The needle-phobic members of my family can look away now (you know who you are). On Monday I had a ‘phone call – can you come to Wycombe for a CT Scan on Thursday? Well I start chemo on Thursday so it might be a bit tricky is my reply. Oh, well we can fit you in at 5.15 tomorrow. So the next day it was granddaughters in the morning, dog to the vets for her annual check-up then me for a CT scan (mustn’t get these mixed up).
So off to Wycombe with the dog, no with me, and up to the x-ray suite. Again I had to have plenty to drink beforehand and then to change into a couple of gowns one with the opening up the back and the other the other way round like a dressing gown. Modesty preserved. Liz remarked how cheerful the staff were at the end of the working day. We were told that they work 8am to 8pm and that every patient was a new patient to them. Last time I had been on this floor I had radio-isotopes injected and had to come back a couple of hours later.
This time a contrast agent would be injected and it would all be over in one quick session. I was taken in to the scanner room and lay down on the bed with a cushion under my knees. The radiographer put a cannula into a vein in my arm and retired to the control room where she gave me instructions “Hold your breath”, “Breath normally”, “Simon says …” and so on. The machine whirred into action. When the contrast agent is injected it only takes 30 seconds to go round the body – whoosh. It was the first time I had had a cannula so a new experience and a practice for Thursday! Final announcement “All over, you can sit down for ten minutes to check that there is no adverse reaction then go home”.
Another day, another needle. Meeting with the STAMPEDE trial nurse, an ECG and blood test to check my baseline white cell count (and to ensure that they are at an acceptable level). All OK, so ready to go for tomorrow.
The big one
I had heard a bit about chemotherapy and had seen what the chemotherapy suite at SMH was like but the only description I had read was in Jo Gambi’s book ‘Holding on’ – quite scary. Jo and her husband Rob were the first married couple to climb the seven highest peaks on the seven continents as well as reaching both Poles, all after Rob had been through chemotherapy following a second bout of cancer. Well worth a read, but perhaps not when you are about to undergo chemotherapy.
I was made comfortable in a recliner chair and had my blood pressure taken (up a bit), pulse (usual 60). From yesterday’s blood test my HbA1c levels were also up a bit but I thought I could rationalise this – four birthdays with associated meals, Easter and various injections and investigations – although they may all be red herrings. Will need to watch it. I was given my chemotherapy record book and my fast track pass through A&E.
Now for the insertion of the cannula. I thought I would have to look away and grit my teeth while it was inserted but in fact I watched it being put in and was impressed on how efficiently it was done. First a bag of saline was put in the drip and then the docetaxel was brought out. It has a very short shelf life and is light-sensitive so it was covered with a black bag. I watched the timer count down on the drip pump and when the time was up the bag was checked and the timer reset a couple of times to ensure that every last drop was used. Then a final flush through with more saline, final checks and we were free to go.
We had been in the cancer unit for about two and a half hours which had gone quite quickly but was over the two hours allowed in the car park. Fortunately we had a chit for the car – however long we are in there we are only charged for two hours. Then back home and an afternoon working in the garden. The only after effects I suffered that day were that I woke up hiccupping at about 4am – weird.
Three days, three needles and no bruises or other marks. Well done team.
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