The good, the bad & the fugly

Posted: July 4, 2012 in The Big C

I was waiting for something interesting to happen before I wrote my next post as I thought it could get pretty boring for everybody if my treatment was uneventful.  Fortunately, the past ten days have been anything but dull.

Since having my first chemotherapy cycle on the 22nd June I have: completed a wedding dress; been stuck on a train in ‘floodgate’; been admitted to A & E and moved to a different country. Let’s just call it really bad timing.

The first few days after chemo went pretty smoothly. I felt nauseous and lost my appetite but had some anti-emetics to stave off the worst. I wasn’t tired and I actually felt slightly giddy. I’ve since found out that this was probably due to the steroids I was taking. All of the pills I’ve been taking have side effects but somehow they forgot to tell you this. The Domperidone which they give you for nausea makes you constipated & the steroids mask the fatigue that your body would naturally feel after such a huge chemical onslaught. I chuckled when the nurse asked if I’d been taking my Domperidone. Say it quickly in a Scottish accent and you’ll see what I mean.

It wasn’t until 5 or 6 days after my first chemotherapy cycle that I started to feel the full effect. I had a technical issue with my Picc (IV) line and this really knocked me. I woke to find it was leaking. It was all contained, however it’s not pleasant watching your own blood leak from your arm. I ended up spending a few hours in hospital getting it fixed & felt pretty dreadful for the rest of the day. This was the first time I’ve felt really sorry for myself. Up until Wednesday I’d been doing really well, however the steady flow of chemicals; the Picc line in my arm; and the examinations & scans that weren’t part of my previous life, were a stark reminder that this is actually quite serious.

Loss of control is one of the biggest hurdles you have to contend with when you have cancer. You surrender yourself to medicine and hope they can make you better. The NHS – you are AMAZING!! – do a pretty good job and make everything as pleasant as possible but it’s still really tough being continually poked, prodded & examined by people you don’t know.

After black Wednesday, wedding dress complete, I headed back down to Manchester to say my final goodbyes and move out of my house. My 3.5 hour train journey was rudely interrupted by epic floods in the north of England. As they say ‘it never rains.’ The train stopped in Carlisle so I hopped on the only train going anywhere. Luckily for me this happened to be Leeds, so my journey wasn’t too traumatic, just a few hours later than planned.

I feel like an extra in Casualty at the moment as more medical drama was to follow. My trip to Manchester unfortunately coincided with my neutropenic – not necrophilic as I keep wanting to call it – phase. Chemotherapy kills lots of cells, including the good ones. Neutropenia happens when your white blood cell count drops and this lasts for around a week, meaning that you have little or no protection against infection.

I’d started with a sore throat on Friday night and woke up feeling out of sorts on Saturday. I had a fuzzy head and found my speech was getting all mixed up. In a previous life I’d have called this a hangover but on this occasion I knew this wasn’t the case. This was a totally new symptom for me, so after feeling lousy all day I eventually called the Oncology department at Ninewells & they advised me to go straight to A & E in Manchester. This sounds really melodramatic but a slight cold or infection during the neutropenic phase can be life threatening.

My cancer gold-card got me straight to the front of the queue at A & E and I was whisked straight through to my own wee room, away from all the saturday night crazies at MRI. After numerous blood tests, a chest x-ray and a 3 hour wait they told me I could go home. My white blood cell count was very low & I was anaemic but they’d found no signs of infection. The young doctor assured me I’d done the right thing & sent me away with a course of antibiotics to add to my growing collection, which of course I didn’t take.

Yesterday I enjoyed my first day back in Scotland doing absolutely nothing. No work, no sewing, no train journeys and no medical dramas. Freedom. Most symptoms seem to have subsided for now & I’ve got my appetite back. I’m finally getting used to my Picc line & I no longer feel like I have a wooden arm. I did try doing some yoga today but decided it’s just too risky. There’s not many positions that don’t involve stretching my arms so I’ll just stick to walking for now. I don’t mind though, it’s all temporary. I’m feeling okay and that’s good enough for now.

  1. Amy Grenham says:

    Kath, you are a lovely writer and very funny, keep it up, we are all thinking of you. xx

  2. Becky Jones says:

    Hi Kath, sounds like an epic few days, thinking of you sending lots of hugs and kisses xx

  3. Kristy says:

    NHS is a fantastic asset to this country – cancels out the rain! x

  4. Claire Storey says:

    Do you think Alex Kapranos would be up for a house visit and maybe a private Guitar lesson or two if you played that Cancer gold card! So proud of you hon, love and hugs Cxxx

  5. sylvia murra says:

    Hugs and kisses to such a brave person.. XXXX Syl

  6. fiona johnson says:

    Gosh kath inspirational writing , good for you for having such a positive attitude to it all . Good luck with all the treatment I’m sure you will sail through with your attitude !! Take care fiona x

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