Tuesday, 6 March 2012

So it begins...

Some doxorubicin, mine was the same red as this
which I have to say was probably the only nice thing about this drug!

Monday the 27th of September 2010 was the day I was meant to start chemotherapy. I would go to theatre and have my portacath fitted, before starting chemotherapy in the evening. For the portacath to be inserted I would have to be put under general anaesthetic so I was booked to go down to theatre in the afternoon.

Ward 78 at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) is the Teenage Oncology ward for patients diagnosed between 13-16. It was paid for by the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) and is unlike any other hospital ward I can imagine. It was to become my second home over the next few months and sometimes I'd be spending more time there than I would be at home. I would have to travel to Leeds for every hospital appointment and for every chemotherapy or radiotherapy session. Hooray! I thought at the realisation that not only would I be getting poison pumped into my veins I'd have to travel about 1 and a half hours to get there for it!

If anyone is ever in doubt about how lucky they are to be healthy, going onto Ward 78 would get rid of it. There are only eight beds on the ward but it's usually very busy. Some people will be too ill to get out of bed, some will be kept in single bedrooms, fully isolated. But you also see some amazing things. You see people who know full well that they aren't going to get better, people who are so sick and feel awful they can't even eat properly. And they all get out of their beds and carry on with life as much as possible. I personally don't think I was that ill, and find it amazing the strength these people had, along with their families.

Along with the usual nurses (who are quite frankly amazing and the people who saved my life) a youth coordinator works on the ward. As boring as her official title sounds Cat, the youth coordinator on Ward 78, was fantastic! She made sure we all had stuff to do and tries her hardest to get everyone into the dayroom. Basically a room with a table, kitchen, a tv and a PS3, Xbox and Wii designed to get everyone up and out of bed and get everyone to talk to each other.

 Kitchen area 
More seating and the giant television! 
Photos of the dayroom on Ward 78.

The people I met on ward 78 were quite frankly some of the most amazing people I've had the good fortune to meet in my life, and I must say that meeting them all was definitely a benefit of having cancer if ever there was one! We all supported each other and I honestly think it helps us all get to grips with what's happening to us at the time and by having someone else who's in the same boat to talk to it makes you feel like you aren't alone.

The chemotherapy I was going to be on for six three week cycles was called VIDE. This stood for the names of the drugs which I would be given. Vincristine, Ifosfamide, Doxorubicin and Etoposide. They would be administered over four days and three nights each time. 

I had my portacath put in on the afternoon and woke up back on the hospital ward a few hours later. Portacaths are designed so end of the portacath reaches into the first chamber of the heart, allowing the chemotherapy to spread into the blood quicker and not to build up in one area. This was to stop any damage being done as it was so toxic if it stayed in one area too long it would damage the surrounding tissue. A while after I woke my chest began to feel unusual and a nurse checked my pulse. My resting pulse rate was 210 beats per minute. The usual rate for me is around 50 beats per minute. They had no idea why it was doing this but they couldn't start chemotherapy until it stopped. After being sent for a chest x-ray to ensure that my heart hadn't been damaged when they inserted the portacath, my heart rate returned to normal and finally, at 2:00am on the 28th of September 2010 I started chemotherapy. 

For the next two days I didn't get out of bed at all. I didn't want to and, at the time, I didn't want anything to do with anyone on the ward. They were related to the cancer and I didn't want to have that stupid disease. I only wanted to be at home. I missed my home, my friends and everything else. I hated the ward at the time. I hated that stupid disease called cancer. Why me? I sat in bed and asked myself that for two days. I stayed in my theatre gown all the time I just watched tv. It wasn't until the fourth day that I got out of bed. I'd realised that staying in bed didn't make things any easier, it only did one thing and that was to make me feel even worse about where I was at the time. 

Having finally got up, washed and dressed I felt so much better. This was my last day in hospital and I spent it like I'd spent the last few days in hospital, watching daytime television! Is there any better way to spend a day?! 

I went home after my chemotherapy had finished and I'd had my needles that they used to access my port removed. I'd had my first chemotherapy and knew that in the next two weeks I'd lose all my hair and start to feel the side effects. But I'd got the first one out of the way. I'd done it and I'd be damned if I was going to let this stupid disease beat me without a fight.

I asked myself at the time though, was this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? 


  1. Hi Nick. You don't know me, and I don't know you. However, I just wanted to let you know that I find your blog inspiring. You seem to have such a good outlook on life, no matter how bad the cards you've been dealt are. I look forward to continue reading your story. I hope you are doing well.


  2. Hi Nick

    I'm originally from Brid, up the road from you I guess. I live out in Malaysia now with my wife and kids but still love my trips back to East Yorkshire. To keep in touch with hopme I follow some friends on FB and one of them posted your blog.

    I've just read all your entries, its an inspiring story and can't wait for the next post.


  3. "Why me?" - Christ, that says it all really.
    The people at LGI are all amazing for looking after you and all the other teenagers. I don't suppose they get nowhere near as much recognition as they ought to.
    My grandma died of Lung Cancer 06/04/05 (I think it was 2005) - so this blog is even more poignant for me today!
    So glad you're doing this blog Nick, I read it every day :)
    Alistair :D x

  4. Hello Nick!

    Firstly thank you for reading! I did wonder why I had some hits in Malaysia, I bet it's amazing living out there! Nothing on good old East Yorkshire though. I'm glad you enjoy my blog and I'll be sure to keep up with it.