To attempt to make up for the recent shameful dearth of posting (there’s been a strike on, y’know), here’s a bumper Christmas two-post edition.
Some Unequivocally Good News
So last Sunday, I cruised into hospital by (fully-reimbursed) private taxi instead of the planned bone-shaking private ambulance, who had decided not to come (and also decided not to tell us until we phoned, slightly frantically, ten minutes after they were supposed to arrive) because it was a Sunday, and they often get “a lot of emergency cases on a Sunday”. I swear I’m walking it next time.
I’m booked in, and am informed my next chemo regime will start tomorrow – I should be out Tuesday. Not too shabby – couple of days in for monitoring the effects of the new drugs, then back out to freedom, glorious boiled-veal-free freedom. We ask if it’s possible to talk to the Prof, or maybe the Second-In-Command, about the new regime and what’s changed. This is promised for Monday, tomorrow.
Monday duly follows, and in comes Second-In-Command with some surprising and honestly, unequivocally good news. After much careful and repeated analysis by a variety of doctors of many disciplines (from both inside and outside the hospital is implied), The Team have decided that the first chemo sessions have actually been having a much more beneficial effect than previously thought. Instead of just preventing the cancer from spreading, they have in fact been reducing it, in both the lungs and the stomach ganglions (ganglia?). The treatment has been around “15% to 25%” effective, Second-In-Command says.
(I don’t think that means it’s killed that much of the cancer – in fact, I’m not entirely sure what it means. But it’s definitely good. Right?)
So for chemo #4, which began that very Monday, they keep the colourless liquid from the previous treatments, discard the useless Mr. Purple as planned, and add a new (disappointingly, also colourless) liquid, which has a past record of working very well with the original colourless liquid. (I probably should find out the names for some of these incredibly powerful and toxic chemicals being oozed into my body.) I’m ditching the daily pills which normally followed for the next two weeks, which filled me with wonder. The stuff they’re going to inject me with today is going to lurk around in my body killing things for another TWO WEEKS? Wow. I eye the intravenous drip bags with renewed respect, and no small degree of fear.
There are all kinds of incredibly important details which I’m sure I’ve forgotten, and probably some gross factual errors (maybe I just dreamt the whole thing), so maybe I’ll bottom-edit them into this post when Emilie wakes up (this is a rare 3am-can’t-sleep-despite-the-fact-I-normally-do-nothing-but-sleep blogging moment). But the main thing is – it’s working. The chemo is working. And when The Prof himself makes a cameo appearance at about 8pm that evening (I don’t know when these French doctors find time for their golf – they must do it in the mornings, as there’s never sign of a stethoscope around the place before 3pm), he claps me hard on the shoulder (who knows, maybe he does physio too) and says “Now we want you to get better faster”. That is a long way from where we started from.
This is too good news to keep secret for as long as I have (events Monday, post Saturday?), and I apologise, but in my defence I beg the effects of…
This cycle is proving slightly different. All the immediately obvious and weird side effects from the first treatments are gone – no more cold-shocks, numb-twitchy-Thom-Yorke-facial-gestures, and I’m told no more hair loss – though that’s becoming a moot point for the increasingly slap-headed Holmberg bonce. When they administered the new chemical, I had to wear enormous refrigerated Mickey-Mouse-style blue mittens for the duration. This, apparently, is to prevent damage to my hands and nails during the treatment. That has to have been one of the most surreal hospital moments so far. Photos were taken, and I will upload.
But really, what Chemo #4 appears to do is make me want to sleep all the time. I get up, I have breakfast, I sleep for an hour or so. I get up, have lunch, sleep for two, maybe three to four hours. Get up, dinner, and… well, ok, at this point I can usually keep it together enough to watch a film or, if a late waking from the afternoon kip has delayed dinner too much, a few episodes of Black Books, Family Guy (from my brother Pat’s inexhaustible collection) or some-such diverting nonsense. And then it’s sleep again, until breakfast rolls around again with its charming inevitability. I exaggerate slightly, and there are days where I do manage to get some things done between the naps – or skip one entirely to gain maybe hours of conscious life. But missing one out does seem to affect my emotional stability – I get moody, prone to tears, and generally even more unreasonable than normal. (Although maybe Black Books before bed isn’t such a good idea.) So it seems I need it – but good god, really, so much? Mind you, it is still week #1 of a three-week cycle. Perhaps my sleep needs will drop towards the end.
Keeping the three-week cycle means that my next set of injections were due to happen on Christmas Eve itself. That would have been jolly. Fortunately, there are human beings somewhere involved in the patient booking process at Saint Louis hospital, and in fact, I’m going in several days later on the 26th. My parents, plus Pat and his girlfriend Liv, are coming over for Christmas itself, as Puritan Bennet (my oxygen cylinder, for the uninitiated – this blog is really starting to need a Dramatis personae ) restricts my movement somewhat. So all looks to be working out beautifully – croiser les doigts.
On the more negative side, I have been experiencing various strange gut troubles, digestive, er, irregularities, and other sweet and pleasant minor deviations to the normal and regular functioning of the healthy human adult male human – but it’s hard to put these down to the chemo, the disease, or just sometimes an excess of cauliflower. None of this is too disturbing, however, normally there are pills I can take, and set in the context of a cancer treatment that is actually working… small potatoes, in particularly pressure-cooked-small lower-case letters.
So good wishes and good health to everyone, and hopefully I’ll p-p-p-p-pick up the posting frequency a little – in between my heavy sleeping schedule, you understand. And, as always, thanks for the visits and words and thoughts and calls of support, and it’s wonderful to see and hear and talk to you all.