Childhood cancer treatment is both a marathon and a sprint. Treatment starts hard and fast and doesn't let up until the cancer is right where they want him for the next plan. Then the marathon begins. This entry is where Tamlin's sprint began.
They say that sleep fights cancer, so you would think they would let me sleep in, right? No, because apparently, I must “eat”, even though I’d just throw it back up, and take my ”poison pills”, like pfft.
Treatment was soul-wrenching and just all out exhausting, emotionally and physically.
Twice a week for weeks on end, they would inject chemicals into my bloodstream or the area of my brain. Along with the chemotherapy were the bone-marrow biopsies and lumbar punctures; they would lull me to sleep with gas while they told jokes and chattered away trying to distract me while I pleaded for them to stop the oncoming blackness. I would be clenching my mother's hand as a last desperate plea before having the darkness take me over fully. In the last few seconds, before the never-ending blackness, was the scary part, the part when I hoped I would wake up. I always did wake up, but that never stopped me from crushing my mother’s hand the next time around.
While I was in complete oblivion, they would drill into my hip for bone marrow and stick a needle into my spine to test my spinal fluid to see if the cancer had spread in the few days in between each torture session.
The yellow chemotherapy would hang next to me in an IV drip while I dreamt about a normal life. As the poison dripped into my veins over an excruciatingly long time, I thought about how I deserved it, how I deserved cancer. I thought about how I had brought it upon myself. That I wasn’t grateful enough or that I wasn’t doing enough, simply that I wasn’t enough.
They would then send me home with radiated chemotherapy tablets or injections filled with poison that I could touch but others had to gear up to get near. We would arrive bright and early and leave in the dark of night on those days.
The nurses made my days okay. They were the upside to the downside of my days, I got to know them as they got to know me. They taught me about unimaginable compassion and overwhelming kind-heartedness. I learnt about how everyone has a breaking point and how they can be glued back together. All I have to say about them is that it was an honour to be their patient.
While getting my doses of poison and stabs in the back, I met some amazing people in unfair, gut wrenching situations. On Tuesdays there would be a little girl sitting in a green wagon, oblivious and unable to comprehend the devastation floating around her. I later saw that she had grown an explosion of fiery, red hair that matched the fight she was waging.
On Thursdays there was a mother and her infant baby. I will never get the poor baby’s wailing out of my head as nurses and doctors swarmed, attacking her in attempt to save her unlived life.
We weren’t alone, after a few weeks of enduring the miserable torture that saved me, we were unknowingly adopted into an understanding, sympathetic family. The 11b family (editors note - 11b is the inpatient oncology ward at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital where everyone is indeed a family forged through a shared battle)
The treatment for the skin graft on my leg was simpler. Dressings once a week to see how the skin graft was going. Those appointments were soon increased to twice a week, this was due to the Alien Juice.
My skin graft wound would produce fluid and it would soak through the bandages and drip down my leg. We wrapped towel after towel, day after night around my lower shin, but it would still seep through. After weeks of unconsciously drenching my sister’s sheets and mattress, we went to the next unveiling of my Zombie Bite to find it had gotten infected in the few short days between our appointments.
The Plastics day nurse, riddled with wrinkles and age, cleaned up the ugly, gooey, yellow mess. It was concluded that the half-healed, now infected wound (Zombie Bite/ex-Alien) was to be dressed with a new, clean dressing each and every day.
Entering: The HITH Team (Hospital In The Home).
The HITH team showed up on my doorstep every morning without fail; rain, hail or shine. They looked after me from gross infections to line care. As the months went on and my leg healed, my relationship with them grew. From conversations about olives and batman cakes to bracelets from Africa,
I became a part of their family, too.
Editors note: Join Tamlin tomorrow for a plot twist. To begin a bone marrow transplant you need to have blasted the cancer into MRD (minimum residual disease) with chemotherapy - in Tamlin's case 2 years worth of chemo in 5 months. Her plot twist? The cancer had set up camp elsewhere in her body.
Below is a video of a small number of our 11b family talking about Bravery.