Day 37-38 Limbo

Aaarrggggh, well that’s how I’d planned to start this post, but this morning things have changed. I was initially due to have my intrathecal injection on Monday, but it was rescheduled to Tuesday. By Wednesday at 15:30 having still had no news, I was starting to get a little frustrated. More specifically due to the fact that I’d been told I could go home for a couple of days while my blood counts are still high. Every day after chemo, your blood counts drop so by Wednesday I was starting to feel like I wouldn’t be able to go home at all!

The procedure

The other hurdle to my being fit for discharge was illness and specifically having a headache after my intrathecal (IT) chemo. I had been told that they would use a thinner needle this time and allow me to lie down for longer afterwards (4 hours) in order to minimise the risk of a returning headache. During the procedure, the doctor struggled to find the correct location. She hit the bone at least twice (which was quite uncomfortable) and she also reportedly bent a needle.

As the anaesthetic started to wear off, my back started to stiffen up and was quite painful. I was a little nervous of this triggering the headaches. On going to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I became a little dizzy and had to dive back on the bed to sleep for a bit.

The student nurse brought round my blood results for me which didn’t make great reading and I was a little concerned about my prospects.

Day of release

This morning, during my shower break, I did a couple of stretches and wore myself out but apart from a mild dull ache, my headache has subsided. When the doctor reviewed my blood results they’d actually come up a little thanks to the lenograstim I’d had the night before.

I thought I’d ask for a bit more detail about the results for reference:

  • Haemoglobin (HB) these are a type of white blood cell.
  • White blood count (WBC) this is a general count of cells.
  • Platelets (Plt) these are blood cells which help clotting.
  • Neutrophils (Neut) making 70-80% of white blood cells they are a good indicator of a healthy immune system.

Here are the ‘normal’ and ‘threshold’ ranges for each noting that everyone is different and the doctor would normally find out a baseline normal level for the patient along with other contributing health factors to help determine what the safe levels should be.

Haemoglobin (HB)

normal: 135-180, threshold: 70-90 depending on age and health.

My counts: 28th – 96, 29th – 97

The doctor said that they don’t pay much attention to these levels.

White Blood Counts (WBC)

normal: 4-11, threshold: below 4 is when they start to be concerned, but depending on health some people can tolerate lower levels.

My counts: 28th – 1.2, 29th – 2.5

Platelets (Plt)

normal: 150-400, threshold: 10-20 or under 100

My counts: 28th – 134, 29th – 102

I found this quite interesting; I noticed from the above that you have a lot more platelets than you need for daily life, but the doctor said you need high amounts if you’re having surgery or are in an accident. For example a count of between 10-20 would mean you start getting nose bleeds and bruising, below 100 you’d struggle to heal from a cut on the head and you need 200 or more to survive surgery. They tend to apply a transfusion if these levels get towards the 20s.

Neutraphils (Neut)

normal: 1.9-7.5, threshold: 0.5 (neutropenia)

My counts: 28th – 1.0, 29th – 2.3

I’m currently anaemic and have a reduced immune system, but I’m within safe thresholds for going home. I will also have another Lenograstim injection before I leave which will help give my bone marrow a boost.

Day 34-36 Chemotherapy

I’m on day 6 of phase 2 chemo which is also day 36 of my treatment. I’m due to have another intrathecal injection today which, having just got over the headache from last time, I’m not looking forward to.  I am, however now unplugged from the pumps and therefore feel a familiar sense of relief.

Day 34 & 35 treatment

The treatment for these past 2 days has followed the same course, frustratingly, due to the length of the courses (and that for some inexplicable reason, they can’t start till midday) they have been running through the night. This means 2 things:

  1. Not much sleep (lots of interruptions)
  2. Regular toilet breaks (due to the volume of fluid absorbed)

The chemicals for both days were as follows:

etoposide – 120mg in 500ml of fluid across a 1 hour course

ifosfamide (+Mesna) – 2900 (+800)mg in 1000ml over 1 hour

Mesna – 2400mg in 1000ml over 12 hours

Day 36 treatment

then finally today I’ll have Methotrexate applied intrathecally (into my spinal fluid) – as far as I’m aware, that’s it for a few days.

My neutrophils will start to drop over the next couple of days (neutropenia is usually expected between day 7-10) and to counteract this, I’ll be given injections of a drug called lenograstim which helps to stimulate the bone marrow (where blood cells are made)

I’m also being give another injection each day which helps to thin the blood and prevent blood clots. It’s supposed to go into my stomach, but it hurts when they put it there so I’ve been asking the nurses to administer into my arm (apparently into the subcutaneous tissue under my skin).

How do I feel?

honestly, I’ve had worse hangovers but I feel fairly grotty. A little disorientated and my brain is feeling lazy- I can’t beat my ipad at chess any more! I sometimes get the feeling of sickness but it goes; I think the anti sickness drugs are working.

Green maple leaf
Green maple leaf

If I get up in the night I get quite dizzy and my blood is taking its time to get back into my brain. I nearly fainted the other night and have therefore have been classed as a falling risk hence the award of green maple leaf. I have been advised to sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before getting up, this seems to help although doesn’t half make me feel like an old man.

liz said it’s good practice- thinning hair, unsteady balance, aching joints, unreliable bowels… Can’t wait to be young again!

Day 30 to 33 chemotherapy

Having completed round 1 the ‘R-CODOX-M’ part, I think I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking that the ‘R-IVAC’ cycle would comprise fewer chemicals. It seems that although infused over a shorter period of time, there is a greater volume of therapy.

Day 30 last day home

On Wednesday, I spent the day chilling out and sorting out my things ready to take to the hospital. In the usual convenient manner, having been told to call the ward at 14:00 to confirm arrival time on Thursday, they told me to get into Worcester by 16:00 which didn’t give me much time to arrange a lift and prepare myself for the journey.

on arrival, I went through the usual checking in procedure; general questions, next of kin, any power of attorney, weight, height, blood test, OBS, wrist band, MRSA swab, and logging of belongings. I was then allowed home for the evening although needed to be back in by 8.

Day 31 Chemotherapy

The journey in triggered my headache, so returning to my bed I spent the first part of the morning asleep or resting through the coughs beeps and whirrings of my new room mates.

The chemo started again at 12:00

Cytarabine 3900mg over 3 hours, followed by

Etoposide 120mg over 1 hour

ifosfamide (with Mesna) 2900 (+800)mg over 1 hour

mesna 2400mg over 12 hours

Cytarabine 3900mg over 3 hours

As you can see, this meant that my sleep was interrupted by fluid changes as well as (due to the volume of saline included with the above: 4500ml) regular toilet breaks. This meant that the following morning I was fairly tired.

Day 32 Chemotherapy

The onslaught continued and I spent most of my waking hours trying to sleep:

Cytarabine 3900mg over 6 hours

Etoposide 120mg over 1 hour

Rituximab 375mg over 3 hours

ifosfamide (with Mesna) 2900 (+800)mg over 1 hour

Mesna 2400mg over 12 hours

Cytarabine 3900mg over 3 hours

Day 33 Chemotherapy

I’ve had a few hours break this morning which was a quite a relief from being plugged into the pump.

The therapy is due to start after lunch as follows:

Etoposide 120mg over 1 hour

ifosfamide (with mesna) 2900 (+800)mg over 1 hour

Mesna 2400mg over 12 hours

How do I feel?

My main symptom is lethargy. This could be due to interrupted sleep although I expect some of the way I feel is due to the chemicals floating round my body. My headache has started to ease and although it still persists along with stiff neck and shoulders, it is much more manageable now.

In addition to the standard side effects which seem to coincide with all of the chemotherapy drugs (bruising/bleeding, anemia, sickness, diarrhoea, sore mouth, hair loss) the current round of treatment has  the additional symptoms of eye problems, skin changes, numb hands and feet.

To minimise risk of eye problems, I’m taking medicated eye drops which are applied every 3 hours.

the fact sheet for Mesna under ‘why is Mesna given’ states the following: “if you are given ifosfamide or cyclophosphamide chemotherapy, you may get bleeding in your urine. Both drugs can cause irritation of the bladder lining. Mesna helps prevent this by protecting the lining.” Thankfully, the Mesna seems to have done its job!

my skin has become very dry especially on my hands and face.

I’m also experiencing numb hands and feet, but otherwise, my symptoms are so far mild.

With regard to hair loss, this has slowed down somewhat but I have noticed that my beard hair has been coming out in the shower. In fact I  think I prefer wiping my beard off to shaving so I think I’ll not bother shaving for now!

Days 24-29 recovery period

I’ve spent a few days at home now and adjusting to reality has become more difficult than I thought. Hindered primarily by my headache which while improving, is still a frustrating brake on my daily activities.

Day 24 – release day

I was collected from the hospital by my Dad who had to wait for a couple of hours while the nurses collated my notes and bags of tablets. Initially I was told that my consultant would like to see me before I left but this didn’t happen. Incidentally, I haven’t seen her since the 23rd December and have only been in contact with the on call doctors. I think therefore that she has been avoiding me as she knows that I will have built up a huge list of questions for her.

On the way home, I managed to mitigate my headache slightly by folding the chair back as far as it would go. It gave the journey an interesting viewing angle!

Having climbed the stairs for the first time in a while, I crashed out and didn’t do much beyond sleeping.

Day 25

I spent Friday at home watching telly (I’d built up a library of TV to catch up on) and sleeping. It felt strange being at home with nothing to do, and although there were chores I could have picked up on, just walking round the house was enough to wear me out so I decided to take it easy. Luckily for me, Liz has been keeping on top of most things so I don’t have to; but I have a strange desire to get back to fitness so I can help out.

First Weekend home

Lego Cargo Plane
Lego Cargo Plane

Without any plans beyond relaxing, it seems that I’ve started to regress into childhood. My primary activities have included: completing ‘plants vs zombies’ on my phone, playing ‘Halo’ on my X-box and building a ‘Lego city cargo plane’ which my brother bought me for Christmas. I had a couple of friends pop round for a cup of tea and catch up which was nice; although I felt a little guilty on receiving a text from one of them saying ‘I’ve just come round to see you in Worcester, but you’re not here!’ Although on reflection, he should probably have checked my location first!

By Sunday I’d managed to increase my standing stamina enough to walk round to my friends’ house for dinner. I wore a pair of jeans which were tight in November and are now bunched up like a sack of potatoes around my waist (my favourite belt is now back in the drawer as it has too few holes, so I’ve had to resort to a fabric friction belt) On arrival, I had to lie down on the sofa and again after dinner which felt somewhat unsociable, but I think they understood. It was nice to fit a little sense of normality into my weekend.

Day 28 – the start of Week 5

It feels like a lot longer than 4 weeks since the beginning of my Chemo, but I expect this is partly due to counting hours in the ward. I had a district nurse visit in the morning to flush my line and take a blood sample. Having been told that I’d get a call with an appointment time, the shock awakening of a knock at the door took me by surprise, so she had to greet me un-showered and wearing little beyond my dressing gown! After a bit of a chit chat, she realised she didn’t have enough syringes for a double lumen line, so she left and said there would be another nurse round in the afternoon. Looking at the X-box controllers and Lego lying round the floor, they both asked If I had kids and were surprised to find out that I’m in fact a 33 year old child myself.

Day 29

Today I had an outpatient meeting with my consultant. Having bombarded her with (predominantly scientific questions) we decided that despite my headache I’m ready to crack on with phase 2 treatment. She said that I probably need to have my spine injections restarted but she’d get a neuro-specialist to come and see me beforehand to check me over.

The symptoms

I’m fairly symptom free now. I have a long way to go to get back to fighting fit, but besides my headache, I feel fine. My hair is still falling out, but slowly now with little change to my current appearance of baby head. I have noticed, however in washing my face, that my beard is falling out. I gave up shaving a few days ago and although it is growing, it’s much slower than normal and at first glance, my 10 days beard, looks like about 3 days growth (mainly due to the thinning of it’s mass) my throat is fine, mouth is healthy and even my digestive system seems to be fully functioning, so I’m prepared, if not looking forward to getting booked back in to hospital tomorrow.

 

Days 22-23 recovery period

I’ve cycled through the menus a few times now and while there is a reasonable amount of variety, I have never really expected any level of culinary excellence. Yesterday’s lunch, however, surprised even me.

Hospital food
Hospital food

Now admittedly, I got exactly what I ordered; and I’m not exactly a food critic, but as someone who currently can’t be bothered to eat at the best of times this presentation doesn’t exactly excite my appetite. Although I expect the average resident is fairly comfortable with the bland and ordinary, I’m pretty sure that without affecting cost and time, a small level of care and attention could vastly improve this meal in both nutritional and aesthetic values. Forgetting all the obvious omissions, I’d like to specifically raise your attention to the dessert. Apart from the choice of dish, if you’re going to drop a solitary slab of jelly in a bowl, it bears the question ‘why bother unwrapping it in the first place?’ As much as the idea of jelly appeared to be an interesting alternative, on reflection I think this would be enough to make Jamie Oliver quiver in his boots! With this in mind, the news that I can go home for a few days is a huge relief. I have a bit of a concern about my headache and how I’m going to cope with the journey, but to be honest if I have to bear that for forty minutes, the comfort of my own home and real food is worth the pain. The doctor decided that the second temperature was just a blip and had finished all my antibiotics and even reduced my other tablets to a small handful. I need to get a district nurse to visit and do blood tests and re-dress my Hickman line while I’m home and I’ll probably have to learn how to climb stairs again, but I’m looking forward to the short break of normality. Although still falling out, my hair loss seems to have slowed its progress so rather than shaving it off as is standard, I think I’m going to see what happens. If I look a mess for a few weeks in aid of science who cares! I’ve been taking a pic each morning the first few are below:

Hair 1
Hair 1
Hair 2
Hair 2
Hair 3
Hair 3
Hair 4
Hair 4
Hair 5
Hair 5
Hair 6
Hair 6

Days 19-21 recovery Period

As soon as I’m ‘recovered’ they’ll let me home for a couple of days which I’m looking forward to. I’ve been up and down the scale of Neutropenia over the last few days (low white blood cell count) I think over the last 6 days it’s been 0.5, 0.8, 0.4, 0.4, 0.9 and today it’s 8.7 which means I finally have an immune system!

Unfortunately, in addition to the confirmed flu I had with minimal symptoms (other than sore throat and headache), my temperature was borderline concerning at 38.1 on 2 occasions overnight. With this in mind, I’ve had a series of blood cultures taken whereby they presumably try and grow the offending bacteria in a Petri dish in order to identify what it is. This has the unfortunate result of my staying in the hospital for at least another 48 hours until they get those results back. In the meantime they’ve started me on a different antibiotic to try and help me fight it.

Yesterday I was quite ill and didn’t get out of bed until fairly late in the evening. I managed to eat a small amount but it was difficult to sit up with my headache as it is. I am feeling a little better today and managed to shower and sit up ok without too much discomfort. I am, however, beginning to get a little frustrated with this interminable headache.

Although they’re aware of all my symptoms, I haven’t really talked in too much detail with the doctors as they seem to be busy and distracted at the moment, but I have started to wonder whether this extended break in chemotherapy and delay before round 2 is likely to impact the electiveness of the treatment.

As someone who is usually in control and likes to take a handle on my own destiny, it’s a little difficult to let go and allow others to deal with it for me. I have to concede, however, that the doctors do know more than I on this subject and I rather have no other choice.

My Daily Routine

It has become fairly monotonous for me, but I thought for posterity I’d talk through an average day in the life of the little room which has become my temporary home.

6am – a health care assistant (HCA) walks in and wakes me up to perform ‘OBS’ (presumably short for observations) during which they check pulse and O2 levels using a clip on my finger, my blood pressure with an inflating arm cuff (I have my own one at the end of the bed which they connect to the machine) and my temperature using a machine which measures through my ear.

these ‘OBS’ are performed at roughly 4 hour intervals throughout the day and at about 10pm before bed.

6:30am – I am again woken by the nurse who takes a blood test. The procedure involves specially packed gloves, a couple of flushes including heparine to prevent clotting in my Hickman line and about 2 vials of blood.

7:30am – The main light is turned on and I am offered breakfast. Normally at this point (especially having a headache), I’m ready to say Pi$$ off! but my actual response of ‘porridge, orange juice and hot chocolate please’ is a little calmer.

8am – I raise the head of the bed and start to eat my cold, tasteless, instant porridge.

8:30 – a team of HCA’s come in to change my bed so I get out and sit on the chair with my headache in my hands for a short while.

9:30 – I climb out of my freshly made bed and go for a shower. This takes a while as I’m a little wobbly, and have been hooked up to a machine for most of the time which involves unplugging, wheeling, positioning so I can reach the shower via the curtain and without spraying all my clean clothes, manoeuvring via the toilet and returning to origin. I then brush my teeth which is rather painful and then perform the series of 3 mouthwashes including one which has to be mixed from 2 boxes of tubes.

10:30 – by this point I’m usually climbing back in bed as the cleaner arrives to clean the floors and surfaces.

11:00 – at varying times but usually by now, the nurse has arrived to give me my morning tablets. See list below. Around this time the doctors also turn up (sometimes 1, sometimes up to 3) to prod my stomach, check my breathing and ask me if I have any questions. To which the usual response is ‘oh, I haven’t checked that yet, but I’ll let you know,’ or ‘possibly, we’ll have to see how you respond,’

12:00 – lunch arrives, which for me is usually dinner at lunch time. So far mostly ‘puréed’ forms of common favourites like strange vegetable stew which tastes like beans, or fish Pie which tastes like a fish smoothie.

13:00 – by now I’ve usually started eating, but it’s cold and I’m less inclined to finish. Pudding is usually at the opposite end of the warm spectrum as I’d normally expect, e.g. Stewed apples with custard- cold, ice cream – room temperature! – I perform my mouthwash routine a second time.

14:00 – they take my tray away and offer me a ‘hot’ drink (usually tepid:) tea is almost tolerable, not sure why but always offered sugar in my sickly hot chocolate which seems overkill and I daren’t tempt the coffee!

15:00 – after an hour or so sleeping usually a visitor arrives asking me if I need anything and how I feel. Although ever grateful, it’s difficult to appear enthusiastic by this point.

17:00 – ‘dinner’ arrives which is a baked potato or sandwich. Or soup which is a gloopy grey undefinable goo with floating almost re-hydrated shapes. Due to my enforced diet I have been restricted to the latter, although in the last few days I have started to risk the excitement of triangle cut sandwiches chewed well. If I have a visitor, they have to watch me eat.

19:30 – by now visitors have left and I have time to update my blog, catch up on the news or watch some telly. I usually have a couple of interruptions for ‘OBS’ or ‘hot drinks’ I also have to brush my teeth and perform my mouthwash routine again.

21:30 – evening tablets are given which includes intravenous antibiotics into my Hickman line (I expect this will finish soon though)

22:30 – final OBS are performed and usually as I just start to read my book, they turn the lights out. (There is a side light but it’s difficult to reach in this room as the remote thingy doesn’t work so a little annoying, but I try and finish at least a chapter!)

sleep

The tablets:

Morning tablets
Morning tablets

I’m starting to work out what most of them are for, I may have some of the spellings and functions wrong, so if you’re a medical student- go to a library and ignore everything I’ve said.

  • Allopurinol – prevents gout due to breakdown of cytoplasm
  • Aciclovir – anti viral
  • Amitriptyline – relaxant
  • Domperidone – to relieve nausea.
  • Omeprazole – protects the stomach lining
  • Ondansetron – to relieve nausea.
  • Co-trimoxazole – prophylactic (preventative) antibiotic
  • Sodium Docusate – to relieve constipation

These are in addition to pain relief (paracetamol/codein/tramadol) my migraine tablets (sumatriptan), the mouthwashes (nystatin, chlorhexadine, caphosol), solution for acid reflux (Peptac suspension) and the flushes provided for my Hickman line (sodium chloride, heparin sodium)

As you can imagine, it’s quite a bit to carry and remember on discharge days!

Days 16-18 recovery period

Although I try and take pride in my appearance, I would tend not to regard myself as vain or in any way precious about my appearance. In this world of self imagery, high speed transactions and 140 character assassinations, the way we look affects the way people feel about us.

In my mind, there is little relationship between hair style and personality but perhaps in some way it does betray personal style and taste. I thought I would be prepared for hair loss, in fact it was the only symptom the doctors were sure about, but even so, watching your hair fall out in clumps as it has over the last 48 hours does bring with it a certain level of anxiety and self-reflection.

Hair Loss
Hair Loss

Otherwise the last few days have been fairly un-eventful. I’m now waiting for all my platelets and white blood cells to restore to acceptable levels. It was also confirmed from a swab of my throat that I had contracted ‘influenza A’ – incidentally the variant of flu that is not covered in this years’ flu jab and which the chap in the cubical next to me also had (we were sharing a bathroom, so I was less surprised than the nurses at this outcome!) I seem to have coped fairly well with it though, apart from a sore throat and generally feeling unwell, I can say I’ve had much worse with a fully functioning immune system, although I expect the course of intravenous antibiotics and tamiflu probably helped.

I also reached the end of my course of hydration. The relief from the beeping and clicking of the pumps and having to unplug and wheel around the stand each time I went to the toilet or shower was a greater relief than I had expected.

It’s surprising how used to performing a task regularly you get (especially when it’s every 2 hours for 5 days) that you forget how annoying and restricting the task in fact is. I’m sure I’ll re-asses some of my other daily habits when I return to normality!

Days 11-15 Chemotherapy

It’s worth noting that the frequency of my writing will be subject to how I feel and, for the last few days, I’ve felt pretty rubbish which means this post is a little delayed. I’m lying here today with the remnants of probably the worst headache I’ve had in my life (which being prone to migraines is not a small matter). So I think for a bit of a change, I’ll start with a run down of the symptoms over the last few days followed by the treatments.

How do I feel?

To explain the headache in more detail, it is one of those pounding aches which seems to run across the temples. It is at its worst when I’m sat upright or standing. The doctor said that it could be related to the intrathecal injection or possibly a virus. My neutrophil levels have been low also – in fact I’m currently neutropenic; meaning that my body has less than half the safe levels of white blood cells so it has to work extra hard to fight infection. When I woke up on Friday morning and went for my shower, my headache was so intense that I was sick for the first time since treatment started. I went straight back to bed and apart from toilet and shower breaks and a couple of treatments, I have done nothing other than lying down or sleeping every day since.

In addition to the headaches, I’ve noticed that my finger tips have become sore as if I’d been playing a string instrument too hard, but this is otherwise a minor ailment.

The other key symptom which is related to the course of Methotrexate which started on Saturday morning, is sore mouth and throat. I’ve had mouth ulcers in the past, but this is quite extreme, it hurts to brush my teeth, and the bristles make my gums bleed. I have 3 types of mouthwash which are to be taken 4 times a day. Currently I have sores under my tongue, inside my cheeks and under my lips, my throat feels dry and scratchy and my bowels are in discomfort as the drug can affect the whole system. The mouthwashes do seem to ease the pain a little but even opening my mouth and eating are currently uncomfortable activities.

The treatment.

So as mentioned before, on Friday, I had a Hickman line inserted (see separate post), this is to replace the PICC line. It has 2 lines rather than 1 so the nurses can apply treatment and take blood samples at the same time. I needed this line to be inserted before I could start the methotrexate.

After returning from the procedure, they sent me for an X-Ray to check that the line was located correctly. 30 mins later, the doctor had confirmed ok, and it was ready to be used, they applied flushes as normal then started me on a course of Rituximab. Being the second round, they were able to start the dose a little more quickly but monitored me every 30minutes as before. The course lasted about 4 hours. Due to my headache, I spent most of the time resting and didn’t feel any other effects.

Saturday morning, although I didn’t feel it, I was ready to start my dose of Methotrexate they started by applying saline solution for hydration, along with a series of blood and urine checks. The body finds it difficult to break down this chemical so the hydration helps to give my bladder the best chance. The PH levels of my urine are measured every 2 hours until traces of the chemical are down to an acceptable level at which point the hydration will stop (I’m still on hydration as I write, but expect it to finish today) the chemical was applied in 2 bags which were yellow in colour, the first containing 750mg and lasting an hour, and the second having 5350mg and lasting 23 hours. The hydration course has lasted about 4 days, and I’m looking forward to a night of sleep without interruption every 2 hours!

Blood transfusion
Blood transfusion

On Sunday my neutrophil levels dropped quite low so they performed a blood transfusion. Although there is a risk of allergic reaction, it is rare and otherwise the only sensation is renewed energy. My complexion up until this point had started to yellow a little and although this did perk me up a little, the headache was pretty much all I could feel. The course was 2 bags of A-rh positive blood, each lasting 2 hours. It seemed a little strange to think of someone else’s blood mixing with my own and I wondered whether having 3 sets of DNA within my body may affect me, but apparently not!

Monday and Tuesday, I spent mostly sleeping, I was moved to a side room as it came available and having an increased temperature, they felt my headache could have been due to an infection, although I’m still waiting for blood results to confirm. I’ve also been having an injection of folic acid at regular intervals to aid with the recovery process along with the usual array of tablets. I’m due a couple more intrathecal injections, but these have been postponed until I’m well again. The doctor confirmed this morning that once this round of treatment is complete, and I’ve had a few days to recover, round 2 starts which is a little quicker but more intense, and the whole course is repeated once more (4 rounds or cycles in total).

Days 8, 9 and 10 Chemotherapy.

So they say to start the year as you mean to go on, although for me 2015 in bed with a headache was not my intention, especially having not had a drop of alcohol for months!

The treatment

so just as I was settling down for my second evening at home on Monday, I had a call from the ward asking me to return in the evening at about 8pm. Frustratingly due to the bed shortage, a vacancy had come up and they were concerned that if they didn’t book me in straight away they’d lose my bed. So I spent the night of the 29th back in Worcester.

On Tuesday, I was due to have a short treatment of vincristine, followed by my intrathecal injection on Wednesday. The doctor said I would be able to go home afterwards noting that I couldn’t start any more treatment till my Hickman line was put in on Friday.

Vincristine

This time, the fluid was clear in colour and only lasted for about 15 mins followed by a flush. I didn’t experience any reaction to it apart from a bit of tiredness about an hour later.

Cytarabine

The next morning, in preparation to my intrathecal injection, I was told that my neutrophil levels (a measurement of white blood cells) were starting to fall. This meant that I’d need a daily injection to help my bone marrow replace white blood cells and reduce risk of infection.

I had to negotiate with the doctor as I was hoping to go home to see the new year in noting that I wouldn’t be back home for several days after the next treatment. She said that as long as I monitor my temperature and provided I had my injection before I went home, I could go home and return the following afternoon to receive the next injection.

The Cytarabine was administered through my spine (intrathecally- see separate post) to help it interact with blood cells in my brain. The procedure was fairly pain free and lasted only 30 minutes including preparation. After a short rest, I started to get a severe headache which continued through the evening. I had a lift home from my brother during which I struggled to fight nausea and dizziness caused by the headache. I arrived home and had some water and paracetamol which helped numb the pain a little. I rested in front of the TV with Liz to see out the remainder of 2014.

I felt a little guilty as Liz decided to stay with me rather than celebrating the new year with friends, but I’ll make it up to her next year. I couldn’t stay up all night so went to bed at about 10:30 and read a little before drifting off and sleeping as best as I could with the nagging headache in the background.

I woke up the next morning with the headache at a stronger pace. After breakfast, I went back to bed and spent the first part of 2015 in bed. It had subsided a little by 14:00 so I went back down for a lovingly prepared soup for lunch.

At about 16:30 it was time to return to the hospital and having eaten my final meal of the day on the ward (instant vegetable soup, which incidentally I will be happy to see the back of) I’m sat here writing to you. Tomorrow I’m having my Hickman Line put in which I expect to be a little more painful than the PICC line, but its apparent complexity intrigues me, and being a local anaesthetic procedure, I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you all about it tomorrow. So till then Happy New Year…