Thursday, 29 December 2011

The final chemo

Back we schlepped to the hospital for my final pre-chemo blood test. An old man who I had sat next to in chemo before was sat there waiting for his blood test. I remembered from when I sat next to him last, he was watching American Pie on DVD and enjoying it a bit too much... Anywho, we started talking (about cancer of course) and he asked me how I discovered my cancer, so I went through the whole saga and to be polite, I reciprocated the question. I wish I hadn't. He went into far too much detail about his testicles, having had to have one of them removed and made me (and my mum) feel rather uncomfortable, although was a rather fascinating story!

The doctor came much quicker than last time. It was the same registrar who performed my bone marrow aspiration, who was extremely calm, friendly and most importantly patient with all my parents' questions. The doctor who we normally see is very rushed, frantic and always late. We talked about symptoms again and how I'd been feeling. I told her again about my itchy ears (so annoying!) and face and dry, sore eyes. She re-prescribed the same anti-biotics the consultant had previously prescribed, as when the course of pills had finished, they began itching again and also prescribed some fake tears, which are very similar to normal eye drops, but a bit stronger. She said that my blood levels were fine and congratulated me on how well I'd been coping with all the treatment. We were sat with her for what seemed like quite a long time and she recorded a summary of our consultation of her dictaphone. She signed me off to have my final chemo the next day.

I was almost sad (in a bizzare way) arriving for my last chemotherapy. The ward had been decked out with Christmas decorations and there was a festive vibe in the air. There were even ball balls hanging from the drip stands (and extra chocolates!) My canular was inserted, first time, and was hooked up. We were there for about three hours and were done. My parents had bought all the nurses presents to say thank you for all their support and a Merry Christmas.

Chemo has really opened my eyes, as what I thought I knew before having cancer, didn't really compare to what I actually experienced. I thought that all chemos were the same and that everyone becomes violently ill from it. There are so many different types of chemotherapy, and each dose is tailor made for the specific patient. Some people have more of less of some drugs, some have certain drugs which others won't. It's all extremely specific and very complicated.

My next stage is another radioactive  PET CTscan, which will happen next week. Hoping that the third one will be the lucky one! Superman, watch out! This one is to make sure that the cancer has fully cleared. If it has, then we can proceed with the stem cell transplant, if not they will have to take a slightly different route. I will keep you all posted. Meanwhile, my ears are still freakishly itchy, as is my face.I also have follow up appointments with the dermatologist and rheumatologist who we will be seeing the same week as the haemotologist the week after the scan. Can't wait! What a fun week that is turning out to be!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Finally, some good news

We went back to the hospital for chemo number 5 and we had an appointment with the consultant beforehand to discuss the results of my scan. He called us in and we nervously waited for him to speak. From the scan, the cancer had almost disappeared apart from a tiny speck in my neck, which meant that the chemotherapy had been working. Considering how much there was (tumours between my neck and right arm), it has probably now reduced by about 98% to which we were obviously all delighted about! He did say, that on a normal CT scan, this trace wouldn't have been picked up, and I would have been declared in remission, however, due to the radiation given from the PET CT scan, it was picked up. Thank God for radiation! (despite my lack of superpowers, but I shan't complain!) I now just have to have one more chemo session, which will be my sixth and then I will be rescanned to make sure the tiny speck has gone and once it has, the stem cell transplant can take place. We will be seeing the consultant again after the next scan at the beginning of January, with the hope that the stem cell transplant taking place toward the end of January/beginning of February!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Some more news...

Just wanted to start off this post by saying a massive thank you to everyone who has been reading and sending me messages. They are all really greatly appreciated. (Sorry, cheesey moment over...)

When we arrived for chemo number 3, the nurses told me that my consultant wanted to see me when I was finished. I assumed just for a chat to see how it was all going. The chemo session was fine, apart from the nurse missing my vein. Again. But if that's the worst thing about it, I can't complain too much. We waited around for him for about 20 minutes after my chemo finished and he called us into an office. He asked how I was, how I'd been feeling etc and we had a nice chat. He then dropped a bombshell. The type of lymphoma I have is a very rare form (which I knew), and he went on to say, that the chances of it coming back post chemotherapy was about 50%. However, if I were to have a stem cell transplant, the cure rate would be about 87%. A stem cell transplant involves some very high doses of chemo and the removal of my stem cells, do something to them (I'm not quite sure what) and then put them back inside me. This could be up to a month in hospital, plus a couple of months recovery time. Just what I wanted to hear. This was another one of those consultations (like my diagnonsis one) where so much was said, but not very much was taken in after. He said he would explain much more after my next PET CT scan, which was due between chemos 4 and 5.

I think I've been very lucky so far with regards to side effects (not with much else!) Apart from losing my hair and feeling very tired, I haven't had any sickness or other common side effects associated with the chemotherapy. Phew.

We trecked again to the hospital for my second PET CT scan (the radioactive cancer one). When they eventally called me (they were running late...) the nurse did a couple of tests, height, weight, blood etc, before inserting the canular for the injection. Unsurprisingly, it took two attempts to get the needle in as I always appear to have useless veins when they are most needed... When she got it in after the second attempt, I started to feel all light headed and dizzy (you have to fast from food before these scans due to the radioactive injection, and it was now close to 2 o'clock). Thank God I didn't pass out, and the nurse fetched me some water and I felt a bit better. A tiny, little, Italian man then fleeted over to initiate the injection which they put through the canular and I had to lay still under a blanket for an hour before they could start the scans and so that the radiation has time to get into my system. The scan was the same as earlier described, loud, claustrophobic and took about an hour. The results were sent straight to the doctor who we were due to see the following week before my next chemo.

I went for my next pre chemo blood test and each time you have to wait for the doctor to check your blood levels and they have to sign it off before you can have your next session. After waiting for over two hours to see the doctor, she said I'm borederline anaemic, but shouldn't worry about it and she signed me off to proceed with chemo number five.