Holy crap in a bucket!

The long-promised side effects from the radiotherapy have all shown up on the doorstep at once, and they’ve brought a few friends along for the stay.

In case you’re about to begin radiotherapy for head and neck cancer, you may want to skip this post.  I don’t want to scare you, but I promised I would be open and honest with every single entry, and today’s truths are – heh – a little hard to swallow.

  • I can almost no longer swallow.  My throat appears to have been filled with a mixture of razor blades and those dagger things Raphael carries in episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Sai.  They’re called Sai.  A river of pain runs from the back of my nose, down into the dark, drool-free depths.
  • My mouth is filled with ulcers.  I tried count them at one point in the night but a), I couldn’t open my lips wide enough to see them all in the mirror and b), I almost dozed off half-way through in some bizarre sheep jumping over the gate/blister-strewn waking nightmare.
  • My tongue is so swollen, I can barely speak.  It feels like I have one of those large Italian sausages wedged down my mouth and throat.  You know the kind  – them ones you see hanging up behind the counter in the butcher’s shop, but never seem to be sold, and you sometimes think about buying one just to try it, but then you realise you have no idea what on earth they’re really called so how could you ask for it, and what if they’re made of plastic and just for display and that would make you look like a fool, so you just buy four slices of corned beef instead and go home for a bit of a cry.  Or, is that just me?
  • If anyone reading this is now smirking at the words ‘large Italian sausages’, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  We don’t need your kind in here, thank you.
  • My tastebuds have been fried.  ALL taste is now gone, except for my innate fashion sense, which is clinging on by a few, weak tendons.
  • Salivary glands – utterly burned away and missing in action.  My mouth is as dry as a nun’s laundry basket.  I have a prescription for artificial saliva to collect from the chemist today, which I will have to pick up in dark glasses and some form of disguise.
  • Seriously!  Artificial saliva?!  I once ate dog when I was in a restaurant in Brazil.  Actual dog!  To be fair, it wasn’t until the word ‘labrador’ was printed on the receipt that I knew I’d eaten dog, and yet the thought of this stuff turns my stomach into much angrier shapes.
  • Large Italian Sausages.  Heh-heh!

And here are a couple of the bonus prizes…

  • Chronic constipation.  I don’t have many pleasures left in life at the moment.  Gone is the warm kiss of a wee dram as it twinkles a golden path down my throat.  Lost is the taste of a good medium-rare steak, smothered in pungent blue cheese sauce.  Forgotten is the ability to fling open the windows and tell the kids in the street where to go for hitting my car with their bastard football yet again.  Cancer – please let me keep the gentle thrill of playing solitaire on my phone while I have a nice poo!
  • My stomach peg is infected – AGAIN!  Hahaha!  You couldn’t make this stuff up.  What’s more, the nurse is coming out to ‘reseat and rotate’ it on Tuesday.  You see, if you have a stomach peg in for too long, the lining of your stomach accepts the inner workings as a new part of your body and grows over it.  The scientific way to stop this from happening is to give a good old tug on the bugger, tear it free and let nature start all over again.  You cannot imagine how much I’m looking forward to that.
  • Poor eyesight.  What?  How?!  I mean, where did that one spring from?  How can having cancer in my throat affect my eyesight?  Actually, don’t answer that – I don’t want to know.  It would probably end up me having to have an artificial eyeball fitted so I could pour milkshake nutrients directly into my brain, or something.
  • I can’t blow raspberries.  I was chatting to my two year old niece, Eliza, on FaceTime last night (well, croaking to her), and I thought the least I could do to make her laugh as the ‘funny uncle’ was to fire a good old raspberry out.  Nothing.  Silence.  I spat what precious little saliva I had left all over my computer keyboard.
  • Heartbeat.  I can feel every thump of my heart pulsing in my throat.  To be fair, this is a side-effect I’d like to hide rather than get rid of completely.

So, that’s me today.  I suspected things were about to take a turn for the worse as yesterday’s RT session was the first I’d come out of in pain.  Not through the Invisible Lasers of Dimension X themselves, but just from the way my mask has started to press down in different areas of my head and throat.

Still – it could be worse, couldn’t it?  I could have received the notes back from my editor on the first draft of my new book which I struggled to complete and send in last week, and the notes could be so heavy and demanding that my inbox actually cried out in pain for a few seconds when the email arrived, and I could be faced with what is essentially a page one rewrite because they think so much is very, very wrong with this draft.  Yeah, I’m lucky that didn’t happen.




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  1. Hang in there Tommy, you must have had ten radio sessions by now mustn’t you? You haven’t ever got to have those particular ones again.
    Can they get you on a laxative regime? It must be the chemo causing the constipation but I don’t know how you take the laxatives if you can’t swallow? There’s a balancing act to be found when sorting out the laxatives so that they work but not too well! By the time the next chemo comes round you might be able to prepare the laxatives just before chemo so they work in time to stop you getting constipated.
    Don’t know what to say about the sore throat except it sounds unimaginable. Just keep thinking each day is one day nearer the end of treatment. one day in the not too distant future you’ll be looking back on all this as a memory and telling stories about it.
    Sending you very, very best wishes, positive vibes and all good things. X


    1. Suppositories might work for the constipation.


    2. Thanks! Yes, they’ve given me laxatives which I’ve been dissolving and taking by sips – but no active results yet. I’ll keep drinking ’em until there is.


  2. Another day ticked off the calendar and I did wonder if every possible side effect would arrive at once. The mouth ulcers and constipation is almost definitely the chemo as I remember having that, warning….you might get piles or cystitis as well. What fun..I can remember pulling the towel rail off the wall in the bathroom in so much pain that when my Dad came to visit for the next lot of chemo he brought his tool box and a large inflatable tyre thing for me to sit on.
    Best wishes and virtual hugs x


    1. Yikes! I’ll be sure to secure the bathroom fittings before my chemo this week!


  3. Hello sorry for your condition. I hope you get better. Have you chekced http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/ and the Food revolution summit that is currently on now or will start in a few days.
    Also read THe China Study please and google Dr John McDougall.

    Good luck


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