Chemo#11

Squeamish warning: there’s blood in this blog however it’s a special kind of blood!

But before we get to that, let’s go back a bit. Last Sunday I was worried that I wouldn’t be well enough for chemo#11. I’d picked up a pesky infection although I had no idea where I’d got it from. It was nothing serious, unless you’re going through cancer treatment that is.

My immune system was already pretty poorly – the chemo doesn’t just attack the bad stuff in your body, it also harms good things. Now my immune system was having to fight off this unwelcome infection.

I took to my bed for a few days. I was mightily relieved that by Wednesday it had beaten the bug, not the other way around. I was healthy enough to be poisoned. Excellent.

Before I could have my chemo cocktail I needed a cheeky blood test. The permanent PICC line that goes into my arm is supposed to make life simple. The drugs can go into it and blood comes out easily. There’s no need for any nasty needles. But the blood refused to leave my veins no matter what the nurses did. They pumped and pulled and pushed my arm.

Bizarrely one of them suggested I coughed, a lot. Finally the blood began to flow. It was collected in an air-tight tube with a plastic stopper which was firmly attached to the top of the clear tube.

Then something very freaky happened.

As the nurse held the tube, the plastic top suddenly flew off and hurtled several feet across the room followed by my blood. Somehow it spurted out of the tube and left a trail of splattered red drops over the floor. It looked like I’d been stabbed.

Luckily the female patient who was wearing a pastel pink jumper and had been sitting to my left had popped out of the ward for a moment, otherwise she would have been splashed by my blood.

The nurse reckoned that my blood had sort of exploded out of the tube. She said she’d never seen anything like this before. It seemed that the blood sample had burt out of the tube of it’s own accord. So, apparently, my blood is explosive!

photo

Actually it may well have had something to do with air pressure in the tube. Whatever it was, the hospital floor now resembled a crime scene. It was gruesome and funny at the same time.

With all my blood spilt, the nurses tried again, but I began to feel very ill. As I sat in the blue hospital chair I kinda collapsed. It was like I’d been hit over the head. I almost lost consciousness and could hardly move. My body seemed as if it had turned to stone. The last time I felt like this I was in intensive care and fighting for my life.

When one of the doctors pulled the blue curtain around the place where I was sitting and I knew THIS WAS SERIOUS. I had a oad of tests to try to work out what had just happened. I hadn’t started the chemo so this wasn’t a reaction to the drugs.

I felt ever so frightened but at least I wasn’t alone. My friend Jenny helped me to sip water as I couldn’t lift my arms.

It was feared that I might have been having a stroke but in the end it seemed that I probably fainted. Having spent days in bed may have made things worse.

Did any of this get in the way of my treatment? Of course not.

While I sat back and recovered I was attached to a drip and given all the pre-meds so by the time I felt a little better I was ready for the chemo. As always I couldn’t stop myself falling asleep. But this was a different kind of feeling knocked out. Something that was much easier to cope with. And there was no more of that explosive blood.

20 thoughts on “Chemo#11

  1. You are SO good at this.. My thoughts are with you through the day.. Long after I finish reading your blogs..

  2. My thoughts are also with you long after reading your blog. Have just spent a lovely Easter Sunday with my family (14 of us) and got news that a friend has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Oh how we all take our health for granted!!! Your health really is your wealth. Sending you best wishes and positive thoughts for a better week ahead. At the last count we have recruited 17 girls to do the race for life in Belfast on 2nd June. Remain steadfast.

  3. You will be OK Helen ! I have been through this at the GREAT Christie hospital and at times bit back tears going through it after re occurance of late stage Ovarian.
    Im still here keeping fingers crossed, now in sunny Spain ! (5 and half years on).

    • I totally LOVE getting comments like this!!! Thanks for making my day. 5 and a half years – thats brilliant. Here’s to many more years of you enjoying sunny Spain.

  4. Hope you are feeling better now and enjoyed the Easter holiday. Your bravery has given me the courage to go for a test, I have been having symptoms of ovarian cancer for quite a while now. My husband listened to the radio programme by Vanessa Felkes on Radio 2 and gently told me that I had all those symptoms. That was how I made my way to your blog, I will let you know how I get on. Thank you for being my own Human Angel, my thoughts and heart are with you; not matter what my results are, you are an inspiration.

    • Athena, I’m sorry that you’ve been ill but I’m glad that I’ve played a part in you getting checked out. I really really hope that it’s good news. You must make sure that you have a CA 125 blood test and a scan. I wish you all the luck in the world.

      • Thanks Helen, I am off to Malaga for a weeks holiday on the 20th April and have decided to have a test when I return. Thanks for your advice it means alot, I hope things go well for you. They say a positive attitude is one of the best defences agaisnt cancer and you have that for sure. Take care, speak soon.

  5. Helen,

    Am On chemo Cycle 3 of 8 following surgery for colo-rectal cancer. Bit complacent after first cycle which was fairly comfortable but toxicity built up and a bit grim now. Working through it and your courage and blogs help me massively. Which it would bloody warm up, mind as fingers and face v sensitive to cold.

    Stay strong.

    A.

    • Thanks so much Sussex Man. I know you get lulled into a false sense that it’s going to be so easy! You’re almost half way and thats brilliant. Yes I’m much more sensitive to cold these days. At least we’re not missing out on lots of warm sunny days while we are feeling so rough. Best wishes to you.

  6. Love the gory stuff – takes the mind off of the other problems. I don’t use a picc line for my treatments, but I did spend an interesting half-hour with an anesthesiologist a few years ago, trying to establish a line prior to knee surgery. After they finally got it in, the bed & floor looked like a battlefield, and – weirdly – I was very impressed with myself. :-)

    • I love the way you describe that! I know what you mean. I feel very impressed with myself when I’ve dealt with the gory stuff.

  7. Hi Helen, I’m quite new to your blog but have read it from the beginning now. I am recovering from a double mastectomy last year and was more than fortunate not to have to have treatment. Your blog is inspiring and you are amazing. I hope you keep finding the strength to get through your next lot of chemo. I never have any veins they seem to run away at the mere sight of a needle!!! Lots of love Viv xxxxx

  8. Ah! I had a similar-but-different bloodfest in the autumn when I was on chemo (I’m another young Helen with a crappy cancer – myeloma). I’d recently come out of a few days of vomiting so, like you, must have been weak. Other than that, it was a fairly routine day at home in my flat. I’d had a shower and changed the dressing on my Hickman line, and was about to get dressed in my bedroom. Luckily 1) my Mum was in my flat in the room next door and 2) I’d also got as far as putting on a pair of (massive bright pink) pants. I say luckily, because somehow after a strange coughing fit (me thinking: oh shit, am I getting pneumonia again?) suddenly there was inexplicable blood dropping everywhere. Since I couldn’t see any cut, it must have come from the line. Since I knew nothing about that other than it went into some kind of major vein, I must be…. bleeding to death?!? Cue total panic (not something I normally do, but it was somehow the final straw and I’d done a particularly intense hostile environment training course earlier in the year with lots of fake accidents which somehow meant all I could think was CATASTROPHIC BLEED, 3 minutes!). We couldn’t get through to the ward and meanwhile I was lying down bathed in sweat, too hot for the towel my mum tried to put over me, struggling to breathe, one arm wouldn’t move, etc… So we called 999 and in actually quite reassuringly quick time the paramedic was there. In looking at the line and asking questions he fairly soon established that…. I hadn’t closed the clips on the line after the shower! From that point I began to calm down as I could see the logical explanation. And fairly soon it actually struck me as pretty comic that there I was all but naked, covered in blood (which I’d apparently smeared all over my face in a fairly terrifying way) with a nice chap in uniform in my bedroom. And my mum. Hmm. But on the serious side it was quite a lesson in all the very real symptoms you get from anxiety and hyperventilation (including the funny arm etc, he explained). I was still seeing double when they wheeled me off in the ambulance – which they had to do, to be on the safe side, check for infection in the line etc… I think I’d have been a bit dismissive before of ‘anxiety attacks’. Anyway, good luck with the chemo. I’ve waved goodbye to that and the Hickman line for now, hope you get a great response from yours.

    • Hello to a fellow unlucky Helen!
      Thanks for the message and sharing your story. Blimey what a terrifying and in the end comic blodd-fest. I’m so impressed it also involved a man in uniform!! Glad that your days of chemo and Hickman line are over.

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