Hiya dear reader!
It’s been a little while since my last post, and after having some further minor surgery on my arm this week, I was reminded that I completely forgot to share my experience of the chemotherapy cream for my basal cell carcinoma. A few of my friends have asked what it was like and what it entailed, and given that I had no clue what to expect before I started it, I figured I’d share in case anybody else is curious! So if you’re out there searching the world wide web like I was and you stumbled across this post because of my amazing (non-existent) SEO skills, welcome, I’m here to share a real-life experience!
The drama – MICK! THE DRAMA! – I had trying to get hold of this bloody cream was a story in itself, but I won’t bore you with that.
This is more of a guide in case anybody else ever finds themselves in this position with as little information/advice from professionals as I did!
Also, something I have really gone back and forth about in my head for MONTHS is whether to share the photos from my weekly photo diary whilst I was going through the chemo cream. I have decided after speaking to a very good friend who I love dearly that I’m going to. They are gross, so if you don’t want to see them, I give you ample opportunity to stop reading at the end of this post. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.
Chemotherapy Cream – Aldara or Bascellex?
I was prescribed a cream called Aldara, and eventually when I did manage to get hold of something, I was told by the pharmacist that they couldn’t get Aldara so they were giving me Bascellex instead, which was apparently the same.
I figured it’d be like when you get ibuprofen for 20p from Home and Bargains or pay for Nurofen and get it for a fiver from Saino’s, so all sounded good to me until the pharmacist started asking ME questions that I thought HE should be answering, so that left me a bit confused. But ALAS I decided I would just read the instructions and figure it all out.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I leave no stone unturned when it comes to understanding instructions before I take medication. This was especially the case when I’m going to use chemotherapy cream that I’ve never used before and I have been given absolutely zero information about what’s going to happen. I just like to know where I’m at and what to expect really.
So I was reading and scrutinizing the instructions of this Bascellex and found that they were greatly different to what I had been told by my consultant. For starters, Bascellex is used to treat genital herpes, which I am pretty sure wasn’t the reason I was supposed to be taking it. I had also been told I needed to apply Aldara to the BCC five times a week, Monday to Friday for six weeks. The idea was that you have a 2 day break to give your body some respite each week, and it was easier to do this of a weekend. So you can imagine my confusion when the instructions inside the Bascellex packet said that this cream was to be used (for genital herpes and other skin conditions) three times a week for four weeks only, and under no circumstances should you exceed this recommended dose.
So what the hell do I do?
There were other weird instructions too, like each sachet should only be used ONCE, and all remaining cream should be disposed of immediately. Now I’m no maths whiz, but if I’m to take ONE sachet 5 times a week for 6 weeks, then I’m going to need 30 sachets, right? So now I’m extra confused, because I have 12. 12 sachets that I am supposed to make last for 6 weeks but that I can’t re-use at all.
At this point, I was not only confused but AGGY. It had been enough of a pain in my ass to even get hold of this cream, and now it was proving even more difficult to take it. I am a worrier, so maybe this was all just excess worrying on my part, but I was baffled as to how I was supposed to know what to do in this situation.
I decided to hold off taking it and call the nurse the next day. She was SO helpful, told me to take the Bascellex but ignore everything inside the packet, and follow what I had been told by the consultant. I should apply the cream to the BCC 5 times a week for 6 weeks, and I would need to make the sachets last the duration, meaning that I should use 2 sachets a week that would apply for 2 or 3 days.
That makes sense. 2 sachets a week for 6 weeks, 12 sachets. Right, I can get on board with this.
What does chemotherapy cream entail?
Every day from Monday to Friday for 6 weeks I was to put the cream on the BCC before bed, and wash it off first thing in the morning. Simple enough, right?
Not really knowing what to expect, I just got stuck in.
The first night, I could feel it after about 10 minutes and it just felt a bit stingy and tingly. Same for pretty much the next week.
In week 2 it started to feel sore, but again, nothing too much other than I had to stop wearing any form of bra because it was too sore and sensitive and the bra straps agitated it, but all in all I figured I was going to get off lightly.
Week 3 came, Christmas week, and this was the WORSSSSSSST. The area was extremely sore, REALLY painful in all ways. It stung, it itched, it bled, it burned, it was horrible. It started weeping and seeping at this point too (yes I know, gross) and it was at this point that I too started weeping and seeping (I’m joking – or am I?).
My clothes started getting stuck to it which was extra painful. And my clothes, pyjamas, and bedsheets were all stained with blood and general grossness.
It is absolutely crazy to me, especially now four months later, that I was in so much discomfort, but I really was. I may have been being a wimp, but it hurt to literally do anything. Because it was so painful, the general area and all my skin around it was extra tender too, so literally anything I did, even the slightest move would cause me some form of discomfort.
Move my arm, pain. Pick something up, pain. Lie down, sit down, god forbid someone hug me it reduced me to literal tears. Not ideal when it’s Christmas and everyone is hugging you!!! It was SORE and I felt sad and also very, very AGGY.
One of my closest friends who unfortunately suffers from a lot of skin issues told me that the only side effect that never seems to appear anywhere is AGGYNESS, and yet it’s the biggest, and she was 10000% right. I was so aggy!!!
Anyway the rest of week 3 and the whole of week 4 were kind of the same, just pretty much me being aggy AF, braless, and wanting to claw my skin off. But then weeks 5 and 6, almost overnight, were great. Still sore yes, but not a patch on those 2 weeks over Christmas, so I was happy that that period was over.
I didn’t know whether to share this bit because it feels a bit personal, but I also felt that I should share the pure, unfiltered JOY it brought me when I was sad and aggy and celebrate my wonderful, beautiful husband who had no idea about the difference he made in my life at that point. James happened to buy me a gorgeous bra for Christmas, and bless him, he had no idea the colossal impact it could have on me. It was a crossover bra, so it was a criss-cross over my back. It’s the only bra I own that doesn’t have normal straps, therefore it was the only bra I then wore for the remainder of the treatment. He couldn’t have timed it more perfectly, I nearly cried with happiness at being able to go out in public in all this pain whilst not having it aggravated by my underwear. What a guy.
Anyway, it all feels like a distant memory now four months on, with only a small scar left from the biopsy and some general redness. Now I’m onto the next part – further arm surgery. I’m not sure what happens next really, and how I know whether the chemo cream has fully worked, but I guess they’ll check up on it when they check up on my most recent arm surgery in 12 weeks or so.
I’m just feeling so grateful that chemo cream and ongoing minor surgeries are what I’m dealing with and not any form of real chemo or radiotherapy!
What happens now?
I am still an outpatient and will be for a little while yet, having just had the surgery I mentioned in my last post. At my most recent check-up appointment, the consultant was concerned they hadn’t seen me yet so fast-tracked me through, and on Monday just gone I had a “re-incision” on my previous mole removal. The idea was that because they had to treat it as a melanoma-in-situ, they needed to take more of the skin and tissue out of my arm around where the mole originally was, just in case it could turn into more serious cancer down the road. They’ll perform another biopsy on this, and then let me know that they have it all out, or whether I need further surgery.
Honestly, at this point I’ll have no fucking arm left if they do further surgery, so let’s all hope that they’ve got it all out, yeah? Thanks!!!
This week’s arm surgery was longer and more painful than the last one, and I can see already that there is bruising coming out of where the bandage is (I’m feeling squeamish at the mo and don’t want to take the bandage off to see the damage LOL). Over the last few months I have gotten quite self-conscious of the scar the previous surgery left, so I was a bit apprehensive for this one. But then I reminded myself to get a grip and think of the people out there who are facing genuine, lifechanging and life-threatening stuff and to stop worrying about what my arm might look like, and now I’m back to planet Earth again.
All good for now!
I guess I’ll update you next time when I’ll hopefully be done with it all? Who knows!
One thing I do know for sure though:
WEAR YOUR SPF HUNS!
And if you’re still reading, you’re either just REALLY curious, or you forgot about the warning I gave you at the start where I’d be sharing pictures of my gross BCC during chemo cream treatment.
Here’s your warning to stop reading.
Seriously, stop reading.
If you don’t want to see these really gross images, then you need to go. NOW.
If you’re having your tea (or dinner to my non-northern friends) then DEFO turn back now!!!
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I have given you plenty of opportunity to turn back.
THIS IS GROSS.
Here are the images from weeks 1 through 6 of the treatment!
I don’t actually have a photo of what it looks like right now, but it is UNIVERSES apart from the above photos. Basically all that now remains is a little redness and a small scar from the biopsy. It’s crazy how something so little can cause so much discomfort, but there we go!