Day 58

CHEMO No.2

Arrive at Treliske in good time having figured out how to negotiate Truro rail station at rush hour and caught a bus straight off.

Heamatology are expecting me and Caz comes for a quick chat about how the last two weeks went.  Siobhan is on holiday and so my nurse is her colleague Gaynor today.  We also discuss the symptoms of the last two weeks, and then she fits the cannula in my right forearm and takes a set of bloods.  Painless and professional!

I then have a short wait and am able to get to the cafe and get a sandwich for lunch as I’d run out of time this morning to make anything at home.

This time the hospital feels familiar, and easy.

Back to Haematology and then a quick meeting with Dr Kruger who gies me the once over – cool hands feeling my neck armpits and groin – and asks about symptoms.  He is interested in the last of my night sweats which I had in the first week and nothing since.  That’s a good sign, and the so is the drying up of the eczema.  He’s particularly pleased to hear that my dry cough has gone as that was a worry with my lungs. My back pain has reduced significantly too, and only really appears if I overdo it. I’m taking far fewer painkillers, once or twice a week I’d say.

The curious thing about this is that I think these symptoms were abating before the first chemotherapy session started. I don’t dwell on this with Dr Kruger, I had mentioned it to him before that first session but he hadn’t been particularly interested. I’m interested though, and I wonder what could’ve caused that. Certainly once I was given a date for treatment I felt a lot less stressed than I had been through the fraught weeks of assessment. I felt suddenly more relaxed and maybe my body followed suit.

I’m curious about how long the program will be if I respond well. He confirms that it will likely be 6 months and that although the surface symptoms are abating and I’m responding well, it’s the PET/CT scan due in a few weeks time that will show how the cancer itself is responding.

Then I’m off to the Headland Unit and am checked into the Chemo ward.  There are three other guys in there, each hooked up and in their own worlds.  I’m sat in a comfy high back arm chair by the window. Great, but the radio is on with Terry Wogan blathering on.  I ask to move but the nurse just turns it off – no problem, no ones listening and it’s going to get busy and noisy in here later.

I fill in a health check form, mentioning the jumping in my right arm and leg during the first week.

Suddenly a surprise visitor. Marta! She’s about to start a nursing shift in another ward and came to see if I was here.  How nice…

While we chat the nurse Becs prepares the steroid shot and gets it running. Marta takes a photo of me in the ward, hooked up and taking it easy…

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Then there’s an hours rest. I doze for a bit and then am woken by a volunteer serving tea and flapjack…mmm.

Then at 1pm Becs and another nurse come to set the first chemo drug running.  There’s a concern about my immune system levels which are down. The indicator is that my neutrophil levels are low. I’m warned about keeping away from people with colds or flu.  Becs goes back to Dr Kruger to check all is well.  It is.

So, its the Doxorubicin, injected with a syringe by the nurse, with a shot of anti-nausea beforehand.  We have a conversation about London life and what led us to both escape it…

Then the Vinblastine follows on by drip, diluted by saline.

No pain in my veins. The nurses love my veins!

The ward is full now. All 6 chairs and the same in the other rooms. Must be 20 of us being treated today. The air/sea rescue helicopter flies in noisily outside, disappearing behind the next building.  It’s quite a soap opera here…

Then the Dacarbazine which is light sensitive and protected by a light proof bag.  The tubes are also tinted, and I’m told to keep out of direct sunshine particularly for the first coupe of days.  And my skin will be more sensitive to the sun in terms of burning and the danger of melanomas…use a high factor sunscreen…

Another rest after this for an hour, just saline running.  I’m reading Dr David Servan-Scheiber’s Anticancer book. Interesting on Natural Killer cells in the body, and the way cancers corrupt and divert the use of the body’s own immune response system to feed itself.  It chemically emulates an injury in effect,and the inflammation that goes with that, and forces the body to rapidly grow new blood capillaries and vessels to feed the growing cancer with nutrients and remove its waste products.  Thus the tumour grows at a pace.  The book’s interesting and whilst it discusses medical experiments, advances and setbacks, it also introduces strategies that we can instigate ourselves to create an inner environment or ‘terrain’ that is discouraging to cancer growth, such as the right diet, exercise, and a positive mental and emotional approach.

I’ve been given a leaflet produced by Royal Cornwall Hospital ‘General nutrition advice during chemotherapy’. It’s basic message is to avoid weight loss during treatment, so advocates eating lots and often and following a balanced diet. It includes all food products in fact, there are no exclusions but advocates balance.  I’m already doing more than this with my diet but again wonder if there’s more I can do.  So that’s why I’m reading the Anticancer book. I’m getting there, but would like to talk to someone about the acid/alkaline balance in my body.

Anyway, back to it.  After the final Brentuximab drip feed I go back to Haematology for a final round of blood tests with Gaynor. All done by 5.30pm. I feel anything, a bit sluggish and headachy.

Ali picks me up afterwards with her mother Ann whose down for the week. Ali’s bought me some food for supper, haddock and new jersey potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and salad. But they don’t stay and later Jane L comes over to keep an eye on me and regales me with tales of sailing on the 1905 cutter ‘Irene’ to Plymouth last week. She hooked up with the crew when they were moored in Newlyn; they had anchored in a Falmouth Harbour when Jane, Paul, Alex and I played a fiddle music to welcome in the ‘Tres Hombres’ vessel and the Sail Trade Festival last month. She’s got the old sail boat bug, and a crew of pirates to hug!

I’m in bed soon after 9:30 PM, and Jane stays over, sleeping up in The Box. I’m feeling ok, a bit achy especially in my legs and a bit thick headed from the drugs.