7 January 2013 – The Second Lot of Chemo (Cancer and Me 20)

31st July 2015 0 By Andy Burrows

R-CVP is almost the same as R-CHOP. The ‘V’ in CVP is Vincristine, which is also the ‘O’ in CHOP, because it’s also called Oncovin. Equally amusing is that the drug that is missing from CVP is the ‘H’, which is Doxorubicin (because it’s also called Hydroxydaunorubicin)! Confusing or what?!

The consultant told me that it’s quite a mild treatment, and that it shouldn’t stop me from working. He said he’d never known anyone on R-CVP to have such a low white cell count that they needed GCSF injections, so there was very little risk of serious infections. But I felt he didn’t really understand my predicament where work was concerned. I was finishing my contract, and how could I pitch myself to new assignments with new clients knowing full well that I would not be 100% available. If I’d been in a permanent job then I’m sure my employer would have been very accommodating, but contract work is very black and white. Either you can do the job or you can’t, and if you can’t you’re out and someone else will replace you. There is no perceived obligation to persevere with someone who can’t put in the hours required. And I was going to have to go and find a new contract.

Fortunately I was still working at the same place where I had taken a short-term contract in June 2011. They had simply continued to find more work for me to do, so my ‘short-term’ contract had kept being extended. By that stage I’d worked there longer than my last permanent employment! I guess I must have done some good work there, because they came to me and said that if I wanted to continue working then they could give me some lower level work on a flexible basis. That meant that I could work when I felt up to it and it wouldn’t be a big issue if I had to pause and take a few days off here and there.

So I had a bit of thinking to do, and I took a week off to do it. It had been 5 weeks of uncertainty, shifting plans and heightened emotions. I needed some time just to calm my thoughts, spend some relaxed time with Heidi while the kids were at school, and to prepare for the next phase.

In the end I decided that there was nothing to lose from accepting the work and doing as much as I could. We could plan our finances around me doing 2-3 days a week, and if I managed to do more then that would be a bonus. I was very grateful that they were willing to stick with me and work around my illness, even though I was just a contractor and they had no obligations towards me.

And R-CVP did turn out to be milder than R-CHOP. The absence of that one drug did make a difference. For a start, I didn’t lose my hair at all! And I didn’t need GCSF injections.

I did feel tired from time to time, and I did take time off. I found that I needed to take a few days off after each treatment, but then after about a week I was normally able to work full time. I discovered something called ‘chemo brain’, which is just another way of saying that you feel fuzzy and you can’t concentrate. I had that one day in the office, and ended up giving up half way through the day!

Unfortunately, though, I did pick up several minor illnesses. I had the norovirus in October, followed by 3 colds one after another, and I needed time off at various times when I should have been able to work. I know these things were going round anyway, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have picked up all of them if I hadn’t been going through chemotherapy. They also seemed to take longer than normal to shake off.

I’ve literally just finished my 6th round of treatment as I write this. The CT scan that I had after the 4th showed a big improvement in the lymph nodes, but they’ll do another one again, I guess, in a few weeks time.