Tag Archives: hospital

Six Weeks

It’s been two months since I last published a blog and let me tell you this, it has been quite the two months. After having this wretched disease for over five years, I thought little would surprise me. Well, I expected the whole looming death part to have a different trajectory to the routine I am used to, but as I said, I expected that to be slightly different. I never considered what the steps will look like getting from the relapse stage , to the end of the line stage. I always assumed it’d be easy but increasingly, I feel I might have been far too optimistic.
Somehow, in five years, I had settled into an uneasy routine with My Myeloma. It’s quite simple really, I would have some sort of treatment, which would work for a bit, then it would fail, then the Medically Trained People would somehow magic up another treatment for me to start, and thus the cycle would start again. 
I had five years of this. Don’t get me wrong, some horrible things happened along the way; it shouldn’t make the list, but losing my hair is still up there in the shitty events. I didn’t really enjoy any of my transplants and I definitely did not enjoy the time I had to spend five days in St Bart’s because I caught Influenza B. On the plus side, I thoroughly appreciated any drug regime that could be taken at home. I had a few of those.
What am I saying, all of that is in the past? If the last two months have taught me anything, and I am still trying to decipher exactly what further lessons I needed to learn by the age of 33 about my cancer, is, that Myeloma is a load of fucking shit that if there were a hell, it should be confined to purgatory trapped under a full, infected bed pan, never to bother nice (even horrible) individuals again. Oh yes, just to keep you up to date, I have also learnt about bed pans recently. And sick bowls. And those cardboard things that collect one’s waste by resting on the loo seat. I know it all.
On 7th September, I returned to UCLH for a clinic appointment. Prior to that I had found out that the trial at St Bart’s was no longer working and I had been experiencing what can only be described as extreme and unbearable pain that I had blamed on doing too much on holiday. The pain itself was predominantly in and around my right rib cage. 
As I had self diagnosed every relapse since 2012, I had spent about a month begging for some imaging. St Bart’s took no action, I would question if the staff knew my name, but thankfully UCLH did know my name and once they had the necessary images, man, did they take action.
I was admitted to UCLH immediately on the 7th September following an appointment, during which my family and I were told we were coming to the end of the line of treatment. Not only that, but there was also something wrong with my neck. I say ‘something’ because I think it took me well over a week to get my head round what a compression on one of the C vertebrae meant. I don’t recommend it. I don’t recommend developing a mass that pushes through your rib cage either, Alien (or at least that’s how I like to picture it) style. It cannot be sugarcoated. I entered that hospital with Mamma Jones and Big Sister in a bad way. 

And that bad way only worsened over the next six, that’s right, SIX weeks…

I don’t even know where to start. If you are independent, like to toilet alone and enjoy walking around, I’d say what followed would be your worst nightmare. It was mine. 

You may have deduced that not all was or is well with my spine. Due to the compression and the location of it, I arrived at my bed to be told that I was no longer permitted to walk. As in, no walking at all. Not only was I not allowed to walk but if I wanted or needed to be moved in my bed, I would have to be rolled by four Medically Trained People. My head and neck, could not be elevated anymore than 30 degrees. Three weeks later, this changed to 40 degrees and the news that I could roll myself, but by this point, the damage to my ego had already been done. Not to mention the damage to my legs for not walking for three weeks.
Despite being in denial about it, shitting is a necessity that eventually cannot be avoided. The day I could not avoid it was Day 11 in hospital when there were only male nurses available. I’m a 21st Century Woman, so I went ahead and let the team of four roll me onto a bed pan. I did not say anything when they had to roll me again to clean my bum. Nor did I say anything the next day, during one of my five daily bedsore checks, when a different Medically Trained person discovered a lump of faeces stuck in my bottom from the previous day. 

That was a low point.
Washing myself alone, was and remains impossible and for the duration of my stay, washes were restricted to hand towel baths in my hospital bed. If I was lucky, the Medically Trained Person cleaning my nether regions might have even shut the window to my room for some privacy. Due to staff shortages, during the last week of my stay, no washes were offered and I went a week without being cleaned. Needless to say, washing hair is extremely difficult and something that has happened twice between the 7 September and now.
Thankfully, due to what I like to call ‘performance issues’ I was given a catheter for the first three-four weeks of my stay. After that, I relied on my good old pelvic floor muscles to stop me from soiling myself. How can that be when you cannot walk, I hear you ponder? The answer is long, boring, excrutiatingly painful and another blog post. In the interim however, you just need to know that I have a full back brace, handcrafted to fit my body and imagined perter boobs, which I am allowed to wear to mobilise. 
…………………………………………………………….

This really is a story of never ending gibberish. Maybe grab a cup of tea. Have a wee break. I’d have one with you but my mouth is currently tainted by the delectable taste of 60 mg of steroids per week, so I am only able to stomach the taste of fruit juice. 

Where was I? Right, my health. In addition to the bony stuff, the really smart Medically Trained People had to find out what was wrong with me and if there was anything that could be done about it. This period felt like it would never end, with the feedback I was getting changing nearly everyday. I’m not going to regurgitate all of it, just trust me when I say it was very confusing and everyday resulted in me hysterically crying and Big Sister getting angry. 
I lost count of how many CTs, MRIs, ultrasounds and x-rays I had, but I know it was a lot. It was not uncommon to be collected by the porters, without any clue where I was going or why. I knew where they were taking me on week one, when I had five fractions of radiotherapy to heal my ribs, but as for the rest, it was not like I was in the strongest position to argue or question. I simply did.
Things went downhill relatively quickly. By Day 4 I had tested positive for Paraflu, which gave me a chest infection and resulted in me being relocated to an isolated room on a ward where the staff are nice, but significantly understaffed. One night, I rang my bell for 2.5 hours before I saw a nurse. On the plus side, it meant that I had my own room with a nice view over London. A bonus when you consider the fact that the woman opposite me on the shared ward addressed me as ‘Emily’ and wished me well. 
The hardest part of having the lurgy was that I did not see somebody without a mask on for five weeks. Talk about dehumanised. 
The chest infection persisted, so for extra buoyancy, I also developed sickness and diarrhoea and a temperature. It was lush. 

Notice how I am yet to mention My Myeloma? There’s a reason. My Myeloma failed to behave in the manner of which I have become accustomed. For the first time since I was diagnosed with the wretched beast, I was afraid of it. It wasn’t behaving how I have known it to behave. My paraprotein was the highest it had ever been, and no matter what drugs were tried or the volume of fluid pumped into me, my calcium would not shift below 3.0.

And still I carried on. It may be the biggest test of my willpower and personal strength (because I really have no meaningful life until I am rid of the brace), but I unequivocally told the Medically Trained People that I am not ready to give up with my life yet. As long as the treatment maintains a reasonable balance between quality of life and those dastardly side effects, count me in. Sign me up.

I’m not ready to die yet.

Unfortunately, we soon ended up spending some time thinking about my death. I completed my will and paid for my funeral. Once I was fortunate enough to be on a reasonable treatment regimen, I suffered from what I now believe to be called an Acute Kidney Injury. At the time, it was badged as something far graver than that. I cried for what felt like days. I got so angry with My Myeloma, I told it I hated it. I begged for a reprieve, identifying many people other than myself who deserved the award for ‘Most Deserved Recipient Of The Most Stubborn Myeloma in This Fair Land.’ I really am not saying that other people deserve this illness; I was just surprised to learn that I had not come to terms with the fact I have it. Death seemed so much closer than before I walked into clinic on the 7th September. I don’t know when it will come and that’s the scariest part. How long is my piece of string?
My need for tears grew when I was taken off my morphine, which I had taken in slow release form everyday for five years. There were nightmares and ticks, to accompany my sickness and diarrhoea. I won’t lie; it was a tough, sleepless few days.
Do not fear, I will not prolong this anymore than I need to. They require near constant testing, but for the moment, my kidneys are behaving. It took a week or so for them to turn around. For how long they’ll stay in this state, only time will tell…

Six weeks after I entered UCLH, on 19 October, after a lot of pushing from my family, I was discharged. Gone were the at least daily bloods, out with the cannula resulting in the constant beeping of unanswered alarms. Goodbye to the four hourly observations, even at 3am. Welcome to sudden and ill prepared loneliness with an absent of nurses. So long institutionalised regime. Hello privacy. After six weeks, I am to fend for myself once more. 
Just between us friends; It’s fucking terrifying.

The view from my hospital window

EJB x
P.S. New treatment regime (Velcade twice weekly for three weeks;20mg Dexamethasone the day before, of and after Velcade; Veneoclax eight pills daily

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sweet Spot

I was tempted to entitle this blog ‘My Life Lived in Fear’, but after some reflection, I decided that some could perceive that to be melodramatic. That said, I am prone to a dash of daily sensationalism, so I couldn’t not tell you. The blog’s working title concisely and accurately summarises this current stage of my life. I am left in no doubt that if somebody were to make a mediocre biopic about my life, it would be described as a paranoid melodrama. I am constantly, metaphorically, looking over my shoulder readying myself for when the other shoe drops. Since August 2012 so many shoes have fallen out of sky, walloping me on the head during their decent that not expecting another dreaded, earth shattering wallop is impossible. Unlike the previous shoes, the next one will be the last one and most dreaded. The next one will to be steel capped. 

Wait, I am getting ahead of myself… 

March and April seem to have past me by in a post flu, get my life back on track sort of haze. March was taken up with such intense fatigue that I really did not notice the month passing. I felt things improve in April, celebrating when I realised that I had managed to spend nine consecutive hours not in my flat, and survived. Progress, I thought. 

Medically, as far as I am aware, I could not have asked for a better response to the transplant. It is difficult for me to write those words, as they are words that really ought not to be uttered.  I do not want to tempt fate. Five weeks ago, after inspecting my results and my mouth, a Medically Trained Person said that I was in a “Sweet Spot”. For those of you not in the know, this means that I have just the right about of Graft vs Host Disease and my results are good. My initial thought at his diagnosis, was panic. He’s labelled it in such positive terms that he has invited things to go wrong. 

Two days later, I pain in my left ribs suddenly appeared. A familiar pain, one that I wished I would never feel again and one that interrupted every possible human activity. I’m not ashamed to say that I panicked at this development. My active imagination was half in denial and half reconciling myself to the inevitable. Except, it was not the inevitable. It was not a broken rib caused by the return of My Myeloma; it was a suspected pulmonary embolism. Two nights in the hospital, two x-rays and a CT scan later, the Medically Trained People found that I had a chest infection. Another infection! Another week and a course of antibiotics later came with the diagnosis of pleurisy, which they say, was probably brought on my February’s bout of influenza. 

A reprieve. 

A reprieve and a lesson to me not to always think the worst. And yet, those thoughts are never really far away. It’s a daily battle. I do not want these thoughts to be so readily available to me. I do not want self pity to be my constant companion. 

I am working on it. 
In an ideal world, I would be able to enjoy the Now and not worry about a depressing future. My world is not ideal and there is another side of me that feels torn.  I do not want to be underprepared. I described it to my counsellor as a form of self preservation. Before my last relapse, I let my guard drop. I was back at work, I had planned something more than a month ahead and I did not see it coming. I was devasted. My relapse was life changing and it’s consequences went far beyond the physical. Devastated.

Like I said, I am working on it. I do not want this to become I self fulfilling prophecy. I dread the idea of somebody telling me that I brought it on myself by not thinking positively. To people who may think that or have other pearls of wisdom, I say to you, live it. Live the past four years of my life and then tell me how I should feel. Evidently, this is a touchy subject. Even these imaginary conversations make me see red.

Relapse is my main concern but it is not my only hurdle. I went for over three years only being hospitalised for diagnosis and transplants. Sure, there were a few trips to A&E in between but my overnight stays were limited. Now, I have been admitted to hospital twice in a six week period. How will this develop? Will I end up missing more birthdays and Tuesdays in my future because I have a weak immune system? You betcha. It’s an unpredictability that means that my immune system is not the only thing about me that is weak. 

In an attempt to turn my frown upside down and reduce my worry lines, I spent two weeks trying to get as comfortable as the bed of nails allows. I really did, and then there was another incident that irritated my paranoia. Enrage my paranoia more like… It was an incident that led to me vocalising my worst fears and led to my family revealing to me that my worst fears are theirs also. 

On a Wednesday, I attended my now three weekly appointment at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. At these appointments, they take my blood and my pee and chat to me about my previous results. At this specific appointment, I explained that I could now move without experiencing horrific pain and the Medically Trained Person reduced my dose of steroids; drugs I am given to keep my GVHD at bay. It was a positive 15 minutes, despite the frantic worry I experienced before it when I was told that my appointment would not be cancelled as a result of the Junior Doctor’s Strike. My pre appointment fuss went something along the lines of why didn’t they cancel this appointment when they cancelled a previous appointment when the doctors were striking.* Why? Clearly there is  something in my results that they need to discuss with me. Then cue, no constipation worries or sleep the day prior to my appointment.

I left St Bart’s  happy. The next day, a Thursday, I had my three monthly appointment at UCLH. A cause for excitement if ever there was one. Approximately an hour before my appointment, I received a phone call from a secretary at the hospital telling me that I had to go in for an appointment. In her confusion, she said I had to come in because my doctor at Bart’s had phoned to speak to my doctor at UCLH to discuss my results and those results had to be discussed with me that day. I took a deep breath and all those thoughts I had been fighting to not have, pounded out from the rock I had hidden them under and sheer, all consuming panic set in. It was a sweaty, shaky, two and a half hours of utter dread. This is it. 

When I eventually saw the Medically Trained Person, I had already explained to another how I felt. I was almost manic. I discovered that the Medically Trained Person from Bart’s had indeed phoned the head of UCLH’s Myeloma department to discuss my results. He had phoned to tell her how happy he was with my results. In short, he had phoned her to boast about my results. To boast! It took more than one exhale to get over that. In fact, nearly two weeks on and I still think I am recovering from it. 

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the reason behind that phone call was to boast. I thought the worst, like I apparently always seem to do. A revelation that brought along it’s own set of neuroses. 

According to my counsellor, all my feelings are normal. I take some comfort in that. Remission does not mean that I am free, but I know that it also means that I should be able to let my hair down occasionally. It’s not long enough for that yet; I’m not a superhero. All I can do is try and my sanity needs that. My new management technique involves scheduling in time for the bad thoughts and then to banish them until the following scheduled time. I have chosen to do this on my commute. This is my commute. 

And this is my Sweet Spot. It’s a chemotherapy free, work in progress.
EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , ,

N.B.

On the days when I feel like there is an improvement in my mental capability, I remember that my mobile phone device is full of  blogging material of questionable quality. It’s a responsibility, for I then feel tied down to telling what a lesser person would deem an uninteresting story, whilst simultaneously knowing that I personally, will feel instantly better for sharing and recording, in a way that can never be taken back, whatever the particular shit myeloma has thrown at me during x amount of time between blogs. 

As the earth has continued to rotate, I gave at least managed to hide the evidence of what could form a blog in my iCloud account instead. I guess today is one such day, I have some sort of energy, except, I started writing this blog about ten hours ago and so far, it looks absolutely nothing like I anticipated it would when I started morning. I am fairly certain for example what this will be the only time I mention NHS meals.

Of late, My Myeloma stories are overflowing in my virtual world and my actual mind, and not on my blog. Few people know just how many days I have spent sleeping in a room occupied by strangers or how many times I have been put to bed. There are times I am so confused by it all, that the easiest thing to do to manage it, is to fall asleep and forget it ever happened. I am not even sure what my reality is 100% of the time. I would have no clue at all if I didn’t attempt at least to try to maintain a record. I need a record of this. I want a record of the times I fell asleep mid sentence, or when I canceled plans with my friends and I cried myself to sleep because I saw no end in sight. Hell, I even want a record of my most recent and nightly nightmares. 

Right now, I’m experiencing something new almost daily, and yet I’m not fully documenting it, as I had once documented before, because the something belonging to my sister that entered my body three weeks ago or so (see I do not even know the day) seems to be killing off all my two autos later, surviving, brain cells. 

I have had four weeks of treatment,and of course we are running very close to a certain three year anniversary, so there are no shortages of tales to tell.  I want to tell them but it’s getting close to medication time.

Almost everything I have experienced since my allo commenced is ‘blog newsworthy’ (people write blogs about Stephanie Meyer’s arm hair right?), I just haven’t quite worked out where the energy is to tell you about it. Know I plan to, it might just come later than I actually experienced it.

I used to think that a late blog would be something of a disservice. If a blog was written out of anger for example, like the half written one I found the other morning, time gives me the ability to calm down, to compose myself, and omit the need to rebuild any of those metaphorical bridges that might have been damaged mid rant. On the downside, by waiting, it takes away that raw emotion, the raw emotion heightened by my inability to eat raw foods, and I feel a little bit like I am making things sound easier than they are. I feel like it makes me sound more composed than I am, when I am really not. Not only that, less blogs I dramatically reduces my site’s statistics and my ego likes the notifications. 

If there is one thing I have experienced a lot of since I started frequenting St Bartholomew’s Hospital everyday, it is raw uncensored emotion. Perhaps the fact I am too tired to blog is stopping me from writing something I would regret at a later date. It’s not a lie, it’s just presented a different way. That is what I keep telling myself when I look at my ever growing list of half finished drafts.

I cannot give you any specific examples, for that would really negate the need of this temporary notate bene. Hypothetically, however, I might have written something negative, something along the lines of;

There is still time to jinx this procedure by talking about it now and I most definitely, most adamantly, most whole-life-depends-on-it-do-not-want-to-jinx-this. But and that is a start a sentence with a capital ‘B, But, I do not like Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital. 

And then the hypothetical thought better of it… Like I said, I did not write that down, those thoughts are imagined. If somebody did hypothetically wake up one morning and write that down before they even got up to go to the toilet, I am sure they had good reason for doing so and it wasn’t because she felt the nursing assistance was slightly rude that morning… Hypothetically. Similarly, so too, could something like this have been said, despite me never actually joining any of these words together to make a cohesive sentence;

Every time I have experienced Red Thumping Rage over the last 17 days, I have felt like a teenage brat in great need of a reality check, a slap round the face, a smidgen of gratitude and a slow play replay of the NHS part of the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

I could even have imagined images of clutter or me sleeping. Maybe, like I said. I do not know. The negative portrayal of a scientific marvel does not sound like me. 

  
  

I love everything remember? I think my care is great. I love talking about myeloma and myself, and I cannot wait for the time when I have the effort to do it properly, with a proofread. Until that point comes back, we get what we get. 

It’s much like the unpredictable bowel.

EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Something New

WARNING – This blog contains some straight forward, no nonsense complaining and absolutely no humour whatsoever

Yesterday was my first day of treatment for Transplant Number 2, officially known as Day-6. Yesterday, will unofficially be known as my worst experience of NHS care. Yesterday was also the day I did something I said I would never do, and it was the day I shouted at a Medically Trained Person. Twice. I am part completely ashamed of myself and part sitting in my flat, wishing I did not have to return back to that hospital today. 

I feel ungrateful and belligerent. The bottom line is that St Bartholomew’s Hospital is doing a very expensive procedure on me, that my hospital would not do. That is the bottom line. It’s a procedure I need and without it, you could all but guarantee that I would not see 2025. My brain told me this many, many times yesterday. Why should I expect any extras like a smile or good communication. The NHS is overworked and thus should they  only be expected to plan and deliver the treatment because that is all they have time for. Perhaps there is no time for niceties.  Doctors and nurses work long hours and inspect faeces, that is something worthy of everybody’s respect. I should just be thankful that they are giving me the treatment I am getting, shut up, express my gratitude and get on with it. 

That would make for a short blog though. 

I did not feel comfortable or comforted once yesterday. I felt like a nuisance. The more upset I felt, the more tired I got and the more agitated I became. I walked into that hospital feeling hopeful and left feeling deflated and weak. I exaggerate not. I got home and slept for 12 hours plus extra snoozing, how much of that was due to the chemotherapy or to my experience I do not know. I can assume that the anxiety I felt for most of the day, was not a good starting point for my treatment. 

I have spent just under three years experiencing a rather marvellous service provided by the NHS. I do not know the budget differences between the two NHS trusts, but I think I can safely assume that UCLH is also operating within tight financial constraints. UCLH often runs with delays, I know this because I have in my time experienced them many times over. Delays that would allow for a screening of  Gone With The Wind with an interval and lunch. Yesterday, I remembered with longing the five hours I once had to wait for an injection of Velcade. As annoying as that was, it was explained to me and the bad news was delivered with a smile. 

It is not fair for me to compare the two hospitals, but it is incredibly difficult not to. I do not know any better. 

When it comes to the NHS, I like to consider myself a seasoned veteran. I am no stranger to a busy ward, red tape and a strange system for dispensing medication. I know full well that I have been spoilt at UCH’s Macmillan Cancer Centre with it’s comfy red seats and foot rests. I knew that going in and I levelled my expectations appropriately.  At least, that is what I thought. 

Perhaps yesterday just wasn’t my day. Perhaps it wasn’t the hospital’s day. 

Prior to my treatment starting, I had agreed that I will have my treatment as an outpatient for as long as is possible. St Bart’s does offer an ambulatory care, which is referred to as the ‘Hostel’, something, I am told,   should not be compared to the Cotton Rooms at UCLH.  I was given the option of staying there or at home and stay at home, in my own bed, I chose. The plan is for me to come in for five days in a row for treatment. Before yesterday, my expectations on how the conditioning was going to pan out was based on my word processed itinerary. Plus an added hour or two on each day, based on my very own My Myeloma  experience.

  

Yesterday, I arrived at the hospital at 10.26hrs and left at 17.25hrs.  

Big whoop I hear you full timers say. People will have worked for longer yesterday, the people treating me will have had a longer day, but for me, that is a long day. It was a very long and frustrating day. It started promisingly, on arrival I was taken straight through reception and I was told that the order of events was as follows;

• have my bloods done

•PICC line inserted

•See doctor for final go ahead 

• Receive the chemotherapy. 

On the face of it, that is exactly what happened, minus the massive gaps of lost time in between. Massive gaps.

Am I asking for special treatment? Am I being the ‘princess’ a nurse once called me during Transplant Number 1 the First? I worry that that is how I am perceived. The complaining heifer.

It was not until after I had had my PICC line, an x-Ray and waited 75 minutes to see a doctor at 13:35hrs, that I was told that I should expect to be in the hospital for a while. When I met with the doctor at 13:35hrs, I was told that they could not prescribe my chemotherapy until they had received my full blood count results. Results that they had  yet to receive despite the blood leaving my arm at 10.30hrs. To give you a little perspective on this, it takes 15 minutes at UCH. A point I reiterated later in the afternoon along with the fact that my bloods would have been tested quicker had I gone into an A&E. An A&E is not a specialist oncology and Haemotology unit. 

Fast forward to 14.15hrs, I was informed that the chemotherapy would be ready at 15.45hrs. Exasperated, I decided to use this time to have a nap. At 16.40hrs, a nurse hooked me up to an unexplained something. Experience told me it was just a flush, but I did not know if the chemotherapy had been added to the bag. Fifteen minutes later, I discovered that it was not my chemotherapy because two nurses came along with the chemotherapy. 

I cannot begin to describe how frustrating it was not knowing how long I was going to be there for, and  the estimated times I was given not being followed. I became more and more agitated as the day went on, and I did point out during one of my rants that if somebody had told me sooner that it was going to take six hours to get the chemotherapy in me, I could have left and come back. There were several opportunities for the Medically Trained People to do so, but they did not.

The delays were bad enough, but apart from the kind ladies who put in the PICC line, every encounter with a Medically Trained Person was cold, clinical and distinctly lacking in communication. At one point, two people treating me spoke to each other in a different language. One of the nurses told me that if I was concerned about the wait, I should just be thankful that they put the PICC line in without waiting for my blood results. 

After the PICC was inserted, I was required to get an X-ray to ensure everything was tickety boo. I am familiar with an X-ray, but I was not familiar with the process of being taken into the X-ray room and being instructed to change without a curtain whilst the machine was set up. Similarly, I did not expect two women and a man to be walking around the room whilst I attempted to put my bra on after they had completed the X-ray. 

Again, do I expect too much? 

I am by no means squeamish, and as I  fully understand the need for people to be medically trained, I did not mind when I was told that the person inserting the PICC line was doing it for the first time. I did struggle with the educational narrative and corrections that came from the supervisor throughout the procedure. With every correction, I could feel the tugging and the cutting and I become increasingly aware that I had a hole in my arm with half a metre of tubing entering my body . Fortunately, I had some tools in my arsenal and towards the end, I found Julie Andrews singing ‘My Favourite Things’ in my head on repeat. And then I didn’t feel so sad. 

At some point in the middle of the day, I started to cry. I then cried a few more times. I was alone in a new hospital, where nobody knows my name and nobody seemed to have a desire to learn it. 

It was too much for me. 

Expecting a prescription that I was told would be there and was not, was too much. Explaining to the doctor that I needed one anti sickness pill and not the lesser anti sickness pill, to then be given the lesser anti sickness pill three hours later was too much. Being prescribed less laxatives than I require and asked for, was too much. Not having my questions answered about the immediate side effects of the chemotherapy (I’m talking poop) by the doctor and nurse I asked, was too much. Trying to arrange my treatment times for Saturday and Sunday and being told that they cannot be booked in more than 24 hours ahead, was too much. Asking how it will work with my daily checks after Day 0 and being told to ‘just concentrate on my chemo’, was too much. Listening to an elderly gentleman scream out in pain as a staff attempting to give him a new cannula was too much. Being told that I should have known that ‘Day One was always like this’, was too much. 

I have often said that I would never shout at a Medically Trained Person. In April, during Transplant Number 1, I saw a lady get angry with the staff in Ambulatory Care. Initially I felt angry  that she was talking to the staff that way, but when she explained that nobody had explained what was going to happen to her and that she was scared, I understood. I am at a new hospital and I do not know how things work. Yesterday I was told to sit in a seat and wait and at no point was I told in clear terms what was going to happen and how it was going to happen. There was no introduction and no explanation. I imagine that this is what boarding school feels like.

I just have to like it and lump it. God knows how many days of this I have left. 

EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Checking Out

Yesterday, the Senior Medically Trained People told me that I would be discharged by 15:00hrs. A person who had yet to complete her training told me that all being well, I should be out by 11:00hrs. Her estimate was supported by an Angel. I knew which time I would prefer, but I decided that patience was going to have to be a virtue when it came to me departing Room 7 on thirteenth floor of University College Hospital.

And boy did I need patience.

This morning, I woke up at 07:30hrs, relieved that two hours earlier my temperature had fallen to 37.0. My excitement was palpable. I just wanted to get home. I also wanted to have a shower, but there was no point in me doing that until my PICC line had been removed.

Based on what I had been told on Wednesday and yesterday, I needed to wait to see the doctors, my CNS, have my line removed and get my drugs. The latter, I was also told, were ready for me last night.

At 09:40hrs, I saw the consultant during her rounds and I was informed that I could go home. Fine. As they left five minutes later, the ward sister informed me that she would return in five minutes to get things sorted.

At 11:00hrs she reappeared to tell me that she would contact my CNS, confirm when I next needed to be in and check my blood results to confirm I did not need anything else. I said that 30 minutes before she came in, a Junior Senior Medically Trained Person had informed me of my blood results and said I would need to take some additional injections to boost my blood at home. The nurse was pleased with the news, especially when I told her I had already been in touch with my CNS and that I thought I had arranged having a blood test done in another hospital next week. The nurse left.

At 11:30hrs, I saw my CNS. Got all the information I needed and collected some blood forms. Done.

By midday, I was crying, because I literally had nothing to do, I could do nothing, until I was seen by the nurses. I may not have been doing anything for the last two weeks, but today, I had somewhere to go. Every minute dragged and dragged some more. I just wanted to get dressed. Trying to guess what time Mamma Jones should reach London Town was also proving stressful. All seemed well however because a nurse entered to give me my afternoon’s drugs and said they’d be with me in an hour. As I had a lot of time to think, I asked if they could also shave off my remaining hair.

At 13:15hrs a different nurse came in my room and I had what can only be described as a paddy, which embarrassed me because the nurse is very nice. We had a nice chat the other night and he made me think twice about a wish of mine to holiday in Moscow. Not at the moment. Anyway, he informed me that they would be with me in an hour, to shave my head and remove my line. My additional drugs had not arrived yet, so he added that even if they had removed my line, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. I explained that I could at least shower. I just wanted to leave.

It was time for show tunes.

I phoned some people and complained. I do not know how they could be so relaxed about it. I guess it is not their life is it? When somebody told me to be patient or relax, I got angry. Nobody could possibly understand the torture that is waiting to leave hospital.

At 14:40hrs, the nice male nurse returned. He removed my PICC, which was effortless and thankfully, painless. He then shaved my head again, to try and get off as much of the hair as one can without a Bic razor. It was at this time, I found out that my blood results had shot right up and I no longer required the additional injections. Brilliant. So I would be leaving soon, yes?

By 15:25hrs, I had showered, dressed and made myself look semi normal. It was just about waiting for the drugs. I sat. I waited. I carrie on listening to show tunes.

At 16:30hrs, with my wig on and my drugs in my bag, I walked out the main entrance and into a black cab.

I’m going home.

I’m actually going home.

I believe the customary thing to say right now is that I have done it. Bugger.

EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Cell

Since I was diagnosed, I have frequently complained about feeling trapped by My Myeloma. I have likened my flat and my body to prisons, because of the limitations and loss I associate with them. Saying that, I have never spent seven days in my bedroom and my bedroom alone. My transplant allowed me to experience that. Pure isolation. Life in a gaol. Seven whole days in one 3 x 3 metre room, without stepping foot outside the door; I didn’t even open it. I entered my current cell, Room 7, on Monday 22 July at approximately midday and I did not leave that room, via the double door protection, until Monday 29 July, when I left for less than hour to have a cup of tea. I returned there and here I still remain, although, I was able to leave it again yesterday to shock people with my hairstyle on the ground floor. The corridor really is a magical place. It’s basically Disneyland for me, full of excitement and discoveries.

I have spent a long time, an age it seems, unable to fathom what the temperature is like on the street outside. Is it hot? Is it cold? No idea. I am on the Thirteenth floor in an air conditioned abyss, oblivious to the outside world, bar for the faint him of traffic.

In the deepest darkest pit of transplant illness, I did not care that I had not left the room, the thought did not even occur to me and if it did, I did not perceive it to be a negative. I may have got slightly frustrated by the noises outside my doors and wondered what the hell was going on, but I was too ill to care. With regards to me room, my main concern was whether I had the time and physical capability to navigate my way out of the lefthand side of my bed with my bag of fluids, to the toilet on the righthand side without bashing the big blue share in the righthand corner of get trapped in the base of the blood pressure machine at the top right of my bed. I would also have to target myself through the door, which for some reason, opens out wards, which is not entirely practical, when the movement of a being, also includes a trolley and wires.

By the weekend, I may have been getting slightly bored of the view from my bed, and the multiple notices on how to wash hands correctly, so I made Big Sister personalise my notice board. Personalise she did, but there was no escaping how clinical this room is and how it is not my own space.

As I started to become stronger, the smaller my room feels. It has become claustrophobic and the walls appear to be creeping in by the second. The problem is, now, I cannot help but notice how many people come in during the course of the day. Some knock, some don’t. It seems constant. Don’t get me wrong, I am most grateful that I have a private room and I am definitely appreciative of the attentive Angels, I just want more space. I want a different room.

Room 7 is blue. Several shades of blue in fact. Perhaps it is to match the nurses’ outfits. It is clean. Very clean. The room comes fully equipped with a hospital issue television (£7.50 for the day or £40 for 10 days, bargain), a refrigerator, a bed, a sofa bed, a chair, a sink, a toilet and shower, six signs telling me how to wash my hands, a table, an alarm or three, a whiteboard and thankfully, a view. A very nice, sanity saving, view to be sure.

As much as I hate this room now, I know it has serves me well. It has served me very well. It did not get mad with me when I defecated on the bed, nor did it smell. The room kept me safe and cool during this heatwave, which is good really, because I did not bring a razor to shave my legs. I didn’t think I needed to. I was wrong.

And so, I give you Room 7, all 216 hours of it. It’s a bit monotonous.

20130801-125711.jpg
Medical stuff

20130801-125717.jpg
The bog

20130801-125723.jpg
View from a bed

20130801-125731.jpg
Primrose Hill is in there somewhere

20130801-125739.jpg

20130801-125744.jpg

20130801-125749.jpg

I cannot wait to see my second bedroom tomorrow. The bed may not be connected to mains electricity, but I do not care. Bring on the double. My arse needs it. I also need a widescreen television, my life of relative privilege demands it. I really cannot manage these portable viewing platforms…

EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Expecting the Expected

It is strange to be surprised by the expected, but I am. I knew that I was going to have a dodgy tummy, nausea and fatigue, I have been preparing for it for so long, I was almost bored of it, but now I am in it, I can wholeheartedly say it is nothing like I expected it to be.

I think my current situation, is one where to truly understand it, one has to live it. Saying the words, will not make you comprehend the force. And let’s face it, there is a lot of force. No amount of preparation is going to make a stomach cramp any easier.

On Sunday afternoon, when the diarrhoea started to come, I sat on the toilet and thought to myself, that if that was it, it was going to be easy. Clearly, that wasn’t it. Fast forward a few days to last night, when I was forced by my body to have my tenth poop of the day, whilst doing that, I developed a cramp that was so hideous, I vomited (500ml by the way) and sweated. It then took, three more visits to the toilet, five hours, IV anti sickness, IV fluids, oral anti sickness and stomach pills and oramorph for the pain to subside. Until that pain did subside, I spent that time awake, unable to do or say anything, lying on my bed thinking, this must be the worst I am going to feel. It must be the worst right?

I do not know if I have yet hit the bottom. I currently figure that my diarrhoea and vomiting cannot worsen, but my fatigue can, if I continue to lose fluids at the rate I am losing fluids. That’s basic science right?

I am going to try and explain my current role in this world as Green Excrement Girl, but I am not doing it to gain your sympathy, it is just to explain what this feels like. I’m having to think of it in much the same way; if I start to feel sorry for myself, I become a martyr to it. I am no martyr. Right now, this is my job. So, as well as expecting the expected, I have to accept it too. I am just trying to ride the most unpleasant wave that has ever existed.

Since Sunday evening, I have not been able to hold down any liquids or foods that have entered my body. The Medically Trained People were trying to get me to drink 2.5 litres a day, but it was decided yesterday, that attempting to do 0.5 litters caused so much discomfort, that I did not need to do it. I really am trying, and yesterday, I even felt hungry, but after a few sips of water, spoonfuls of mashed potato, the mixer in my stomach started churning and I had to run to the toilet to deposit it. This happens whenever I drink or eat. On Monday, it was worse, because I ate much more, thus the sheer volume, was, well, impression. Mamma Jones was soon sent out to buy moist toilet paper. Practical. I do not want to irritate any piles.

Managing the diarrhoea is one thing, but it is not my only symptom or problem.

Practically, it requires me getting out of my bed on the lefthand side to unplug my pump, wheel my fluids and myself round the foot of the bed, navigating wires and other obstacles, past the sofa, to the bathroom. On competition, when I am back on my bed, the pump needs to be reset, because it’s battery is broken. I taught myself how to do this yesterday, because I could not stand all the beeping.

Physically, the diarrhoea is accompanied by nausea, which until last night, had just been nausea, and not full scale vomiting. If you were wondering, the vomit, was the same colour and consistency as my poo; slime green. So yes, nausea, it is a bugger. I feel constantly sick. There are scales to it, but in short, there is always a feeling of sickness around as is its friend, the stomach cramp. The stomach cramps, for ladies, feels like the worst sort of period pain you will ever have, at it’s worse, I imagine it is like giving birth. I actually think this. It constantly feels like they is a wooden spoon, in my stomach making potions, occasionally making sure it gets all the ingredients by scraping round the sides. Last night, I knew there were drugs in me, because my mind started to create stories for what was happening in my stomach. I kid you not

So, as somebody has had a nasty bout of food poisoning will know, because of all of the above, I feel weak. I am dehydrated, my blood pressure is low and I constantly tired. Yesterday, because of the dehydration and the byproduct, dizziness, I had to sit on the toilet for ten minutes longer than needed, to ensure I would not faint on the long walk back to my bed. Again, with that sort of activity, I am running a constant risk of piles. I am talking grade 4 level here.

Above are my main adversaries, but I also continue to fight a fever, a toothache, a sore throat and ugliness. Oh, and my neutrophils are flat.

Fortunately for me, the Medically Trained People are marvellous, and more crucially, they have seen everything I am experiencing before. The Doctor explained yesterday that they can give me so many more concoctions to get me at my most comfortable, she also said, which I guess is a good thing, nothing is happening that should not be happening. I am no medical marvel.

The difficult thing with all of this, is that nobody knows for certain if this is going to work. I have seen a lot of comments on the blog mentioning the word ‘remission’ and I have been asked about it much more than that in person, but the truth is, my transplant is unlikely to give me that. Everybody’s experience is different. It’s my best chance. The reboot is what I need. Back in January, when I was sitting on my paraprotein level of 20, I was told that it would be highly unlikely to walk out of a transplant with a level of zero. At my last Clinic Appointment, the Senior Medically Trained Person said that a decision will be taken after my transplant as to whether I have to start a new course of treatment straight after or if they are just going to let my body be for a bit. It could be that my body does surprise everybody, but I think we all need to be realistic about what my transplant is going to achieve. If the last 11 months has taught me anything, it is that My Myeloma is one stubborn arse. Time will tell. I am going through this, putting up with this, because somehow, maybe not immediately, I know it is going to give me a holiday, but more importantly a return to normality.

As for today, I am hoping for a better one. Late last night, my stool sample came back and I do not have an infection, which means that I can take Imodium. Yes. Imodium. The day might not be better, as I was threatened with having to measure all my outgoings yesterday, which sounds fun. Time will tell I guess.

Today is Day 7.

EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hot Box

Some time ago, whilst I was preparing myself for March’s transplant, I was informed, and it was informed, I am talking volunteered information here, that the Melphalan induced bowel problems, whilst horrible, were not considered to be ‘offensive’.

At the time, if memory serves, it was during my harvest, I asked for some clarification. By ‘offensive’, what was meant was that the Melphalan side effects do not come with an unpleasant smell. Great, I thought, I can defecate in front of my friends and they would be none the wiser.

Unfortunately, whilst my faeces has yet to turn to liquid, I am experiencing increased, erm, action, in this area, and I can confirm, in my windowless hotel room, all evidence, thus far, has been to the contrary.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Ambulatory Care

Howdy Partners. Today is officially known as Day 3, for I had my transplant three days ago. Lest we forget. That equates to five days in Ambi Care. Welcome.

20130720-201739.jpg

Today, I feel worse than I did yesterday and yesterday, I did not feel particularly sprightly. Sure, I have made myself go to the Clinic and sure, I got in a taxi and attempted lunch out, and sure, I finally did a number 2, but, with all that said and done, I know I am on a one-way ticket to the hospital. I have been in bed, staring into ITV for the last three and a half hours. It may be tomorrow, it may be Monday, but I can sense my days in Ambulatory Care are numbered. Things that did not hurt yesterday, are hurting. Here’s a tip, if, for some ever reason you find yourself in a similar position to me in your future, do not wear control knickers. You do not need anything drawing further attention to your stomach.

Soon, I will not be sitting with up to five other people with PICC lines in their arms. Soon, my observations with not been done daily, but every four hours. Soon, I will not have to look out for the side effects, because I will be in them. Soon, I will struggle to drink. Soon, I will look like this all the time and not for a majority of the time.

20130720-201752.jpg

‘Incredibly well’ my arse.

I wish I could make all of this smell of roses.

EJB x

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Preparation V

I did not complete my to do list, but as a wise man once said, that does not matter today. My bag is packed, EMan is in a protective case, my work laptop has been put away, my bed is made. I guess this means I am prepared. I will be ready when I shut my front door.

I am going in for my transplant today. I am leaving my flat, leaving my bed, leaving Yoda and Bruce and my television. Today is a day.

I imagine, I may feel blue a few times over the next few weeks… It’s a given. For when that does happen, my preparation also included all of this; my cylinder is full. For everybody who did a little something towards that, I thank you. Hell, I love you.

20130716-075514.jpg

20130716-075536.jpg

20130716-075552.jpg

20130716-075605.jpg

20130716-075616.jpg

20130716-075634.jpg

The next few weeks are all about me.

Game on.

Now, Emma Jane, stop crying.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: