Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Chemo for Christmas

Hey guys ... I’ll try to give you a bit more information, but to be honest, it's been a whirlwind of a day and I have only just got back to my sofa. The 23rd is a traditional day of end of year speeches, prizes and such like at work. I'm always needed for this - so despite being told all this information at 11:00am today - I really haven't had any time to process it, or read the 'manual' on Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I've been given.

I can however, put together a few bits of information but please don't use this as a medical reference blog, as I'm still trying to piece it together.

Despite there being 43 different types of Lymphoma, they fall into 'Hodgkin' and 'non-Hodgkin' types. I have 'Hodgkin', which sounds cool, as it's the Kellogg’s of the Lymphoma Cancer world - a proper brand. 'Hodgkins don't make cancer for anyone else'. Besides, anything that starts with 'non' is usually a bit rubbish. ie: non-branded, non-committal, non-sence and non-ce.

Apparently Hodgkin's responds better to treatment, although from the statistic I've seen, the difference is not that huge but I'll take what good news I can get right now. So, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssss! Or something.

There are different types of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and to be technical, the type I have is 'Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant'. You Google it. I'm tired.

I am at Stage 3. There are 4 stages of cancer, from 1 (you can live with it for years/normally undetected) to 4 - which would be the point (in my case), where the cancer has left the lymphatic system and started to eat away at other organs (liver, lungs etc). The results from my bone marrow shows it hasn't got into there and this is a good thing. Yay. Kinda.

It's rare: Only 1,400 new cases a year in the UK and apparently with my enlarged spleen type it’s even rarer. Well, I've always liked being special and different.

Treatment: I start my chemotherapy tomorrow. I will have it once every 15 days for around 8 months. Obviously there is the spleen issue - no one knows if it will shrink enough, but they are ready to take a punt.

The type of chemo I'm having is known as 'ADVD' - a medical term for the 4 types of drugs I'll have ... Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Bleomycin, Vinblastine (didn't he play for A.C. Milan?) and Dacarbazine.

I've just read in my little booklet, however, that dacarbazine can be very painful when going into the vein - grrrrrrrreat. Apparently drinking lots of water before hand will help and it dilutes the blood. Like I said, don't quote me on any of this. I'll give it a pain rating tomorrow. It can't be as bad as that bloody bone marrow scrape thing.

A session takes about 2 hours. Some drugs are 'whacked in', Trainspotting style. The other is dripped in over the two hours. Must get a Sony PSP.

People react differently to chemo, but side-effects will be ‘sickness’, ‘hairloss throughout body’ (I'll have to get a shaved head or I'll look a bit mental), ‘fatigue’, ‘sore mouth’, ‘eating problems’, ‘nerve damage’, ‘diarrhoea’ (I'll try not to write about that again).

Long term effects are 'reduced fertility', 'neuropathy' (loss of reflexes and sensations in fingers and toes - could make typing interesting and it's probably put laid to any plans of me fulfilling a life's dream of becoming a seamstress), 'heart failure' (n/a, don't have one) and finally 'further risk of cancer'. But this is all a bit like reading the small print on a packet of paracetamol – you’d never take one of those if you got all the side effects listed.

Right – I’m tired and my phone doesn’t stop ringing. I’ve got to get to Surrey for Xmas after the chemo tomorrow (I probably won’t be allowed to drive and will be spending Christmas as a hostage of various family members, with no means to escape. I have Fear).

I haven’t packed and I can’t be bothered to do this tonight. And my kitchen is a mess. Frankly, I need a housemaid. Applications to the usual address. Must be good with vomit, diarrhoea and picking up hairs. Short skirts optional, but appreciated.

Right. There it is. Another bloody weird day. Tomorrow promises to be more of the same. I shall try to get to a keyboard tomorrow to give you a Sickness Rating from my first dose of radioactive material.

Merry Christmas. x

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