Wednesday, 21 March 2012

High Dose Chemotherapy- Week 3!

This was to be the hardest part of my treatment, and probably the toughest few weeks of my life. I was to be in pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone and I knew there was no way of avoiding it.

It was the end of my second week and the beginning of the third when the effects of my high dose chemotherapy really started to kick in. My neutrophils had fallen below one, meaning I had no defence against infection and that I was confined to my isolation room. I was to be in this small room for weeks.

It started out as almost nothing, a small tickle at the back of my throat but within a matter of hours I couldn't eat anything without being in unbearable pain and after a few days I couldn't swallow anything at all. Nothing to eat or drink at all and I was constantly feeling sick. I was barely able to get out of bed and spent most of my time watching daytime television and films. One particular film I do remember watching was Yes Man. I'm not sure why but it has become my favourite film, and in many ways it was encouraging to me, and it made me realise that when I got out of this horrible place I'll grasp every opportunity in life. I try to do that as much as I can now, because I've realised you're not here forever. You're here for a good time, not a long time.

Sarah was coming to visit me on the weekend of the 25th, 26th and 27th and I was so determined to not be attached to my drip by the time she came. I tried so so hard but I wasn't able to, and as the pain got to the point where I was literally crying in pain the nurses told me I had to have the morphine pump put up. Sarah came about half an hour after they started it, and I can honestly say I've never been so disappointed with myself.

I promised myself two things before I started the high dose chemotherapy. Firstly that I'd call Sarah everyday and secondly that I'd get up and out of bed for a shower at least once a day.

They both sound quite simple, but when you're too tired to get out of bed and can barely walk they're a lot harder than you'd imagine! I was eventually attached up to TPN, which meant I would be fed and watered through my portacath. I attempted to carry on drinking but I couldn't manage even a small drop by the third week, it felt like it was burning all down from my mouth to my stomach and I was in agonising pain. I was also on the morphine pump to help with my pain. It pumped morphine into my veins, keeping me on constant pain relief, although even the really high doses didn't even blunt the pain.

The skin on my hands and feet also started to come off, as the chemotherapy attacked the skin cells, meaning it was painful for me to walk. This coupled with the fact that I was very very weak meant it became increasingly hard for me to walk or get out of bed. I forced myself to get a shower each morning though, and no matter how hard it was I struggled through. Using the drip stand to prop myself up, I managed to shower myself each morning, while in immense pain. I managed to do this even on the worst days and I learnt one thing-

Now, whenever I'm annoyed at something or I'm finding something hard, I think back to this time. I think back to how hard it was for me just to get out of bed and get a shower and I think if I can do that I can manage anything. It was only a few steps from my bed to my bathroom in hospital. But them few steps seemed like a mountain at the time and I managed them. They were a huge challenge but I did it. I willed myself to do it and I managed it. To quote Churchill (again) "When you're going through hell, keep going."

It was when I was at my worst that my Mum had to leave the room because seeing me so ill upset her so much. I also know that when Sarah came to visit me, my Mum warned her about how ill I looked and my Mum was worried it might upset her. Seeing me so ill did upset her but she encouraged me to get a shower each day. She reminded me why I was doing this and who I was doing it for. Watching her leave was probably one of the hardest goodbyes I've had to make. I was scared I was going to die and when I kissed her goodbye and told her I loved her, part of me wondered if I'd see her again. I sat and cried after she'd left. I felt so alone.

Sarah and I.
March 2011
Beth had gone home for the final time too, and little did I know I was never to see her again. My Mum also found out that one of her friends had died of breast cancer. I really couldn't imagine a worser week. 
I was barely able to walk, I was being fed through a tube, I'd picked up an infection causing me to spike a temperature of 39.2 celsius and I was on constant pain relief. However, for some reason unknown to anyone my bloods had started to go back up. At first the doctors were amazed and refused to believe it stating it was nigh impossible for them to be going up so soon, but after two consecutive days of them increasing they had indeed started to go back up, albeit only slightly. But an improvement was an improvement. 

I guess miracles do happen.

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