Tag Archives: heart

Training

My requirements on Monday were not restricted to signing my life away. Some people work out before a marathon, my pre marathon training is something else all together. In order for Transplant Number 2 to go ahead, I had to have a collection of tests done, the purpose of which, I think, was really for me to get used to the grounds of St Bartholomew’s Hospital and not for the Medically Trained People to see if my heart, lungs and kidneys are tickety-boo. Okay, maybe checking that my body is up to the challenge of an allogeneic transplant had a lot to do with it, but the morning meant five reception areas and their accompanying waiting areas, four medical technicians, one nursing assistant, one doctor, a room of Clinical Nurse Specialists and one trip to the loo. Essentially, I went into a lot of rooms. For me, it significant energy usage and exploration. I have somewhat expertly denoted this on the map below, each dot represents an area requiring my attention. It does not include the lift journey that came to a sudden halt inducing panic among everybody in it that the day out to the hospital had taken a sinister turn.

  Medically, I was required to have an echo, an ECG, a plethora of blood tests, a urine test and something called a spirometry test, which included something called a gas transfer. Sounds exciting right? Just a walk in a maze.

The blood tests, all eight vials of the stuff was straight forward. It’s as familiar to me as cleaning behind my ears. Part of me would like to have had the chance to have caught a Sexually Transmitted Disease since my last transplant, but alas, the bald head, lack of socialising and general lack of any resemblance of physical attraction put paid to that, and still, the hospital was still required to check my blood was ‘clean’ as it were. the hospital tested my paraprotein post transplant during my last transplant, and thus, I doubt I have anything to worry about with these set of tests. My paraprotein was less than five by the way, which the doctor said was fine. I should add that when I say I do not worry about these results, what I mean is that I worry about them the least. My superstition has gone absolutely nowhere.

The blood tests, which were the third test I had done on that windy day were immediately followed by me urinating into a cup and then me leaving said cup on a shelf in a toilet. Again, I am used to peeing, so this was no great shakes. 

Before I gave away my bodily fluids, two Medically Trained People looked at my heart. As the hospital is in a state of change, the tests were not done in the same building. The echo took place in a building that resembled the set of 28 Days Later (Big Sister is there as I type and described this building as a “dump”), whilst the ECG on the other end of the refurbishment scale occurred in a room with newly painted walls and a chatty technician. In defence of the technician doing the echo, it is probably difficult to be chatty when he was required to lift up my left breast like he was opening a cat flap. Apart from that specific indignity, I could have fallen asleep whilst he pushed the ultrasound into my chest and throat. I did arrive at the hospital at 09:00hrs after all, so by 11:00hrs, I I was waning. The sleepiness was not due to me likening an echo to a massage. To be doubly clear, I did not find a stranger touching my skin relaxing. I have had an echo before, as well as an ECG, so Monday’s tests were nothing out of the ordinary.  I am surprised I have managed to write a paragraph about them.

I do find it strange that the tests Bart’s require differ from those I had to do pre Transplant Number 1.  It’s easy to assume that two hospitals in the NHS, two miles apart would approach a transplant in the same way. You would be wrong. In March, I had neither test for my heart, instead I was placed in a machine and pretended I was a human toastie.  I also had a tiresome test on my kidneys, which in the City is replaced by a simple urine sample. One thing I have not required before is a the test on my lungs, also known as the spirometry test. In My Myeloma life, my lungs have never been tested, unless you count the peak flow meter for the return of my asthma.  
On the fourth floor of the King George V Wing, I went to a reception medically entitled ‘Lung Function’ and proceeded to go through a few doors via an irate woman lacking in manners, to a funny looking machine that required me to put a peg on my nose and blow. I blew a lot. The woman overseeing the test would have made a great motivational speaker. “Keep going, keep going, you’re doing great, keep going. Wonderful.” In fact, maybe I just need her around to help me out of bed everyday… Of all the tests I have ever had, this was probably the least intrusive. Like all the tests before it on Monday, it was nothing to write home about, except it is,  because I had never had to do it before. In my days of same old, same old, it was noteworthy. Plus, having a peg on my nose whilst placing my mouth about a large cylinder was a sight to be seen. A sight to be seen. And, it beats telling you what Bruce and I got up to on the sofa yesterday, because you can be damn sure it is exactly the same as what I did last week/month/year.

  
As with everything, I now get to wait for the results to be processed and reviewed and hope that everything really is tickety boo. Something big is afoot.

EJB x

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Testing

Friday, was a Test Day. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I made my way to UCLH and let people prod me.

The first test of the day, and one that came later than scheduled due to the snow, was the much anticipated MRI scan. In the week leading to my scan, I had managed to get myself into quite a panic, based on the fact that my first MRI scan was so horrible. I did not think that I was capable of enduring the same level of pain. The second test was a straight forward ECG. The only challenge I anticipated with that one was the walk in the snow from the Macmillan Cancer Centre to the main hospital.

Last week, I had been going back and forth in my mind whether to do the deed with the aid of drugs or without it. I went as far as requesting the drugs, but then within a few hours, I had changed my mind again. Cancer related issues really are magnified. My Big Sister rightly pointed out that if I did take breakthrough pain medication for my scan, I would always wonder whether I could do it without. So, like removing a plaster, I opted for no drugs. It would appear that I like a challenge. I chose wisely.

Once I had managed to actually get to the hospital, after a wait of two hours, I selected the really cool and edgy tunes I was going to listen to in the coffin, before stripping. Despite having to have worn quite a few now, I still find it marginally exciting when I have to put on a hospital gown. I personally think they are beyond sexy. Nothing says attractive like a patterned gown covered in stains that opens down the back to reveal ones cellulite and lace knickers. The fact I was wearing them, was not a coincidence.

Some of you may not know what an MRI scan is. I am still not sure what sort of imagining it provides, but I do know that you have to fill out and sign a questionnaire to confirm that you are not pregnant and that you have not swallowed anything metal, there are more questions, but you get the gist. I also removed all my jewellery, just in case it is cheaper than I believe it to be. My friend asked me last week whether it is the machine that looks like a donut. I responded with a “no, that’s more like a CT scan”, but as it turned out, my memory of what an MRI scanner was like, was thankfully, flawed. There was literally light at the end of the tunnel. The machine before me eyes on Friday, did indeed look like a donut. An incredibly dense. I swear the first machine, did not have a hole at both ends, like this one. The room also seemed brighter, perhaps that is because I was not on any medication and thus, I was not as high as a kite.

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Artist’s impression

Nervous, I got on the slab and was relieved to feel foam and not metal. I informed the technicians of my album of choice and that I may have difficulty getting up at the end. They put the panic button in my hand and the headphones on my ears and in I went. It was much better than last time, instead of resembling a coffin, I saw The Light. It was beyond bright in there. The Greatest Hits: Volume 1 by Queen attempted to drown out the noise, but failed miserably. At least it made the 40 minutes pass quickly enough. There is nothing like listening to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, while being greeted by a bright light and loud banging, to make you think about the meaning of life.

Halfway through the scan, I realised that I would be able to get up at the end by myself, and that I did without the aid of the two people (one had changed to a man, I believe to help with my weight). I was more than pleased with myself that I could do it and I braved the situation without the aid of Oramorph. Now, I have to blank out what the test will find, because it would be just my luck, if it picked up a tumour…

After that, I collected my drugs, after a half hour delay due to a clerical error and walked the short distance to the main hospital. It turns out that that was the scariest point of my day. I am not a fan of the snow. I hate My Myeloma for that.

The ECG was better than my first ECG which was a firm reality check on my first night at UCLH back in August. That test involved a lot of palaver with my pyjamas, bra and boobies, that my pride would not want to see repeated. My first impression on Friday, was that the lady taking the test did not have a considerable amount of job satisfaction. She was, actually, down right rude. “Naked from the top half please”, was her greeting. I complied with her request and hopped onto the bed. She told me off twice for not relaxing my shoulders, and then put the stickers on my naked torso with a fair amount of force. I asked her if she could not press onto my ribs quite so strongly because of the fractures and her response to that was to tut. Her care was amazing. Perhaps she had see me eat a Twix, okay two, whilst I was waiting and that sort of gluttony is frowned upon in Cardiology Outpatients. Once the test was done, she said “your nurse will get the results”, and with that she walked out the cubical into the next one and said the same things all over again. I must say that my favourite part of my ECG was when she picked up my left boob to put a sticker underneath it. That’s right, I said picked up. They are that saggy. In case you were wondering what an ECG looks like, I took a photo. It is a heart test.

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And then I went home and reminded myself that tests are so much easier than treatment. It’s just my overreactive brain that makes them worse.

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