Day 86-94 Chemotherapy

As people ask how I am, I usually respond with ‘I feel fine.’ Although an automatic response to a casual question, it’s something I sometimes have to think hard about. I recently realised that I’m no longer sure what ‘fine’ feels like. With a dizzy disorientation, light headedness, lethargy, forgetfulness, tingling extremities and a dull haze around everything I do, I still feel much better than recently although I suppose health and state of mind are all relative.

Day 86-87 Chemotherapy

Although it has since turned out not to be the case, as far as I had expected, these were my last days on the ward- I had previously planned a card and some chocolates which with the help of Liz were hidden away in my belongings to pass to the nurses on my departure.

I had a final dose of Chemotherapy (Etoposide, ifosfamide and Mesna) on day 86 (Wednesday) Which was gruelling and annoying, but dampened by the thought of going home. The Thursday (day 87) was rounded off with a final intrathecal (IT) injection of methotrexate which was performed quickly and relatively painlessly (although not a procedure I’ll be missing)

On a few of the ‘IT’ injections administered I’ve experienced the pain or shocking numbness which can occur when the needle comes close to a nerve ending. It happened again this time although strangely the pain felt like someone pinched my leg which startled me. Otherwise the procedure went fairly smoothly.

Homeward Bound

I’m fairly used to the procedure now, and was careful not to jeopardise my release by giving anyone any excuse for delay (the organised registrar helpfully rescheduled his morning to start the procedure early). Even so, I was not ready for collection until around 17:30 and although we didn’t get home till 19:00, I was happy to have the option of refusing my final hospital dinner!

Still aching from the procedure I spent Friday and most of the weekend resting.

It was Liz’s birthday on Sunday and although her gift from me is an IOU, her family came up and I think she was more than happy to see them. I realised I hadn’t seen or spoke to them directly since Christmas, so it was good to catch up and experience a little friendly normality.

Days 91-94 Recovery

On Monday, it was back to the routine of the district nurse arriving to perform blood tests. I was a little apprehensive as I had decided not to take my Lenograstim over the weekend after a discussion with the nurse who agreed with my logic. The results came in fairly quickly and I had a call from the ward asking how I felt. I felt light headed and knew I was neutropenic but my neutrophils had dropped to 0.0 which is well below the normal safety threshold. I managed to negotiate with her as my platelets were still 28 (low but within danger levels provided I don’t cut myself) and I knew I had the back up of the injections.

My next test was Wednesday (yesterday) the call came in again, and this time they weren’t as lenient. My neutrophils had risen to 0.2 but my platelets were now 7 which normally would lead to random bleeding but Luckily my skin integrity has seemed to hold together fairly well apart from a few random pin pricks and bruising across my skin.

Petechiae pin pricks
‘Petechiae’ pin pricks

Petechiae is the technical name for the pin pricks which are caused as blood vessels burst due to the shortness of platelets (also technically called ‘thrombocytes’ and ‘thrombocytopenia’ is the condition).

so I’m sat in hospital after another uncomfortably interrupted night waiting for a transfusion of blood and platelets. If the internal politics go in my favour I can go home shortly after although it’s difficult to argue and negotiate with doctors for whom safety is their primary concern.

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Day 44-47 Recovery Period

Blood then home

On Wednesday morning I was told that as I had no serious symptoms and a normal temperature, they were happy for me to go home after the transfusion. There were 3 bags of blood required including a flush between each and a process of admin (I think they have to order each as they need it). The first starting at 11:00 meant that I would be in hospital until about 20:00. Interestingly, although they know my blood type, they have to perform an additional “cross matching” exercise the same day. As well as blood group, they also refer to antibody levels.

My mum arrived just before 8pm and I went home fairly promptly; the nurses had organised my discharge notes and the pharmacist had delivered my bags of medicines by about 6 even though I was still plugged in- I think they must have needed the bed!

Back Home

Thursday morning I felt revitalised. I think during the gradual decline I hadn’t realised how much the anaemia/neutropenia/thrombocytopenia had affected me.

I wasn’t sure whether the nurse was due as she was previously booked in for Friday, but she arrived promptly at 10:30 to administer another shot of Lenograstim (some nurses refer to this as GCS which is granulocyte colony-stimulating) which has been extended for a further 10 days.

I knew I felt better as I decided to tidy the living room a little which has become cluttered with pharmaceuticals, dressings and solutions.

Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceuticals

I spent the afternoon filtering through work e-mails which had filled my inbox. I also started working on some sketches for a whisky project that was pending although an email popped up Friday morning saying the customer didn’t have any budget so I decided not to complete or submit these.

For the rest of the weekend I’m looking forward to relaxing in the traditional sense, rather than through the necessity of not being able to do much else.

How do I Feel?

I generally feel well although waking up this morning was hard work. I can feel the effects of the Lenograstim again; it has the tendency of inducing bone and joint ache similar to how you feel when you have flu. I can also feel the back end of the last Chemotherapy session creeping over me; the tips of my fingers are very numb and tingly (a bit like pins and needles) I also have a similar sensation in the tip of my tongue. My ‘fissure’ seems to be subsiding and my recent bathroom visit was much more manageable. At it’s worst, I felt like I had been eating broken glass, so the knowledge that this was a temporary experience is a huge relief. Finally, and this is difficult to pin down to my treatment or whether it’s just tiredness, I have a kind of cloudy brain feeling. Although I feel awake, it’s as though I’m viewing the world through an obscure experimental movie like ‘Being John Malkovich.’ A temporary cloud hovering over all my senses I hope, but this feeling was much worse earlier on in my treatment.

I am repeating the R-Codox-M treatment (cycle 1-3) in a week’s time. I was told that the chemicals are accumulative. I’m hoping with apprehension that the symptoms aren’t accumulative too.