my face gently with his paw. He was never a big purrer, but he must’ve instinctively known that I found purring very comforting and boy did he pack it out just for me. Neither one of my boys ever faltered for even a second in being there for me. This cat of mine has become like the son I never had. I adore him and he still 10 years later follows me everywhere and remains by my side. Right now as I type this, he’s sitting on the table in front of me next to my laptop. I’m truly blessed to have such a wonderful husband, children and feline!