Friday, 28 September 2012

Session 11 by the Skin of my Teeth

I have felt reasonably well from Monday on considering, so I have been into work a couple of times to sort out a few things that was playing on my mind. Now that is done I can settle down (maybe)
2 weeks from now I will be on my last cycle then its a case of getting over the build up of toxins prior to a stoma reversal hopefully in November. It is not until now that you realise how much support you receive  from the nurses at WPH. Angels indeed. I understand that others who are in greater need than myself need access to these special people, but I have had a lot more than my fair share of attention from at least two of them. So what will I feel like when the chemo is over and their help is no longer there?
Thursday 27th September
Prior to my Blood Test Sue and I attended the Cavendish Cancer Support Centre for a counselling assessment. It’s Sue that needs counselling not me - she is the one that has to sit back helplessly whilst I feel that I'm doing something about it. The main reason for the appointment was not for counselling but to get some hypnotherapy in order to help me get back to sleep once I had woken during the night however when asked about other concerns I noted that I was unhappy with the amount of weight I was putting on. It's my sweet tooth. The outcome was that I left with appointments to see a herbal dietitian and a hypnotherapist just prior to my 12th and final treatment. The morning appointment at the Cavendish Centre meant that we had a fair amount of time to kill before my appointment at WPH so opted to get the blood test out of the way then have some lunch hoping that the results would be back before the consultation. Blood test done we settled down with a coffee and scone and upon the last mouth full I was called in for my consultation.
The Oncologist was obviously concerned that my continued low platelet count may mean not completing the full course on all of the drugs notably the Oxaliplatin which affects platelet production with the risk outweighing the benefit at this late stage.  I have set my stall out for 12 full blown sessions so I'm not interested in packing up now even though he quite clearly stated that "Chemotherapy Can Kill You"

 Anyway the blood results had not come back yet. He carried on to say that after my final cycle he would contact my specialist surgeon's secretary to to hand my case back over, then hopefully My stoma reversal would get under way 4 to 6 weeks later followed by a full body scan in December. Hopefully it will be "Happy Christmas - everything looks Fine " For now anyway.
Back home as expected a phone call confirmed that the platelets were a little low again and that I needed to be back at 08.30 for another blood test. With my "Glass Half Full" attitude I never doubt that I'll achieve the magic 100 but in an attempt to remedy the situation later that that night I had 2 pints of medicinal Guinness at the Parish Oven - We didn't win the quiz even with 32 points.

Friday 28th September and PICC Problems Again
Up at the crack of sparrow (05.30) and in WPH for 08.10. Dressing changed but there is no joy on the flush or blood draw back until I crank my arm to get it working then I'm back to the waiting room until the results come through. Launa (the young lady who I sat next to last time for treatment) came into the waiting room  with her husband and sat opposite for a chat. I handed over my copy of the Anti Cancer book that I had read hoping that it would give her some ideas of how to improve her condition.
 2 hours later - BINGO - platelet count 103 - Yippee - GET IN, obviously the Guinness did the trick.
Rachel , the ward Sister set up the drip but there's still a problem getting the drugs to pump in so it's a case of bending my arm again and holding it out to one side - I'm conscious that everyone will think I'm gay with such an unusual pose but every time I straighten my arm the pump sounds an occlusion (Whilst no one was looking I craftily reset the pump myself). 2 hours in this awkward pose seemed more like 3 but it is a case of grin and bear just to get through it. Helen called to check out this recurring, unusual problem but felt that we could manage the situation at this late stage without any interference to the line. She remained with me to administer the 5FU and to connect the canister even though it is not her job. Special treatment? - You bet - not only that but I got a peck on the cheek as I was leaving from my other fave nurse Rachel - just in case this was the last time that she would look after me.
ONLY 1 MORE TO GO and I think that in time my hair will come back thick and darker than before - No Grey - as if by magic.Life on the bottle

Sunday 30th AM Update - LIFE ON THE BOTTLE

It was a long Friday Night on the bottle having just 3 hours sleep and being fully alert throughout Saturday so I thought that Saturday night would be better - But not really having  just 4 hours sleep. But what's new. It  maybe a sub conscious thing not being able to settle back down after tending to Bob's pouch because that is what I expect so therefore I don't even try. The strange thing is that I don't mind since it gives me some quality time alone, either blogging, writing or surfing the web.
The good news is that changing my tablets seems to be doing the trick to stop me feeling sick.
I'm now on 1 x 20mg Omeprazole at night and 1 x 30mg of Lansoprazole during the day. Both do similar things by reducing stomach acid build up that causes irritation and acid reflux (heartburn). If they work this well for the whole of next week then I'll be a very happy bunny.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Eight Green Bottles

Tuesday 18th September
As expected at the beginning of the treatment the toxic accumulation of the cytotoxic drugs was predicted to gradually build up towards the end but in my case it feels like a train crash. From Sunday onward I have felt very tired, sick and lethargic. Miserable springs to mind. I have hammered the Donperidone (anti sickness tablets) almost to overdose and persist in keeping food down by closing my eyes and swallowing deeply and repeatedly. I have also had problems focusing my eyes today which does not bode well for an accurate assessment during my annual eye test tomorrow.
All I can do now is rest up but with the weather now feeling autumnal I really would like to make the best of the outdoors before winter sets in. Since I have already had several conversations with Helen (and Graham) on the subject of taking it easy and not risking setbacks, will common sense or my ego win?
The end is now in sight but I'm not looking forward to the last 2 sessions if it continues to be as bad as this.
I counted up the empty 5FU canisters yesterday just to make sure I had not miscounted the sessions. Eight bottles in all - WHAT - Only EIGHT - are well then it dawned on me - the first was session done in hospital as an inpatient and the second was disconnected and disposed of in hospital on the day ward - PHEW
We have just had some lovely braising steak with mash and veg for dinner (my favourite meat) but it was a shame that I could not fully taste it. I'm now starting to miss some of the more delicate flavours, only temporary though I hope.
On the positive side Bob seems to have settled down a little, He has shrunk back in size (not fully mind you) and I've managed to get the soreness under control but after such a late, big dinner he will be working overtime tonight.

Wednesday Update
I had a reasonable night's sleep last night getting nice and cosy under our new winter quilt. makes a change from the last 2 nights when I took the hot water bottle. I may have got 9 hours which was interrupted by Bob a couple of  times, so you would think that I would be fully refreshed and feeling chippa. WRONG. Breakfast was a struggle with sickness and my arms and legs feel like lead weights with me almost falling over in town whilst crossing the road. My body wanted to move fast but my legs had other ideas. Maybe tomorrow I will turn the corner on this session.

Monday AM Update
I only began to feel better on Saturday morning after 2 decent nights sleep of about 6 hours. I have forgotten what it feels like to sleep for a full night without waking and with the exception of the quiz nights I've been in bed before 10pm every night since March. Although this has been the worst session yet when it comes to sickness and muscular tiredness, I have not had the smell of burning, nor have I had a sore mouth.
With the weather being so good on Saturday it would have been a shame to miss out on some outdoor therapy so I arranged a day out in the Peak District with Steve Donohue and Uncle Barry. Considering all the setbacks attributed to overdoing things we chose an 8 mile flat-ish walk along Baslow, Curbar and Froggat Edges, returning via White Edge. After watching climbers on Froggatt Edge we could not resist a short scramble up between the pinnacle. The views throughout the day were spectacular with all three of us enjoying the day immensely. Note the photos below
The poor forecast  for the rest of this week will encourage me to relax however I really need to go into work for a day or so to sort a few niggling issues. Going back to work again won't go down well at WPH when I go on Thursday for my blood test. Another thing that I must do is to to contact the Cavendish Centre at Weston Park to sign up for some relaxation therapy.
Curbar Edge

Looking towards Stoney Middleton

End of and Affair - an E9 climb on the far arete

Lone Tree at the end of White edge

Steve, Dale and Barry

Friday, 14 September 2012

10 Down and Flying By The Seat Of My Pants

Thursday 14th September - Blood Test Day
I  have managed to work all week which did affect me mentally, finding it difficult to get back to sleep once I had awoken to sort Bob out, usually around 02.00. I just found myself trying to solve work related problems instead of getting back to sleep so by Thursday morning I'm whacked.
Somehow I got my appointment time got mixed up so I arrived at WPH 2 hours early, but that's OK it gave the Halamshire Hospital the chance to get my blood test results back prior to the consultation. The extra free time also gave me chance to decipher my Issac Newton book a little more and a bigger window of opportunity to catch up my old mate Steve D over a coffee who was there for his radiotherapy.
Once in the consultation suite Helen came in to discuss my finger infection and my hectic sometimes idiotic lifestyle (my words - not hers)  and how it may affect a successful stoma reversal (I could feel Bob twitching at the possibility of him being condemned to a life on the outside)
I had heard that Richard the Registrar Oncologist  had become a father  since I last saw him, so my opening gambit when he came into the room was to deflect the probable news of a low platelet count by changing the subject.
"Hello - how are you doing?"
"Never mind me - How are you doing and how is the new family. I hope you are helping change the nappies?"
Both he and Helen just laughed then came the news that my platelet level was 95, just short of the magic 100.
"That's Great - Spot On, so let's crack on then tomorrow with my treatment" I said trying to control the situation.
"Well we should give you another blood test in the morning and hopefully they will come up a bit more"
 So my ploy to walk out of the room without a platelet debate failed.
We also crashed and burned later that night in the Parish Oven Quiz with the lowest score we had ever achieved - Just another sign that my turn for a lucky streak is no where in sight.

Friday 14th September - Chemo Session 10
With an appointment time of 09.00 it's an early start to miss the Sheffield rush hour traffic. I'm on time and get my dressing changed and blood sample taken but again there are problems with my PICC line. It would flush but not draw blood back. Anyway I have an hour to kill, so go for a walk into Weston Park (The Park that is and not the Hospital) The time passes slowly but when I get back I'm soon in and getting hooked up - so my blood count must be OK. The inability to draw blood back means that I have to have a 'Fluid Challenge' where by 100 mls or so of saline needs to pass through the drip machine to prove the line is clear. Helen comes by and asks the nurse what the platelet count is.  100 came the reply.
"Dale - You like Flying by the Seat of you're Pants don't you?"
Once hooked up to the Calcium Folinate and Oxaliplatin I catch up with a young lady who I have met before and who also has Bowel Cancer but which has metastased to her liver. We has a good chat comparing notes and experiences which helped the time pass more quickly.
A quick infusion of 5FU via the drip followed by my canister connection and I'm out by 3.15 pm
Back at home I'm mentally shattered and as the evening moves on and the steroids kick in I'm becoming increasingly alert.
I feel a long night is in store

Monday, 10 September 2012

Bobs becoming a real pain in the arse

Monday 10th September
Since returning from the Lakes  Bob has been a real pain. His enlargement may be due to a prolapse but we will have to wait and see if he reduces in size over the next week or so. Other than that the peristomal skin has been really sore probably due to all the leaks whilst I was away so I've tried different barrier creams, wipes and sprays to ease the stinging as well as re-sizing my pouch openings to reduce skin exposure.
My Infected finger
To add to the Bob woes I knocked my little finger last week, just breaking the skin and it became infected so I'm now on antibiotics for a week. If it wasn't for my chemo I'm sure that my own immune system would have coped easily.
I suppose that all this would lead you to think that I'm resting up but I feel pretty good at the moment so I have returned back to work for the next few days which will give Sue a break from keeping an eye on me.
Let's hope that my platelet levels are up on Thursday ready for session number 10 on Friday

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Still Climbing?

Wednesday 5th September

Derwent Water
Well I'm home after a shorter trip than planned to the Lake District. 
2 reasons for the early return, firstly I had all sorts of problems with Bob - My stoma from it swelling and bleeding then running out of ostiomy supplies to manage the problems associated with leakage and secondly after 2 days walking (and one good rock climb) I'm as weak as a kitten.
Was it worth it? - Of course it was!
I'm not expecting an easy ride with this chemo job and I don't know whether I am getting one since I have nothing to gauge it with but the sickness has been with me since last Friday almost dominating my consciousness and whilst out on the hills my finger ends have been numb. Sleep again seems to elude me and I'm totally knackered
I'm not sure why Bob my stoma has swollen but he is about 9 months old now but unlike a child I didn't expect him to get bigger and more troublesome. Maybe it is attributed to the effort of flogging up the hills for the last 2 days or the rock route but the bleeding is almost certainly due to low platelet levels. In my outdoorsy life Bob gets in the way of everything including my trousers, rucksack belt and my climbing harness and since there are no nerves hence no feeling it is easy to traumatise him. so it is unsurprising that tying to a rope and clipping climbing gear to my harness might have damaged him. Anyway now I am at home I resting up after another good talking too from Sue. I'm not the best of patients.

Peter and Pam on their route
The couple of days in the Lakes was spent with friends John Moore, Peter and Pam Shawcross and a few other members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club. John was recovering from a broken femur / hip crown and Pam was recovering from a broken ankle so apart from Peter we were all invalids.
It was good to see them all, feeling comfortable and relaxed in their company as friends should, sharing food,wine and laughter throughout the stay.
Monday we managed a arduous walk over rough ground from one crag to another in search of a decent exploratory type rock climb. First of all we looked for a route on Sergeant Crag then decided to venture over to Lining Crag which was over in the next spur of the valley.
Once the crag came in to view both John and I agreed that the right hand edge of the crag looked like it was worth a closer inspection whilst Peter and Pam headed for the left side.

Our Route - foreshortened and steeper than it looks

I don't know what the climb was called but it was delicate, sometimes damp and dangerous with very few placements for protection however I shaped up pretty well leading the whole route.  By the time we got back to the cottage we were either limping or in my case almost staggering along the path.

Yesterday we walked over to Watendlath and along the valley to Ashness Bridge before I had to bail out and catch the bus back. After a shower and clean up I packed to go home but not before we had one of Peter's excellent currys which I enjoyed eating more than I did trying to keep it down on the way home.