IN THE run-up to Christmas the chemotherapy unit at the Churchill Hospital topped me up with one last cycle of treatment that included 14 injections in my stomach. This didn’t exactly tide me over the holiday season because the toxic material in the chemo ran me down to a severe degree.

My chemo is administered by a thick needle twice a day on either side of my stomach. At the end of the 15th week cycle on Wednesday, I looked like the Kray Twins had pulverized me with cricket bats. And that’s just what happens when the nurses are trying to get the chemo into your body. Once it is inside you, the results can cause chaos.

On the last day I felt like throwing up…all day, to get rid of the poison the nurses had been injecting me with all week. But I didn’t give in to that because it actually hurts more to throw up than to suffer in silence.

On the final day of the treatment, Wednesday, I went to bed until the evening because about three months ago I had been invited out to dinner at the Black Boy pub in Headington.

In the past I’ve never before eaten anything at all on a day when I received chemo, and I certainly have never gone out to dinner in a public place with someone I respect. On Wednesday I broke the habit of a lifetime and turned up at the Black Boy on time. I didn’t go straight inside. The forecourt of the pub seemed a good place to iron out any questions I had about this meal.

1. Am I taking an intelligent risk that I won’t throw up over the dining table or is it a ‘dead cert’ that I’ll disgrace myself?

2. Why did I accept a dinner invite anyway? Yes, my host was probably one of those people whose decisions shape the future of Oxford. So was I doing this out of vanity?

I didn’t get very far with the answers because I was now late for dinner. I swallowed any qualms I may have had and entered the pub with a sense of determination and victory.

There is a small passageway from the outside door I had just entered and the inner door to the pub proper which I was just about to enter.

In the few seconds it takes to walk down this aisle, I developed a major nosebleed, got diarrhea and threw up. Before I could run away, a man and woman entered from the street side and blocked my exit so I went forward into the pub.

My host was already there and listened politely as I explained that I just had two shots of chemo a few hours ago and my nose was now bleeding with the pace and flow of The Thames. He quickly put a wine list in my hand and suggested a New Zealand white.

I knew from past experience that if I drank wine shortly after chemo the result would be explosive. I don’t know what prompted me to agree with my host and drink wine, but I was lucky – nothing happened.

I was surprised to find out how easy it is to control different parts of your body in a social situation. The vomiting and other ‘problem areas’ were controllable during the meal so my host would not have known anything at all about the agony I was suppressing.

My nosebleed was the only tell-tale sign that all was not right, so I used the table napkins to manage that problem.

During the entire meal I felt I could go into meltdown mode at any moment. That’s how precarious and difficult it is with chemotherapy. I’m over with my meltdowns till January. Bring on Christmas!