Well, the NHS fairies must have read my last post because yesterday went well.
Zsolt and I arrived at the chemo ward around quarter past noon. I was wrapped in three sweaters, had just drank two cups of tea, and was shaking my arms as we waited for admittance. It’s funny in the hospital – people look strange. For one reason or another someone will be limping, or be wrapped up, or have scarves on their head, or whatever, and there is a general understanding to not stare.
But every so often you’ll catch someone (or yourself) staring. Yesterday while wrapped in my grey fleece sumo suit and shaking my arms back and forth, I caught several long glances. But what can you do? Keep on shaking those arms – get that blood pressure rising!
The number machine ticked over to 94; Zsolt and I made our way to the nurses so I could be bled. Last week it hadn’t gone very well. I was cheeky and had the nurse use my right arm (my non-lymph node) because the veins in my left were sore. Problem was, my right arm produced very little blood and ultimately a doctor came in to bleed me. “Why did you use the right arm?” she asked the nurse. Hmm, maybe because I, the patient, suggested it? Anyhow. The blood was taken eventually and came to reveal a low platelet count – 31 thousand (averages range between 150 to 400 thousand, and the cut off point for chemo is 100). So, I missed chemo.
This week I was determined to do better. Sweating through a hot flash as I stripped off my fleece, my sweater, and my other sweater, I offered my arm to the nurse and told them I’d drank a river of water that morning. So much like a little child hoping to impress a teacher . . .maybe that simple pride never goes away. She and another nurse positioned themselves with the needle and the blood was drawn. Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’am. It was a good start.
Next Zsolt and I waited about 2 hours to see a consultant. The chemo ward was packed with clients, and we were all waiting to see someone. Every now and then a doctor would pop out of their office and hurry across the room, then come back with a file – stepping over feet and shooting nods in all directions – and we’d listen to see whose name was called.
“Mrs Brunelle.” That’s me. I’m a Mrs . . . sometimes Ms.
Zsolt and I followed a curly haired woman (doctor) into her office. I’ve never met this oncologist before, apparently she had come down to alleviate the backlog. But oh, I liked her right away – boisterous, straight talking, big curly hair.
And when I mentioned the picc line she said: “ I just had an email on that. Let me see.” And she opened her email to check on the next available picc slot. “How about this Friday?”
“Tomorrow?” I replied.
“Yeah, how is 1.30?”
Double exclamation mark for double the amazement. Honestly, I’d given up hope of receiving a picc before Friday treatment. But suddenly here was this visiting doctor who’d just received an email for availability, telling me I could get a picc the next day. If all goes well, my veins won’t have to take the drugs again. Oh my goodness – honestly, felt like a miracle.
So it is arranged. I will receive my picc today at 1.30 and my treatment at 3.30. No joking, today will be tiring but well worth the effort. Please cross your fingers that all goes smoothly with insertion.
It will be strange to have these tubes of plastic hanging from my arm. I’m already missing a breast, the hair is gone, and this will make for another visible indicator of illness – BUT – my word, to not worry about needles for the rest of the chemo course. It’s worth it. Totally.
Wanna hear more good news?
Many people only complete 10 or 11 chemo session for my next upcoming drug, despite being scheduled for 12. Therefore, by the curly haired doctor’s logic, it won’t be a big deal if I only have 11 sessions. (Though this needs to be checked with my normal doctor).
What does that mean? CHRISTMAS!!!
Every treatment has its risk to my health and we need to tread carefully. But she was very encouraging, saying that the AC chemo plays with blood levels but the next treatment tends to keep them level. Most people don’t need to miss additional weeks. I want to be most people.
Final slice of news from the happy pie:
This is my last AC treatment. This is the last time that nasty red liquid is pushed into my body. I’ve heard the next is often easier to manage. . . so let’s hope. They also say the next (what is this next drug called anyhow? I have no idea) treatment causes tingling in the fingers and toes. In hopes of preventing this I will be wearing dark nail polish for the next three months. It isn’t scientifically proven, but the doctors and nurses have noticed it helps.
SO! Today I am more optimistic. It was crushing when the doctor called to say my platelets were low, but the rest has been good. Despite the frustrations of being ignored by secretaries, my body has been rebuilding. Actually not just my body, my mind too.
Give me six hours and I’ll be back in bed; sheets changed, bucket ready. Give me three months and I’ll be home again; hanging tinsel, eating cookies.
One step at a time, eh.