Thursday, 6 September 2012

The hopeless patient

I am just hopeless at being ill, I really don't have the patience for it. Most of the time I almost forget that I am, in fact, quite seriously unwell, and get totally absorbed in everything else. Most of this stuff can't really go into this blog because it usually involves other people, and I really don't think it's fair to start telling other people's stories here. Whenever I do talk about things I am very careful to use pseudonyms to protect their privacy, but the biggest slice of my life revolves around my three kids, and being teenagers they would cringe with embarrassment if I really spilt the beans on the really best moments of our family life. So anyone reading my blog regularly probably gets the impression that my cancer is the only thing I ever think about, which really isn't true. One of my biggest fears in all of this is that I will become a "cancer bore" and only be able to talk and this rather irritating, life-interrupting, annoying little menace. Yes I've got cancer, but I also have a life, and I'm not going to allow cancer to claim more than a very small corner of it. 

Or at least that was my philosophy until Monday,  Chemotherapy Day One. Somehow, despite all the tests, scans, major operations and investigations, there is something iconic about having  chemo which makes the cancer feel much more real.  The chemo itself didn't go badly at all. However, I found the day to be quite stressful, not helped by a first botched attempt at accessing my Portacath which was both traumatic and intensely painful. Then I was sent off for half an hour while both calming drugs and magic cream was given time to work. The second attempt was successful, and much less painful. By the time the kit had been attached for a minute or two I honestly couldn't feel a thing. 

The chemo itself was given much later that afternoon, and I even managed to get home for a couple of hours while we were waiting for the drugs to be prepared, still wearing the kit. Chemo itself was slowly syringed into the port in several different syringes, taking about half an hour, and it was so amazingly easy with absolutely no sense of feeling of anything happening at all. Throughout I just sat and chatted and laughed. Then it was time to come home. I've read about all the side effects, and I knew that they usually kick in a few hours later, but I waited, and waited and waited, and absolutely nothing adverse happened whatsoever. Yesterday too, nothing at all. Maybe the theory with the mice and the water and the fasting had worked, but I thought I'd sailed through it like a breeze.

Until today, when it all went wrong.

Imagine pulling the plug on an overflowing bath and watching the water drain away. Well that's what it felt like had happened to my energy. Even reaching a few inches to where a cup of tea was felt like climbing Everest. Eating was just beyond me, and talking was far too complicated. If you know me, you would understand that that must be really serious! More frightening though, is that I've developed a really acute pain just under the mastectomy scar, and it hurts to breathe. So do I do the sensible thing and tell anyone, or ring the hospital for advice? No, of course I didn't. Instead I just did what I hardly ever do, and convinced myself that this was it, I was definitely going to die, possibly in the next few hours, and that the cancer had definitely spread at around the same rate as the speed of sound, and that it had taken root in both my lungs and ribs, and my time was up.  

I'd invited a friend around to lunch, but I just didn't have either the mental or physical capacity to make any. She and WM together worked out that I wasn't at my best, and ganged up together to make me tell all. Have you had a look at it, they asked? No, of course I haven't. So I did. Then they did. There is a large, flat lump about the size of my palm just by the scar. Then the themometor was found, and yes, I had a temperature. Not a life-threatening one, but enough to be a concern when you're on chemo. So it looked like my speed of sound cancer spread was actually a speed of sound infection brewing, not great, but better.

I didn't have much choice, they made me phone the hospital. The specialist nurse told I spoke to told me that they wouldn't take any chances, I'd have to come in immediately, and be put on intravenous antibiotics as an inpatient for the next several days. Then she said they might not have a free bed, so I may instead have to go to our local general hospital - and I really don't like that place at all. I was told to pack a bag, and a doctor would ring in the next few minutes. Once you're on chemo, infections are a very big deal.  In a few days time I won't have any white blood cells to fight any infection, so these things have to be dealt with really quickly. I had time to burst into tears, write a list of what to pack into a bag, pack the wretched bag and even worry all my friends on Facebook before the doctor rang back. Brilliant news. It can wait until tomorrow when I have a scheduled appointment booked with Mr Lovely, who I know will sort it all out for me.  It could well be that I'm kept in tomorrow, but you have to be thankful for small mercies, and at least I stayed home today. 

I then did what I never do, and perhaps what I really should do a lot more often. I went back to bed for three hours. When I got up again, I felt a thousand times better, and the temperature had gone. The pain and the lump are still there, but hey ho, you can't have it all, and at least I didn't die of speed of sound cancer today after all. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Yvonne, phew, what a day! sounds as though you may have fluid building up under your scar, think that can happen very easily, had mine drained 3 times ( no pain when being done at all as nerves out of action) but instant relief, apple juice rather than red wine!
    Good luck with Mr Lovely. You are being very brave, honestly, big pat on the back, scariest is behind you now, with those ops and now the first chemo, well done.

    Sarah xx