Time for a nap!

This post is going to be a moaning one I am afraid.   But then, hopefully once I have offloaded, downloaded or overloaded, then I will feel a bit better!

It is nearly a week since the final scheduled chemo, and I cannot believe how tired and frail I feel.  I know that the blood counts get to their lowest a week after the treatment, so it is not surprising that I feel very weak.  It is frustrating though, that even standing for a few minutes is exhausting, walking any distance is difficult, and going up and down stairs pretty impossible.  My knees start to shake and I have to sit myself down at regular intervals.

And sleep!  Goodness, I think I could be sleep champion of the world!  I flake out at night, sleep for a good 9 – 10 hours and still need a morning and afternoon nap!  How skilled am I?

As for the outside world, I am pretty oblivious to what is going on.  This is probably just as well as my chances of getting chemo treat 8 have been significantly reduced because of the colourful activities affecting many parts of central Bangkok. I have made my choice of treat, though, and might have to be patient as I look at alternative ways of getting my hands on what I am after!  That will be the topic of another post, I am sure.

Now it feels like time for another nap – more soon!

Feisty aliens – Lost in Space?

Lost in cyber space?

I have my views about whether Google is a good thing and had reason to reflect on this last week.  I also have views about whether we can live without Google!

WordPress have a fancy function of telling you, not just how many people visit your blog, but also if they are referred from other sites or search engines.  So I was highly amused to see that one visitor was referred to my blog after keying “feisty aliens” into Google.  They were directed to this rant.

Can you imagine how disappointed they must have been?  Looking for feisty aliens and landing up on a lurid account of breast cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy!

Thanks Google for thinking of me – it is good to know that I come up somehow on a search engine!!

Signed up for the Cookery Course

It’s all action.  The side effects from Chemo 8 are descending heavily, as are the side effects from the white cell booster.  My neck and shoulders are aching, mouth is tender and painful and teeth sensitive.  My fingers are numb and sensitive, my legs are buckling underneath me and even soft gentle bananas are giving me horrible heartburn.

So what better to do than get signed up for the next stage!  Dr W2 had set up my consultation for Radiation Therapy for Tuesday (yes, yesterday!)   Radiation will be carried out at the Cancer Hospital as there is only one Radiation Centre in Bangkok.   I had an appointment to meet my Radiation Consultant, Dr K, at 2 pm and had no idea what to expect.  Please, please no needles or awkward Twang Arm manoeuvres………..

After the registration and administration procedures, we headed to the Counter and waited to see what was next.  Soon I had the usual Blood Pressure, weight and temperature checks and some concern expressed over bruising on my hand.  The nurse was surprised that this was from the blood test last week, until I showed her the marks from the IV!

In no time, we heard Dr W2 arrive and drop an envelope on the counter, accompanied by my name.  Very soon afterwards we were ushered into Dr K’s room.

He talked us through the process for Radiation.  It would start around 3 weeks after final chemo.  There will be 25 sessions – 5 a week over 5 weeks. He suggested a start date of 27 April. The first session will be a computer simulation using CT scan and they will work out carefully how and where to target the rays.  Because my cancer and surgery was on the left side, there needs to be particular care to make sure my heart is properly protected!

I had a long list of questions and he patiently took me through the process. We talked a lot about the effects of Radiation and while it is very different to chemo, it is not without effects too.  The skin will usually develop a kind of “sunburn” after 3 – 4 weeks of the treatment and it is difficult to predict how each person’s skin will react.  I have very fair skin and tend to burn easily so I expect this might be quite uncomfortable.  I was advised not to use any creams immediately before treatment as some creams can have ingredients which react with the radiation.   I asked my questions about being in Belarus a few years after Chernobyl and possible radiation exposure.  Apparently any exposure I might have experienced then is nothing compared to the 5000°C which I will get with the Radiation Machine!!  How many?  I am sure I have probably got that wrong!

Through our discussion there was no sign of a needle or a need to wave Twang Arm around.  🙂 But there was one piece of not so good news.  During the 5 weeks of Radiation I will not be able to swim.  I have to avoid any additional irritation or possible infection so swimming is completely out.  I will miss that terribly but I guess I can cope for 5 weeks?

We saw Dr W2 again after the consultation and in the meantime, he had spoken with Dr K and brought the start of the course to the 20th April.  This means a quicker finish which is very welcome.

So here I am,  all signed up for the next event in the Triathlon from Hell – the Cookery Event!

The final instalment of Chemo

Yesterday was really quite a strange day.

Firstly, I did not have my usual pre chemo, mega jitters and nerves.  I am not quite sure why not.  Part can be attributed, I am sure, to the uncertainty about whether or not I would be well enough and therefore there was no point in being too scared.  Logical, no?  But in fact, I think it was more due to the fact that after 7 chemos, a bout of pneumonia and the scary IV antibiotics, another chemo and its familiarity finally did not feel just so intimidating as it used to.  Ironic, no?  Why could this not have kicked in 5 chemos ago?

I turned up at Counter 2 as usual, handed over the slip and when the nurse said “blood test” I made sure that this would be taken by the oncology 5th floor staff.  I waited for a while but no sign of the familiar all white uniform for quite a while.  Then a porter arrived to take me to the 5th floor!  Unexpected, but never mind, I followed to the Oncology Ward and there was shown to my room and waited for the nurse.  She expressed concern about my recent infection and said that there might well be a delay but it would depend on the blood work.  I asked if we should put on the numbing cream or not if it was unsure.

“Oh, yes.  Put it on!”  She was clear – if chemo was to go ahead then much better to be prepared.  AFter all, the cream could easily be wiped off if not.

She struggled a little to find a space to draw blood and my poor little vein was still tender.  Again the blood was reluctant to clot and required a good bit of pressure to stop the bleeding, which was really quite painful.  I have to stress though, that as ever, these nurses are just amazing and ensure that this is as painfree as possible.

So we headed back downstairs to wait for the results to come through and to see Dr W2 and her the verdict.  I had my other BP, temperature and weight checks and all was well.  Although I was a bit surprised to see that I had lost over 3 kilos in the intervening 3 weeks.  Hmmm, did the pneumonia do that or is a sign that I am really struggling to eat properly now?

Finally we were called and took ourselves and the X Ray from Yangon into Dr W2’s room.  He went through the blood tests and said that my white cell and neutrophil counts were normal now, and red blood counts had gone up enough to allow chemo to go ahead without transfusion!  Amazing what determination can do!  He then had a listen at my chest and seemed happy that it sounded clear.  He had a look at the X Ray from Yangon and immediately ordered a follow up X Ray.  He felt that I had had a virus as well as the bacterial infection which is why I had gone down so much and also why the monsterbiotics and IV ones had taken a while to kick in and for the fever to go down.  His verdict?  With satisfactory blood work, no fever and apparent recovery from the infection, pending the review X Ray, he felt 90% sure that chemo 8 could go ahead!  Gosh!

So we were carted of to imaging and I had a super fast X Ray with no comments about biopsy scars.  Within 10 minutes the results were with Dr W2, he had reviewed them and I was pronounced fit for the final zap.

We were escorted back up to the 5th Floor and back to the room where I had been earlier.  On with mind-numbing reality TV – my usual strategy for dealing with port preparation.  I seriously recommend it for the whole chemo process!

For the last time, I was prepared, the numbing cream wiped off, the area swabbed and sterilised, surgical gauze placed surrounding the area and then the ripping of the package which signified the port needle.  OK, the usual, breathe in, breathe in, breathe in…..hold…………… and for the last time the needle was in.  Phew!  No final surprises or problems with my wonderful port.  Did I call it wonderful?  Hmm, a strange time to develop a more positive relationship with my port!!

The series of syringes with anti side effect meds went in first and a vicious army of biting red ants marched again as I squirmed awkwardly.  Each time they seem to bite a bit harder and I find it increasingly uncomfortable.  The nurses find my reaction really amusing!

I had half an hour of saline after this to get the side effects well flushed and then the final taxotere was unceremoniously brought in and hooked up.  Have a look at the label in the pic, and all its detail……………..

As always, it is infused slowly as it has a high risk of allergic response.  For over one and a half hours it worked its way into my system until finally the machine beeped to signify the end of the infusion, and the nurse monitored as the final drops left the bottle and entered my blood stream.

Another series of syringes and the final anti clotting agent and it was time to remove the needle.  I breathed in, in, in- and held and out came the needle.  And then the weirdest thing happened.  I was completely overcome, and cried like a baby at this decisive moment.  It was totally unexpected and I am not quite sure what happened.  I think a mix of relief, disbelief that it is finished, and after months of holding things together during the chemo procedures I was overcome by the enormity of what I have been through.  I have since heard from many other women that they also wept buckets at the same point.  It reminds me a little of when you are in the midst of a family emergency or crisis and you just have to keep everything together, but when you are told everything is all right, that is when you crumble.

After the crumbly moment, I gathered myself, switched off the reality TV and got ready for the outside world again.  I will come back and see my 5th floor angels to thank them properly once I am clearer about the next steps and less wobbly.

After the usual signing of papers and collecting another bag full of medication, we were back out in the warm evening and quickly home.

I am still having a bit of difficulty letting it sink in that Sunday 4 April really was the 8th and final chemo.  Rocky (1 and 2) and I have finished our 8 round Boxing Match and the score seems to be Rocky -8, FBG – 8!!  But I have this naughty compulsion to run up behind him when he is not looking, and tweak those sensitive little hairs behind his ears and bring him to his knees like he has done to me!!  Maybe I will keep that one up my sleeve!

Chemo might be done and dusted, but there is no chance of dust gathering under my feet.  Final chemo was yesterday, and Radiation Therapy Consultation will be tomorrow!  Things are moving rapidly forward.

The most important thing is that I know that once this set of side effects pass, then I will start to feel better and slowly recover.  I hope that I will get my strength, energy and immune system back gradually – and I hope that means I will start to feel well again. I can’t wait!

How auspicious is this?

After my post chemo zonked nap, I had a wee sneaky peak online and just had to comment on what I saw?

You know I love numbers, dates and I see auspicious signs and good omens wherever I can.  But this has to be something very special.

Today saw Final Chemo day, Easter Sunday, and the date is 04 04 2010 – special in itself .

It is a beautifully rounded number.

So imagine when I saw the blog stats counter and that that the site has been viewed 4444  times!  Amazing!  And even more amazing?  At some point early today, the counter would have stood at 4410 visitors – today’s date (4/4/10) – an incredible coincidence!!

  • Blog Stats

    • 4,444 hits

So I am reading that as a heap of auspiciousness and something rather special.

You donated: £50.00
To the charity: Cancer Research UK
To the fundraising page: Heather Laing’s Fundraising Page, created by Heather Laing
Your donation reference: D19974895

The last drops

More details later as I am too wiped out just now, but here is a picture if the final drops of taxotere being infused into my chemo weary veins.  Name, date and time are all there on the bottle to record this historic moment formally.

It’s been a long and emotional day.  I feel drained and overwhelmed, and too frightened to be overly glad I am through with it all – in case I ever have to come down this path again.

Details coming shortly.

The night before something

Well here we are again.

It is the night before – what exactly?  It could be the eve of Chemo 8, or then again it might not be.  I know I am always uncertain and it depends on blood tests and the usual monitoring.  However, this time there is more uncertainty than usual, mostly thanks to my little brush with pneumonia.

I will need to be absolutely clear of infection and I guess the blood tests and other checks should give some sense of that.  I might also need to have follow up checks including another chest X Ray before they decide.  This is all guesswork though, and knowing Dr W2 he is equally likely to send me up to the 5th floor if the bloods are ok.

I have mixed feelings (for a change!)  I feel so weak, frail and sick that I want to get on the other side of No 8 (and the whole course) and finally feel as if I can start moving towards recovery.  But for the same reasons (feeling so rough) I know how much the chemo drags me down and the thought of being pulled down from a very starting point is not an appealing one.

I think it is a combination between the effects of the monsterbiotics, and exhaustion from the 7 rounds of Chemo (thanks, Rocky), anaemia and that latest gift of pneumonia.  Today I had to rely on wheelchair assistance leaving Yangon.  Usually I manage unaided, as it is a small and well laid out airport.  However, even the short distances are beyond me.  It is frustrating and upsetting.  On arrival in Bangkok, I had to walk down a couple of flights of steps and a short distance.  I was in tears of exhaustion and weakness by the time we got the the vehicle.  I could feel the eyes of the other passengers on me, and judgements of the unfit, pathetic woman struggling to get down the stairs.  Can you imagine if I had to go UP stairs?!

I might have never been an athlete but I have always had stamina and willpower as well as good levels of energy.  Even when I was struggling to walk far after chemo 7, I was able to swim up to a kilometre at a time (thanks to the buoyancy as much as anything 🙂 ).  From where I am now, I cannot imagine feeling strong, well and fit again.

So I am in a very different (and unexpected) frame of mind to my usual Night before Chemo Jitters.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but one thing is for sure.  24 hours from now we will all know.

A strange anniversary

It is 6 months today since I heard those words “highly suspicious of cancer”, and life changed.

In some ways it is hard to believe that 6 months have passed, as it has gone by in a blur.  However, it has been 6 months where almost all waking (and many sleeping) thoughts and actions have been taken over by the cancer diagnosis.  Planning is impossible and life is constrained in many ways.

However, 6 months have indeed passed.  Surgery ticked off, and 7 out of 8 chemo sessions also done.  So the heaviest and most difficult period is (hopefully) behind me.  One more chemo and then 5 – 6 weeks of radiation.  That is not long compared with 6 months.  And I am banking on feeling progressively better once the chemo after effects wear off a few weeks after chemo 8.

And to quote H on the 6 month milestone?

I don’t know if it seems longer or shorter than that, its half a year and that’s scary!”

Indeed!!

The lost days – Friday, the lost weekend and beyond……..

Sleep was even more elusive on Thursday night.  My arm and the IV line were really quite tender and when I did sleep I was woken by discomfort in the IV site.  That triggered more scary thoughts.  I got myself in a particular tizzy about the vein swelling or clotting and imagined that my arm was really swollen.  Then I had those really irrational “I can’t phone the Dr in the middle of the night” thoughts and that led to me wondering if I should try and remove the IV line myself if I got really worried about and what stage would it need to be to warrant me removing it.  And of course total reluctance because that would mean finding another vein in the morning.  All totally irrational stuff, typical for the middle of the night.  Switching on the light and looking at the arm provided a bit of relief.  It was not visibly swollen and once my thoughts became more lucid I realised that it was not as painful as I thought it was, although it must have been bugging me to wake me up.

Finally dawn came, and before long it was time to return to the clinic.  I was again slotted in before the start of the regular day, adding further to the workloads and hours of the Dr and her PA.

The Dr told me that she had had a good discussion with  Dr W2 the previous evening and again between them, they had identified the treatment path.  My temperature was lower, though it had raised again the previous evening so I was along way from 48 hours of being afebrile.

Then it was scary time again.  Time to see if the vein would accommodate the antibiotic.  It was by now terribly tender so I half hoped it would not work, although the thought of another needle seeking out another vein in the leg still grossed me out, as well as scaring me.  My arm was again unwrapped and the Dr started to have a look at the site.  She was concerned that it was really bruising but there is no surprise in that.  With gentle coaxing she was able to flush and clear the entry point and with my eyes tightly shut, willing more than anything, I waited to see if the infusion would go in.  Can you believe – it did!!  That amazing, exhausted vein was coaxed and persuaded to allow another dose into my blood stream.  This time was without doubt the most painful.  The bruising around the site made it incredibly tender, and the fact that the fluid has to go in “in a slow push” meant that every second was really tough.  Finally, finally it was in and the infusion over.  The needle could be withdrawn, with great relief.

The final irony of this vein was that when the needle was taken out, after clotting so quickly each time before the infusion, it refused to clot and close up!!  This meant it required quite a bit of pressure to get it to stop bleeding.   Not easy to be cooperative when any pressure results in the arm retreating in the opposite direction!

The relief was enormous.  Now I could move onto oral antibiotics exclusively.  This meant a change from the antibiotics I was taking and starting monsterbiotics.  This was in the form of 2 types of very strong antibiotics particularly for people with suppressed or compromised immune systems.

It was nearly 9 am when all was finished and we left the clinic, exhausted.  My grand finale had been to walk back into the waiting room, so relieved at the removal of the needle and prospect of no more vein hunting – that I totally forgot that my hat was in my hand and not on my head!  Luckily, there was only one other person there and, bless him, he didn’t even react to the sight of a bald woman tottering towards him!  Clutching my monster pills and with instructions in my head of what to do I could finally head home.

And so to bed.  I am not sure what else happened on Friday, the third lost day, except for spending most of it sleeping!

The lost weekend and beyond – Saturday/Sunday……….. to today

To be honest, the last days have probably been the most difficult so far of this breast cancer road.  I feel weakened, nauseous (monsterbiotics?), constantly exhausted and the cough of the pneumonia has started to take hold.  I can’t stand for long, nor walk for any distance and of course my beloved swimming is out of the question for now.  I am sleeping for hours, and most of the rest of the time I spend lying down.  While my fever is much lower and within acceptable limits, my temperature is more raised than normal, adding to anxiety.  I just want to feel better and heave energy again.

I am not even thinking ahead to Sunday.  We will travel as originally planned tomorrow to Bangkok and see Dr W2 on Sunday.  It is unusual and strange, but chemo 8 is just not on my mind.  I have to get over this hurdle first and Rocky might be ready but I am not sure if will get the all clear for the next battering.