Sunday, June 18, 2006

Infusion Confusion

I’m now well over half way through the initial treatment. 18 out of 28 radiation zaps so far, and a full dose of plan B chemotherapy.
I seem to be tolerating everything pretty well so far although this week has been a bit more tiring than most. The swallowing was getting better at first but it does now begin to feel a little more uncomfortable again. That hasn’t stopped me eating yet though – we had some friends round for a barbeque yesterday and I did it some carefully chosen damage. One of the nurses this week exclaimed her surprise at my lack of weight loss. She doesn’t know my strength of character when it comes to food though.

I’ve said very little regarding the chemo treatments so far, other than commenting on the bad reaction to chemo plan A. So, what’s happened since? The ologist was reasonably relaxed about the plan A failure, even though it broke the protocol of the trial drug and so stopped everything in its tracks other than the radiation. Once everything in my body stabilized (I think!) he came up with plan B. This is for three further weekly infusions of chemo drugs. Each infusion is at a single sitting, rather than wearing an infusion pump as I was with the 5FU. I’m back on the cisplatin as I was for the first go-round, coupled with a new brand of poison called CPT 11. Can’t have quite so much fun with those initials as with 5FU so hopefully that’s an indicator that this might be more benign. So the poisoning has begun again with the first of the three infusions last Tuesday. The beast is under attack from all fronts.

The nurses do their very best to make what is a pretty boring and intimidating experience bearable. The chemo room is light and open, with lots of comfortable reclining chairs set around the room for the victims. The chairs are plastic and at first glance they look quite unpleasant. Couldn’t they have nice soft material? Then the nurse goes over some of the side effects that “may” occur during the treatment, one of which is quite explosive diarrhea. Aha, I understand now. Hope nobody else had that in my seat.

The area has its own kitchen and there are volunteers there daily to look after the patients. These are invariably older and lovely ladies that are all cancer survivors. They bring around lunch bags, coffees and drinks, ice creams, and generally make everyone’s life as pleasant as possible. They describe themselves by the affected body part - "I'm a lung, I'm a colon". One of them says that they’re trying to get enough volunteer survivors together to make a complete body.

Not one of them says “I’m a hero”. But they all are.

There are a lot of people in treatment. There’s at least 22 chairs ranged around the room, each with a patient and more come and go while I sit there. Some of the patients in the room once more make me feel a fraud. Here I am doing quite well, thank you very much, but some of these people are really in a distressed state – major hair loss, walking with great difficulty. Yet almost all of them are upbeat. No-one seems miserable or defeated. But it’s not just in this room - we’re everywhere. It’s amazing to me, since this whole thing began, how many people have told me that they are a cancer sufferer or cancer survivor, and of course I know some people that it has beaten.

But let’s get back to being shallow and self-obsessed. My biggest problem now is – shall I get a haircut? I keep tugging at it. They used to be quite tentative tugs, as if the whole thing would shear off like a toupee. But they’re now quite full-blooded confident tugs and nothing moves. The hair is growing, and I need a cut. I just know that I’ll go and spend $20 on a cut and then leave the rest on the pillow the very next day. Oh, you people have no idea of the misery!


At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rog
I thught it was about time I got in on the act re posting a comment.......I have said this before and I don't often repeat things...well! only onions and Mackerel fillets.....

I am proud of the way you are facing up to facts and putting others at ease whilst reading what you are going through.

Your ever older bruvver....Robin

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh come on, Roger. You know some bald men look incredible…think Yul Brynner or Sean Connery. Go for a buzz cut, that way when your hair falls out it won’t be a big deal because it’ll already be very short. Besides, this is your chance to have an excuse to wear a baseball cap and support our beloved Boston Red Sox.



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