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Coming out of purdah

purdah, n, esp. formerly, in Hindu and Muslim communities, the seclusion of women from the sight of strangers. [Chambers]

Chemotherapy drugs are very powerful. Not only do they attack the cancer, which is good, but they also attack the entire body, including the immune system. The doctors told us that it’s very important to keep a careful eye on how my body is responding to the treatment. Part of that care is ensuring that I come into contact with as few bugs and illnesses as possible, as it is hard for me to fight them off, and they can potentially be very dangerous, even something as apparently trivial as the common cold. I took seriously what I was told, but I didn’t think too much about the implications until I noticed that my body was reacting in a different way to cuts, bruises, and a cold sore.

First, I have had a cold sore for nearly ten days now, despite treating it with aciclovir four or five times per day, from as soon as I noticed the tingling in my lip. I am used to getting cold sores, with one breaking out every year or so, usually when I get a bit run down. Normally the aciclovir would get rid of it in two or three days, or if I left it too long before starting the treatment, then it took a maximum of five days. This time it’s taking a lot longer. Thankfully the treatment is working and the cold sore has almost gone now. It will be nice to be able to kiss Gillian once again. That’s the incentive for continuing the treatment so carefully!

Second, I’ve noticed that the skin on my hands seems a little more prone to splitting. Maybe it’s because I’m being more rigorous about washing my hands, but they don’t seem to be that dry. The skin just splits spontaneously. Normally these splits would heal in a day or two, without any help. Now, however, I find that I need the help of an antiseptic, which does the job nicely.

Third, I’ve caught my lip between my teeth when chewing, and now I keep catching it. Not hard enough to break the skin, but maybe enough to bruise it a little, and make it swell a bit.  The only way I’ve found to stop catching it is to pout while eating. What a sight that must be! But it’s such an odd thing to do that I forget, and every now and again I catch it again. I am chewing less forcefully, so I hope it’ll heal properly. I’ve been given a strong mouthwash to help prevent mouth infections, and I think that is probably helping out too. And speaking of strong, the mouthwash is so powerful that I lose sensation in my tongue for about 15 minutes after slooshing and gargling. It was quite disturbing the first time it happened, but I’m getting used to it now. I can tell it’s doing some good at any rate.

Finally, I’m under instructions to take my temperature at least twice and sometimes three times per day. So far it has stayed below 37 C, so all is well. If it goes above 38 C then I need to call the doctor straight away. They were quite serious too, so I’ve been really good about it.

Tomorrow will be my last day of purdah for this cycle. On Wednesday I’ll get my bag of 5-FU changed, and on Thursday I’ll celebrate leaving purdah, when I meet friends for coffee. I’m really looking forward to it.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Chris West | 26 January 2010 at 8:56 pm | Permalink


    This is a first for me. I have never read a blog! – let alone commented on one.

    I saw Gillian today and she led me to the website. I will keep close tabs on how you progress, and be educated at the same time.

    Needless to say our thoughts and prayers are with you both. Gillian has our number if you need anything: day or night – we are only just down the road.

    I was really impressed with your positive spirit – keep it up!

    All the very best wishes

    Chris and Christine

  2. icyjumbo | 26 January 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on your first, then! I hope you’ll come back again, and find something here to interest you.

    Thank you for the support. Part of what keeps me so positive is the support from all my family and friends. I know people care, and it makes a real difference.