My goodness yesterday was long! It was my first day on the new, more targeted, chemotherapy drugs. Tom very kindly offered to drive me into Barts as it was raining. It should only be a 10 minute journey and we set off a whole hour in advance as I hate being late for anything. I also wanted to pick up a sandwich to avoid having to rely on hospital food to keep me going. Unfortunately due to weather, traffic, road works and wrong turns I ended up having to jump out of the car and rush into the hospital sandwichless.
I was called through to the ward straight away and having an early appointment this time worked to my advantage as I got first pick of beds on the ward. I chose one next to the window with a view of St Paul’s.
This round, 5 of 8, I had a male Filipino nurse called Marlon. He was lovely and pleasant but lacked a delicate touch and struggled to get my cannula in. With every appointment that involves me being poked/prodded/injected I think my pain threshold decreases and I lose patience more quickly than the last. I am turning into a bad patient. Not that I was probably ever a “good patient”! He soaked my hand in warm water for a while and re-tried, successfully this time.
So I started on the first new drug which was given over 90 minutes, followed by an hours rest period to check for adverse reactions. Nothing noticeable so ok to proceed onto the next one. The same slow infusion over 90 minutes followed by an hours break. No bad reactions to this one either. The final drug was given over one hour and by the this time was over I was begging them to let me leave…“I feel fine!” However they insisted that I stay for another hour of monitoring.
Thankfully I had a fully charged iPad with shows downloaded, my latest knitting project (with mum on the end of the knitting advice hotline for when I messed up), a couple of great friends at the end of the phone for chats and also Tom had managed to courier up an embarrassingly big bag of food from Pret due to him not being allowed into the hospital.
I was annoyed by the patients to the side of me and opposite me who both had visitors with them, obviously under the pretence that they were there to translate for them but who both spoke to the nursing staff in English all day. Also frustrating was that neither visitor felt the need to wear a mask whilst being on the ward whilst everyone else had to. Instead of confronting them, I decided to vent my frustration in a very English way by asking the nursing staff very loudly why it was that some patients were allowed to have visitors with them whilst others were not. She explained what I already knew and sympathised that they were speaking English, but did not feel the need to ask them to leave or to put a mask on. So I left it at that.
Over 7 hours after entering the ward I was allowed to leave – feeling good but tired. Dinner cooked by Tom, no change there, then early to bed!
On Thursday I had also been into the hospital for an ultrasound scan and appointment to see the oncologist. I saw a different radiologist to last time, this time was a friendly Welsh man who gave me the fantastic news after scanning me that the tumour has shrunk!! He measured the size of it on the machine and the maximum width he could find was 11mm compared to 27mm when it was first scanned. I was over the moon to hear this news.
I then went to see the oncologist, also different one this time – a lady called Katherine. Thankfully she was just as glam as Melissa, or I think I would have had to insist on seeing Melissa again. Katherine was very friendly and took her time to see how I had been getting on so far. She was slightly disappointed that the radiologist had already given me the good news, saying that “they always steal the good news.” She then explained all about what to expect with the new drugs, mainly good things such as fewer side effects due to the drugs being more targeted. One downside being that they might cause my nails to become black and weak, my nails are something that I pride myself on and so this comes as possibly worse news than losing my hair!
Katherine confirmed that as long as none of my treatment is delayed, the plan is to have my last round of chemotherapy on 27th November and they still plan to carry out surgery within 3 weeks of finishing chemotherapy. I will then have roughly 3 weeks of radiotherapy, depending on Covid restrictions at the time. I think the best news was that I can expect to have a fully functioning immune system about 3-4 weeks after finishing chemotherapy and therefore will be eagerly accepting hugs again in 2021!!
I have been feeling the side effects building up with each round. After the last round of treatment I can’t say I ever got back to my full strength. I attempted a very short and slow run a couple of days after round 4, resulting in me feeling wiped out for about three days. I felt worse after that short 2 miles than after running a half marathon last year! The next day I was out for a walk with Frank and Tom going up the hill behind home and was so out of breath and tired that I had to resort to Frank pulling me up on the lead and Tom pushing from behind. An amusing image but scary nonetheless to not be able to do what I once could very easily. I hope that when I am back to full strength I will appreciate being able to exercise again.
Last week an article I wrote for Coppafeel was published on their website. Coppafeel is the breast cancer awareness charity that aims to ensure that all breast cancers are diagnosed early and correctly. Tom and I have decided that for every pizza we sell, £1 will be donated to Coppafeel. I know that all charities are suffering as a result of Covid, so we hope that our small contribution over the next few months will help to ensure they can keep doing their vitally important work. I would encourage everyone to sign up for their free monthly text reminders (https://coppafeel.org/remind-me/remind-me-sms) which is what prompted me to check my boobs regularly and meant that I knew that something wasn’t quite right. If you would like to read my article then the link is here: https://coppafeel.org/the-brazette/i-was-diagnosed-during-lockdown-caras-story/
Possibly the one side effect that I was looking forward to as a result of chemotherapy was losing some weight, fat chance of that when my boyfriend decided to start a pizza company during my treatment!! Frank’s was featured in Living North magazine last week! We had a surprise write up from the lovely Lucy who works at the magazine and was able to try our pizzas whilst passing through Bakewell a couple of weeks ago! Frank’s is doing well as a business, we have had some more fantastic friends come and help with deliveries. If anyone else wants to come and work a shift then we offer payment in the form of unlimited pizzas and great company for an evening. We hope to keep going with Frank’s whilst we are still in Bakewell but I fear that further lockdown measures and bad weather may have an adverse effect on sales in the coming months.
We have been blessed with a sunny September! Glorious sunshine and warm days mean that Frank has been on some fantastic long walks. Tom and I have had good friends visiting for walks, bike rides and of course pizzas!