Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I have just had my first shower in two days and that's only because I have been pooed on quite violently. Having spent Sunday suffering from a completely unrelated stomach bug, the symptoms of which Emma now exhibits with great abandon, I spent Monday afternoon, still nauseas, having a Bone Marrow Biopsy. The second of my life but the first I planned to sleep through.

I had barely sat down before I was tagged and a cannula was in my arm. Just over six months on from finishing my chemo it was time to see whether or not the effort had all been worthwhile. The cannula felt so normal; an almost welcome addition to my arm. Thoughts of all the other injections, lines, scans, jabs, pills I have had came flooding back. It has only been six months but it feels as though we have been going through this for years.

The procedure was to be done in the 'Day Room' where oh so many months ago I had been given my chemo. It was relatively quiet in there with only one patient on a drip. A small bed was prepared in the corner and as the time got close a small screen was erected so as not to add to everyone else's woes by having to see me drop my jeans and curl up, arse out, on the bed.

The process is relatively simple: having cleaned a small area on the back of my hip a large, very hard needle is inserted through the skin and flesh and into the bone. This is used to take some aspirate - a liquid portion of bone marrow. With this done a thicker needle is used to take a hard core of bone marrow. Slices of which i believe are placed on slide of glass for viewing under a microscope.

On the advice of pretty much everyone I spoke to about it I had this done under a general anaesthetic. I do not remember my last BMB being particularly painful as such but I do recall a lot of swearing and it being very, very uncomfortable. And so it was that, staring at the wall, I was given first a pain killer which made my eyesight go blurry and then another jab to put me out. One I am pretty sure was not working as I continued to stare at the wall listening to people clattering behind me as 'the area' was swabbed.

I was about to point out that I was still awake when all of a sudden I was sitting up on the bed and everyone had gone. Only my wife and one of the nurses remained. There was a dull ache in my back. I do not know how long I sat there and I cannot remember whether I was fully dressed. For some time after, hours even, I kept asking the same questions and telling people the same things I had told them only minutes before.

Apparently during the procedure I had wriggled, kicked my legs, and moaned about how painful and uncomfortable it all was. I recall none of this even now. I am not so sure if the anasthetic did not so much make me unaware of what was going on but just made me instantly forget everything the instant that it happened.

Memories of the journey home are still patchy and the only evidence I had to show of the ordeal was a tiny bloodied dressing that had to stay on and stay dry for 48 hours. Having to wash at a sink rather than shower brought back memories of washing in my isolation room and this morning we attempted an "upside down shower" where I hung over the edge of the bath and my wife helped wash everything above the dressing which was, in that position, now below the dressing. There was simply no way I could go to work in this heat without something bordering on a proper shower.

My memory is back to normal - just averagely bad - and the affects of the stomach bug have pretty much passed. It has reaffirmed my idea that any day is a good day if it starts with a shower. My only regret is that I didn't have my Blackberry in my pocket when Emma let loose. At least then I could get a new one.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

It has been a long time since I went to hospital and an even longer time since I've posted anything on this blog. Understandably my readership has dropped to zero. It is now just over five months since I stared my chemotherapy; four since I last left my isolation room only days later becoming a father.

Little Emma has helped life get back to normal very quickly. I frequently go for days without thinking of leukaemia, chemotherapy, blood tests, and neutropenia. Nappy's, baby milk and a never ending quest for a full nights sleep now take precedent. The one constant reminder is the daily pill intake which has become so normal it is like popping vitamins in the morning. At a rough count I think I've taken close to 500 pills since the beginning of the year. I appear to have suffered no real side effects, my liver is holding out, and the once massive stock of pills has now dwindled to the tail end of a lone blister pack and a few chalky tablets rattling around the bottom of a large bottle. Today I was hoping to officially end this daily ritual and begin to enjoy an even more normal existence.

Apart from routine visits to the hospital for Emma's sake I have only been back once on my own account. On that occasion bloods were still low but on the normal route to recovery, there was so little of note that I did not bother to post anything here as it would have descended into a rant about my continued bemusement that a clinic that starts at 2pm can already be running an hour late at only 2pm. The oft touted excuse being that they are over booked, which I take to be another way of saying they are terribly under resourced. The staff that they have are brilliant, but they clearly need a lot more.

I awoke today with a sense of nervousness and worry. Not for anything in particular as there was only a blood test in the offing, more just a feeling that I was being dragged back to reality. A reality that I had worked hard to forget or at the very least ignore. Over time you do accept the diagnosis and over time you just learn to live with it; I assume its the same with any disease. I guess if I am honest its a form of grief, but oddly a grief for one's self.

Repeatedly going to hospital at the beginning of the year was a bit of a roller coaster ride in the sense that I just had to hold on and go along with it. It was easy to detach myself from it because it all seemed so unreal. Going back after such a long break brought back not the surreal atmosphere of endless blood tests and isolation rooms but oddly the feelings of the week when I was first diagnosed. Loss; depression; anxiety.

After a morning of work with butterflies flitting around my stomach we made our way as a family up to the hospital. Bloods were taken as usual and we made our way to the waiting room. It's one of the oddest places to be. Other parts of the hospital seem to bustle where people have to wait. You can pass areas full of people with legs in plaster, kids being corralled together so as not to get in the way of old people being pushed around in chairs, relatives lost trying to find a particular ward, or having been to a ward, their way to the exit. There's a certain hubbub about most places except that is the cancer wing. The waiting room is always silent in spite of the fact that there is usually only standing room; the thirty or so chairs all taken. Everyone knows why they are all there. They all have something massively life changing in common, and yet in a terribly English way no one mentions it. No one says a thing.

The silence was only punctuated today by occasional squeaks and grizzles from Emma. We are both thankful that she didn't fart. For such a small girl she can make quite a thunderous noise when it comes to air dispersal.

The room is populated mainly by elderly people who you know now know what it is that is likely to see them off. Interspersed amongst the crowd are obviously much younger people, myself included, who look around and wonder if they will ever be so lucky to ever be so old. It is a very solemn place.

Eventually I was called and was seen by a consultant I hadn't met before. Clearly they are slowly increasing staff to meet demand and he was a bright friendly guy. He knew my history without pouring over his PC and even said "Ah you must be Emma" as my wife carried her into the room with us. You had to hand it to him he'd clearly done his revision.

My bloods from today are, apparently, pretty much normal including the levels of white cells particularly hit by chemotherapy and an indicator of bone marrow health. Not much more could be concluded though without the dreaded BMB which he would have reviewed today were it not for the fact that the bone marrow extraction has been scheduled for two weeks after this review meeting.

And so it was we returned home. I am still on the antibiotics and antivirals while we wait to see what the bone marrow can show with regard to recovery. The pill popping is to continue and I have a new bag of drugs sitting in the kitchen along with all the other breakfast items. I've opted for a general anaesthetic for the biopsy in two weeks time. I know it sounds chicken but I've had it once before without the aid of sedation and whilst I am sure it is not the most painful thing a man could endure it is staggeringly uncomfortable and I think I have had my fair share of suffering this year. Besides I could really do with the sleep.