Last Thursday was my sixth (of six) chemo session. So the last three week cycle of my neutrophils and white blood cells running for cover, bottoming out between seven and ten days later before starting to recover so that I am fit enough to be zapped again. This time though no more zapping. Actually zapping is the wrong word, more appropriate for radiotherapy than for chemotherapy, but I will stick with it for now.
In three weeks time I should also be stopping the steroids although I am not sure yet whether I will be weaned off them or go cold turkey (not nasty cold turkey but more likely to be a few days sleeping). I am on two doses, one twice a day every day and one bigger dose twice a day the day before, the day of and the day after chemo. This is the dose that CCHU is most concerned about. When I was settled in but before any holes were made in me the nurse said “Have you taken your steroids”, looked at my face and said, “I can see that you have”. It was the healthy slightly ruddy complexion that gave me away. This is also why people accuse me “You look so well, you can’t be ill.” Well as I say I don’t feel ill, just a bit drained.
It will be strange not spending a couple of hours in CCHU every three weeks followed by planning our activities around the three week cycle – the ‘good weekends’ immediately before and after chemo when we have our daughter home and go out and about (within reason) and the middle weekend when we keep to ourselves. Would we have been so careful if I hadn’t ended up in A&E on my first middle weekend? I don’t know, but so far it has meant that I have avoided a repeat visit, which can only be a good thing
I will say that Room 10 in CCHU where I have had my chemo has always been welcoming and friendly and I am always impressed by how they are able to insert a cannula. A warming bag on my arm for a few minutes and then a few taps on the back of my hand and in it goes. Tape it on and in goes the drip. An hour or so later and out it comes with the tape pulled off (ouch), a plaster put on and that’s it. At most I have had one slight bruise from a blood test and nothing more. Apart from the nursing staff there are a couple of volunteers who ensure that we have sufficient to drink.
I am also grateful for the support from friends and family either face to face or on-line from overseas (and of course Liz for keeping me in line) and for putting up with my occasional grumps, and forgetfulness (or so I am told). Last week things were put into perspective when I called on a friend who had chemotherapy last year. It reminded me of the aptness of my mountain analogy – how everyone’s experience will be different . For some peoples their cancer (or chemo) is an Everest and others just a Ben Nevis with some being attempted in fair weather and others in raging storms.
I said three weeks to normality but that is not the full picture. I suspect it will take rather longer for my legs to become unleaden, for me to not doze off after lunch, for my beard to return but it should be OK to go into “uncontrolled environments” and not worry about getting close to an infection epicentre (aka a small child). Gradually our routine should get back towards normal (that is the old normal, not the new normal of three week cycles that we have been on since the end of March). That means that I won’t have to play “Secretary-at-a-distance” for the committees I am scribe for, I can return to going to the occasional meeting in London and we may even venture to the cinema. Have I missed those committees? ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. I certainly haven’t missed the discussions that go off at a tangent or go over and over the same ground. So perhaps we go for a revised old normal.
However I will still have the occasional check up with my GP and my next appointment with my Oncology consultant at the end of September. My latest blood tests were encouraging with my PSA being the lowest within living memory (well OK almost as low as it was in 1998). Just a few other things to get under control (I blame the steroids).