Tag Archives: cotton rooms

Tales of the Unexpected

Sometimes in life, and I say this as a 30 year old myeloma sufferer, things do not go as planned. Apart from the original diagnosis, the early side effects, the setbacks,  the tumour and the relapse, My Myeloma has become  quite predictable. Once I have been told a medical plan, I can, with a teeny amount of confidence, know what to expect. 

It was a similar experience coming in to this transplant. I planned, I prepared and I purchased pyjamas; all in anticipation of this transplant running a similar, if not worse, course to the previous one. I told myself it could be different, but only in my assumption that it would be worse, than my memory had imagined, and that was only so I could take the pain if it was. It was a theme that I also hoped would dull the competitive feelings I had towards beating all the negatives of my last transplant. A transplant that saw me go home on Day +16, after being hospitalised on Day +4. What happened in the middle does not count.

Ahead of the first transplant, I was given a whole heap of reading materials telling me what my transplant was going to be like. I chose not to get it and read it all over again this time around, for I had remembered the side effects well enough. Plus, I knew a Medically Trained Person was going to talk me, face to face, through the process and it’s side effects before I could be  prescribed the Megatron. 

Mouth ulcers, diarrhoea, fatigue, nausea, hair loss, temperature, infection and hospitalisation. To me, those side effects were nothing but definite. In my transplant daydreams, I can confirm that said infection was never more severe than the one dose of antibiotics realm (well, when I was not being weak willed). 

It was just a case of waiting for them to start.

Today is Day +11. I feel sick, liquids  and my limited solids intake are followed by many a beefy burp, my hair is falling out, I am constipated, I sleep for 12-16 hours a day and I am able to be comfortable and functioning out of my bedroom for up to one hour each day. I have felt this way since Day + 2. My mouth no longer feels like I have bathed it in sour milk, but on the other hand, I have not deposited anything since Friday afternoon. I did wake up multiple times during the night and this morning experiencing something new, and that new was a little blue, in the form of significant lower back pain. So bad in fact, was said pain, that two hours after waking I was convinced my kidneys were failing. It transpired that the pain is caused by the injection I have had to have everyday since Wednesday. 

From the list above, there is one key and inevitable component missing. It has beds in it, lots of Medically Trained People, too few lifts, a mediocre canteen and views of London other buildings would make you pay for. It’s the hospital. I am not yet in hospital. In addition to this absence, I have also come nowhere near soiling my pants.

The question that has been plaguing me since around Day + 7, is, at what point is it realistic for me to stop waiting for the bad things happen and start planning my discharge? Then, in having asked that question, have I jinxed any chance I have of remaining poo and infection free for the rest of this transplant experience? Actually, have I already asked for the quick and severe enslaught of illness, when I sent an email to my friends at the weekend,  suggesting that there was a small chance that I will not go into hospital, and thus, I needed volunteers to sleep next to me in the hotel this week? 

I have many more questions. I asked the Medically Trained People whether I should be worried about not going in to the hospital yet. Mamma Jones asked whether this would have an impact on the success of the transplant. I asked if it would prolong my overall stay. We haven’t had any comprehensive answers to these questions. On Friday, during rounds, I was told that with everyday I am out in Ambulatory Care, I am a day closer to going home. At the time, I was placated, but with hindsight, that answer is something of a misnomer, for that statement  would also be true were I in hospital. 

I cannot get an answer from anybody. At least, I cannot get one to satisfy me.

My White Blood Count has been rising for the last three days, not to dizzying (or should I say dizzy-less) heights*, but rising all the same. I asked if this meant I was improving. Words were said, but they did not create an answer. I was told that the doctors will look at my neutrophil count, which had been flat for five days. Flat by the way is just a fancy way of saying ‘zero’. Apparently, people are usually flat for ten days. STOP THE PRESS: I just had to go and pick up some emergency morphine from the clinic, and I found out that today’s neutrophil count is 0.49. With regards to pooping green and going into hospital over simply going home, what the devil does this mean? 

This morning I was told that if I were to get a temperature, it would most likely happen today or tomorrow. What does this mean? Six other people had transplants on the same day as me or on the day before and I wager that they have all seen 38 degrees Celsius by now.

I do not trust any of this. According to the nhs.uk, 70% of stem cell transplants experience mucositis, either oral, gastrointestinal, or both. I had no idea there was a magical 30% to whom the colour green, when it comes to the human body, will only ever apply to eyes. Am I in this 30%? Does the 30% include people who have been given Melphalan? Does it? 

In all my planning, not being admitted to hospital was never an option. Over the last week, I have discovered that on very rare occasions, it does happen. With every day that passes, these people become bigger than the Loch Ness Monster to me. Bigger because I do not aspire to be the Loch Ness Monster.

My biggest worry? How reasonable and how healthy is it for me to hope that I can be bigger than the Loch Ness Monster? I do not cope well with disappointment and right now, because I have done nothing but wait and hypothesise, with so many questions unanswered, I have no idea which thoughts and what hopes are realistic. I need to know. If I knew, I could plan. If I knew, I could manage. If I knew, I could stop myself from thinking I am a failure if I ended up getting a temperature or the squits this late in the game. 

It may sound like I have been enjoying  some sort of Freeview only retreat for the last 12 days, but let us not kid ourselves, I am not well. Not being in the Tower is misleading, it’s misleading because thus far I have avoided infections and pain; I did not avoid the transplant. It’s easy to forget that my body is going through quite an ordeal. It can even be misleading to me, it’s misleading because getting dressed, wearing day clothes and walking 160 metres to and from the clinic each day, no matter how much I struggle to do it, makes me temporarily forget that my body is experiencing an ordeal. 

Every other day, I end up getting so tired by talking to a friend for an hour on top of the 20 minutes of observations, that I am forced to sleep for three hours afterwards. A sleep that comes only after I express my shock and question why I feel so poorly. On the days around it, I just sleep. When I am not sleeping, I am waking up with anxiety or from anxiety based dreams. When I am not sleeping, or experiencing anxiety, I try to watch the television. It would be fair to say that I struggle to follow the plot… When I am not doing any of those things, I attempt to hold conversations and believe you, me when I say that, ‘attempt’ is the operative word. 

Fatigue is not just about the tiredness. This whole process; the waiting, the questions and the process is exhausting. Plain and simple.

Who knows how long this will all continue? 

EJB x

* I think that was a blood joke, I have no idea if it works, I’ve taken some morphine.

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Day -1

As I had long anticipated.Yesterday proved to be a busy, tiring and emotional day. Fortunately, as I had long anticipated, the majority of my emotions were overtaken by the sheer practicality of all the needles, waiting and consenting. It was a day of work, if your work is displaying super human strength and kindness whilst under duress.

Day – 1 is the day popularly know as the day one receives their Megatron chemotherapy. It could be Day – 2 if one was unwell and the transplant is postponed by a day, but my title is one of hope. I will be getting my transplant today, providing the nausea behaves itself. 

Whilst I was too busy yesterday to write another blog, I was able to make a note in my Notes of the key timings and events that made up Day – 1. It was no party.

06:30hrs: Awoke feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, if those things meant I awoke feel anxious, unable to sleep but eager to get things going… I then did the things we all do as part of the morning routine of getting ready to leave the house/flat.

08:36hrs: I had said my brave goodbyes, largely ignoring my dear Bruce and at this point, I was sitting in a taxi driving down my street. The driver took the bumpy roads.

09:00hrs: I arrived at the hospital, greeted by my mother who had arrived nearly an hour luggage. The first priority was to unload all our stupid luggage, dumb luggage. I really do have a great deal of luggage. I packed four books for light toilet reading.

09:12hrs: We walked down the stairs to Reception 2 on the Lower Ground Flood, and booked in for my PICC line appointment three minutes later. I also discovered a concealed toilet.

09:15hrs: Surprise, surprise, a Medically Trained Person called out my name and with that, I was led to a room I had visited once before. It was the first point in the day I felt Deja Vu, and Deja Vu it was. For legal reasons, I had to listen again, despite remembering, to what they were about to do to me, the risks involved with the procedure and then I signed a yellow form to say I understood it all. 

I then removed my shoes and jacket and lay on a hospital bed under blue surgical sheets whilst another Medically Trained Person pushed a tube through a hole in my left arm, whilst he looked at a screen and a lady looked at my ECG results. At some point, I was told off for contaminating a scanning device with my right hand. 

  


10:13hrs: The line was in and off we went to Ambulatory Care on the Second Floor, via Costa Coffee. On arrival, I introduced myself as ‘Emma Jones, arriving for the first day of transplant stuff’. I was told it was one hell of an introduction.

10:30hrs: Alternatively known as Observation Time, meaning I had my bloods, blood pressure and temperature taken, I got weighed and apparently I am 5ft 7″; I remember being taller.

Shortly after this, I was advised that I was going to be seen by the doctor shortly and I would hopefully have the Melphalan (Megatron for you and me), around 13:00hrs. I would have to wait until then because the drug would need to be prescribed by the Doctor and then ordered from the pharmacy.

At some point, I did see a pharmacist.

12:15hrs: The Doctor finally made an appearance, to be fair, he had made several appearances on the floor, but it was at this point he introduced himself and took me to room 2.6, for a quick chat and another yellow form. I would have mentioned this before the last one, but I was told that this procedure is not curative and there was a 2-3% chance that I would not leave the hospital after it. The rest of the risks involved infections and talk of intensive care. So, I signed the yellow form quoting something I or somebody else said last week and that was “if I did not sign it, the result would definitely be negative”. 

The Doctor, who was Medically Trained also told me that given the amount of treatment I had had, my heart and kidneys were in “great” condition. Mamma Jones said “good stock”, I thought, a pat on the back for obese people everywhere.

I then wandered back to Mamma Jones and the nurses, and I was told  not to come back until 15:45hrs, at which point, I would have the Melphalan at 16:00hrs. Great, I thought, food.
12:38hrs: Before food however, we collected our luggage and checked into the hotel. Also known as the Cotton Rooms. The Cotton Rooms looks just as it did before. We are in a twin room over looking the beautiful sight that is, the Macmillan Cancer Centre. Just like before. I also made sure I got a DVD player, which is also, just like before.
A lunch then filled the gap, along with very practical trips to Boots and Sainsbury’s for fizzy water whilst I can drink it and popcorn whilst I can eat it.
14:51hrs: We returned to the cancer centre with giddy excitment ahead of the chemotherapy. In addition to my mother, I was accompanied by eight ice lollies from Sainsbury’s. 
  
16:24hrs: I was hooked up to a drip and the Melphalan, started my first ice lolly, and with that, it all started. 
16:31hrs: Ice lolly 2
16:38hrs: Ice lolly 3
16:48hrs: Ice lolly 4
16:56hrs: Ice lolly 5, an ice lolly that was accompanied not by chemotherapy, but with a flush. After a bit of faffing, all was done and I was released until 09:15hrs today. 
17:25hrs: Bed and pyjamas. Bed and pyjamas in the hotel. Needless to say, I was very tired, but not tired enough to sleep, and so I watched High Society and half of Pretty Woman.
Aren’t transplants just a hoot?
As for this morning? I woke up with nausea, fatigue and swollen feet. I still had bacon mind. 
EJB x 

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