Wednesday, 8 October 2014

59. The chemo collapse

Within 10 minutes of the new chemo drug starting to drip into my vein, I was surrounded by four nurses busying themselves closing the curtains, stopping the infusion, rushing off to get me injections to counteract allergic reactions, alerting the doctor. 

This time round, the chemo collapse was immediate and spectacular. 

Just as well I had a friend with me, my stylish and sensitive friend who'd accompanied me to Wish You Were Hair. She was more sensible than me.

Among the alarming new side effects my doctor had listed at the pre-chemo appointment, such as bone pains and muscle pains and a tingle in my fingers and a tingle in my feet (potentially worsening to pain and numbness), and more severe tiredness than on the previous rounds, I thought I'd heard the words Hot Flushes.

So when, five minutes after Docetaxel (the chemo drug) was started, my face and ears suddenly started burning and sweating, I flung aside my scarf but was prepared to put up with it. More worrying was the accompanying pressure on my chest, the wave of nausea, lightheadedness and headache.

My sensible friend was having none of it and grabbed a passing nurse. As luck would have it, it wasn't my allocated nurse for the day, but Saviour Nurse.

"Is this normal?" asked my friend.

Saviour Nurse took one look at me and said, "No it's not!" Apparently, I'd turned tomato red.

She called for her colleagues (including my own nurse for the day, who, despite having done this job for seven years, didn't seem sure what to do and looked to Saviour Nurse for guidance, as did the others). She went off and returned, just a couple of minutes later, with syringes full of antihistamine and Piriton. It was like Piccadilly Circus, what with nurses taking blood pressure and temperature, fiddling with drips, the ward sister coming in to reassure me.

They kept asking me whether I'd taken my steroids. Can't have Docetaxel unless you have loaded your system with steroids to combat reactions like this. (I had. By the time I'd gone through the cleansing and toning and moisturising last night, it was one o'clock in the morning, but the steroids kept me awake until 4.30am).

To cut a long story short (I have no energy for long stories), when the doctor came an hour or so later, the verdict was that I could still have the chemo, but it had to be slowed right down. So rather than the whole process taking an hour and a half, I was hooked up for five hours.

And I was ok, sort of. Saved by that same chemo nurse once again. She deserves a medal.

The flushes and the breathing and the headaches settled. My friend gave regular colour reports, my face flaming red, paling to white. No amount of make-up training would have helped.

I managed to talk a little with my friend. Do a bit of people watching. My fellow patients were a chatty lot today, and there were several volunteers settling in for one-to-one conversations. One of them serenaded each patient with their song of choice. I managed to avoid them all.

The tiredness that had hit me five hours after coming home on previous rounds, took hold on the spot. I reclined my chair as far as it would go and just wanted to crawl into a hole. My nurse produced a blanket.

Reflexology Man came and worked his magic. I snoozed through it all, waking just enough to be shown how to rub and pinch my hands out of the promised numbness.

"It's poison!" my friend said with feeling.

I know. Tell me about it. It's vile. Welcome to the VIP lounge.

I'm writing this in bed. I am shattered, but, on the upside, at least there is no nausea. 

No idea how the coming week will pan out. I might be in touch. But I might not. Watch this space. 

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