This started out as an account of what’s been happening since my last post on 11 October. When I got to 19 & 20 October, I decided that together they deserved a post of their own. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that they were two rather eventful days. Among other things, the first of the two days was our older son’s 23rd birthday.
I have an appointment with the consultant oncologist in the morning to go over the results of the blood tests I had done yesterday. Today is the final day of my second cycle of the iv chemo I’m having as part of my treatment for the breast cancer that’s spread to my bones and is also in my bone marrow, affecting my body’s ability to produce healthy blood. All going well, I will start Cycle 3 tomorrow. I’m currently on 28-day cycles of iv paclitaxel. This involves treatment sessions on Days 1, 8 and 15 of each cycle with blood tests done the day before each session. Each treatment session lasts two to three hours. I see the consultant at the end of each cycle to review how things are going.
As well as having blood taken for the usual tests, I have an extra vial taken so they can do a cross-match. This is in case my haemoglobin has fallen – as it had at this stage in Cycle 1 – and I need yet another red blood cell transfusion.
I see the consultant. It feels like groundhog day. Things are indeed much the same as they were at this stage in Cycle 1. My tumour marker has fallen again (this is very good news) and everything is looking good on the blood front other than with regard to my haemoglobin (this last part is not good news). The level has fallen markedly since my third and final chemo session of Cycle 2 two weeks ago and is again below the level where a red blood transfusion is needed. It’s not quite as low as it was four weeks ago when I last had a transfusion but it’s pretty low – the second lowest it’s ever been. That’s my afternoon accounted for – four hours plus having a transfusion of two units of red blood cells in the walk-in oncology care unit at the hospital.
Immediately after the transfusion, my husband and I head off in the car to Brighton, where our older son is at uni. He’s 23 today. The plan is for my husband and I to take him out for supper, stay over in a hotel then drive back to London the following morning, arriving in plenty of time for me to get to the hospital in time for my afternoon chemo session.
That, at least, is the plan. In the event, our car breaks down when we’re just a few miles from Brighton. We manage to get the car to a safe place. We decide to leave it where it is overnight, continue with our plans for a nice evening with our son and sort out repairs the next day.
We all have a really lovely evening. This is followed by a very disturbed night for my husband and me. The wind picks up at around midnight. We hear it howling and it’s accompanied by heavy rain battering on the windows. When it all eases off – at around 2 or 3am – we’re treated to squeals, shouts and laughter from youngsters leaving the clubs on the seafront, just down from our hotel. Who on earth goes clubbing in a storm on a Wednesday night? Students, that’s who.
We eventually get to sleep although, as we Scots say, it’s blowing a hooley again in the morning. I go for a walk to take some photos of the waves and the famous pier. It’s so windy that people use railings and lamp posts to steady themselves as they walk along.
We recount our night to our son. He informs us that our hotel room is above one of the most popular post-clubbing kebab shops in Brighton. That explains the noise. He also tells us that one of the seafront clubs hands out free donuts! As with many things that young people get up to, I feel a mix of annoyance, respect and, I guess if I’m being totally honest, envy. It crosses my mind that I should have made good use of the blood transfusion I’d just had and joined the revellers for a night of dancing. I settle instead for a swim before breakfast the following morning in the hotel pool.
I get the train back to London in the morning and leave my husband to sort out the car. I crack on with the chemo session. Because it’s the first session of a new cycle, I also have my regular monthly infusion of the bone-strengthening drug Zometa.
As on the previous few occasions, it takes a while for the oncology nurses to locate a vein into which to insert a cannula, even with the use of a mobile ultrasound machine. This is likely to be the penultimate time they will have to do this as I’ve been given a date – 1 November – to have a port inserted. I don’t in fact mind the nurses taking several attempts to find a decent vein. However, I recognise overall that it’s neither ideal nor sustainable.
After chemo, I head home to pack. We’re off to Madrid tomorrow for a long weekend! As with our trip to the tiny Hebridean island of Tiree earlier in October, this has been in the diary for many months. We’re going to the wedding of the older son of a couple I met when I first lived in Madrid over 35 years ago. We’ve been good friends ever since. I met my future husband in Madrid at around the same time. When these friends invited us to the wedding all those months ago, we hoped we’d be able to go but we were always aware that Covid and/or my illness could thwart our plans. In the end, everything has fallen into place and we’re very much looking forward to going. We’ll spend time with other very good, mutual friends from around the same time. It will mean a lot to all us that we’ll all be together again, even though it won’t have been that long since we last all saw each other.
My husband arrives home from Brighton shortly after I do, driving a car with a new alternator. Cost of repairs, £300. Ouch.
That was just two days in October. Lots happened over the rest of the month but thankfully the other days were not quite as busy.