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!


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.

Soldiering on

I thought I had it all sorted.

I have the chemo; James Bond kills the remaining cancer cells. I’m slowly poisoned as I imagine my own personal army of special agents blasting away at the enemy inside me. I try to carry on as much as normal while I visualise the 007s carrying out this covert operation for me.

But it turns out that I’m at war too.

Following my scary setback last week I had to see The Professor. Despite being totally exhausted, it wasn’t quite as awful as I felt during my emergency stay in hospital. With the infection launching a full on assault, my immune system dropped so low it was almost non-existent. Even he had to admit that it was impressively bad.

As I chatted to my consultant in a small clinical looking room I could hardly think straight. I was so shattered. It was such an effort just to sit on the plastic chair. Really I wanted to have a nice lie down on the medical couch that I could see behind a flimsy curtain. It was so inviting.

I had the appointment with The Professor at my usual hospital yesterday as I’m due to have chemo today. I had to convince him that I was ready to take the battering that you get from the drip of dangerous drugs.

Luckily the blood tests confimed that I was well enough. I’m so glad that it’ll continue as planned even though I still feel shockingly ill.

This will be my fifth session of chemo. After today, I’ll have just one more to go before it’s all over. The Professor reassured me that what I’m going is awful but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m not sure why but having someone else acknowledge just how horrendous things are somehow makes you feel a bit better. It was a welcome boost.

It’s not that I’ve been feeling down. It’s just that I have little energy to do much more than focus on finishing my cancer treatment.

It’s incredibly traumatic, it’s as if I’m in a warzone, my consultant explained to me. For six months now I’ve been under attack both physically and mentally. There’s the pain, the fatigue and the fear. You’re not sure if you’ll make it out alive. The last time I was anywhere near a warzone as a BBC foreign correspondent it was pretty stressful and I was only there for a week or so.

It makes sense – this is a fight for my very survival. While I think of myself as battling this killer disease, I’ve never seen myself as an actual soldier on the frontline. I’ve left that part to my gun-toting troop of James Bonds.

To be honest the fog of tiredness has meant I’ve considered myself to be more like a zombie but I must change that.

It’s much more positive to imagine myself as a solider and a successful one at that. The Professor took great delight in telling me that according to the very latest test results I’m still clear of cancer. So I’m already winning the war!

My Olympic recovery

I really was getting worse.

Not long after updating my blog I climbed into bed and got under the duvet. It was a sunny afternoon, my temperature was rising and yet I was freezing.

Then suddenly there was a spike in my temperature. I knew I couldn’t put it off any more. Mum drove me to the nearest hospital.

By the time we made it to Accident and Emergency my heart rate was racing, my blood pressure had slumped and my temperature was a sweltering 39c. I was quickly put into a hospital bed in what felt like the hottest part of the building.

So I was now a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and terrified. I may have been in hospital before but not this one and never in such a rush.

Tests showed that I was neutropenic. Basically my immune system was dangerously low. I had some kind of an infection and my body couldn’t fight it. Surely it was just a cold?

The doctor wasn’t so sure. He went through a list of possibilities with me; some were very serious and would mean emergency surgery.

I was put on a drip of antibiotics. Lying on my back, I stared at the ceiling and worried. Mum sat at my bedside, occasionally swatting the insects that flew in through an open window.  

It wasn’t until late that night that I was taken by wheelchair through the empty corridors to the cancer ward. I was wheeled into a side room with a television and an ensuite bathroom.

Result, I thought to myself.

The next day I realised it wasn’t such a good thing. I was almost in isolation. With the door shut, I stayed in the room on my own. I looked out on a couple of building and the wonderful weather.

By the time I saw a specialist consultant I was already responding well to the treatment. I was relieved to be told that I probably wouldn’t need anything more than antibiotics.

Most of the time bags of medicine or fluids were slowly pumped into my veins. It was lovely to be on an intravenous drip that made me feel good rather than the evil chemo cocktail that I’m more used to.

My consultant had said the treatment was going to be boring but relatively painless. And he was right. Less than 48 hours after I arrived at the hospital my immune system had recovered enough for me to be allowed home. I was shocked that I was so better so quickly.

Having an emergency stay in hospital was pretty traumatic. I was so glad to be leaving that I cried on the journey home.

I know that while the last lot of chemo will be horrendous, it won’t be nearly as bad as that.

I’ve been celebrating my release with Sasha the dog. It’s amazing that I got out in time for the start of the Olympics. I thought that I’d be stuck on my own in a hospital side room instead we’re going to be able to watch the games together!