Initial impressions of cycle 6

Since having my blood tests the day before my scheduled IV infusion worked so well for cycle 5 we decided to do the same thing for cycle 6. It means my oncologist has the very latest blood results for my consultation (which always happens on the day prior to the IV) and means that I shave at least 2 hours off the time that I spend in the hospital, which is not the nicest of places to spend your time, especially while hooked up to an IV line.

Except Monday came around I just wasn’t feeling very well. Nothing specific… just very under the weather. And sadly, it showed, as I failed the bloodtest by a whisker – this was my absolute neutrophil count, which ideally needed to be 1,500 to continue with the treatment. I managed only 1,400, which my oncologist declared to be “good enough”, provided that a retest the following day showed that the count was either the same, or better.

So Tuesday morning I went into hospital with L. and the kids; they hung around keeping me company until the bloodtest results came back, before heading off to spend a few hours at a nearby animal sanctuary/petting zoo. As it turned out, my repeat bloodtest passed the cut-off, with a score of 1,600, so all systems go. Well, mostly. By this stage I’d reached the point where actually I’d rather have failed the test and been allowed to go home for another weeks rest and recovery – but it was not to be.

So L. and kids headed off for their day out, while I settled down to a good book and a more proactive session with the nurses, trying to ensure that I got enough piggybacked glucose and heatpads to mitigate the problems I have with the arm where they introduce the IV. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d wondered why the oncologist couldn’t specify the IV treatment in a more dilute form (say in a litre of glucose, rather than the 500ml it seemed to always come as) removing the need for the piggybacking of more glucose fluids. When I asked him about this it turns out that there are technical reasons why this is done, revolving around a minimum concentration at which they are able to make up the medicine where it remains effective. Frankly I got lost in the explanation, but came away satisfied that I just needed to ask for higher flow rates in the piggyback solutions.

So in the end I had the nurses run 2 x 500ml piggyback glucose bags in to me rather than the previous 1, and kept regularly changing to fresh heat pads on my arm all through the 3 hour infusion. The result is that the back of the hand where the cannula was inserted is only mildly painful, I appear to have no swelling of the hand itself, but I still have considerable tenderness in the rest of the arm. After 24 hours it seems to be improving, but I suspect it’s going to take a few days. Time will tell.

Other symptoms are as with the previous cycles. The tiredness is as bad or worse as I’ve had before. I’m finding it hard to stay awake today, despite not wanting to go to sleep (if that makes sense).

Peripheral neuropathy is present in hands and throat, and I’ve been experiencing tingling in the feet and toes that seems similar, though nowhere near as bad as in the fingers. That seems to be wearing off quickly, though the throat and hands do not.

Hiccoughs are present, especially after eating or drinking anything. So far no major attacks, just a few isolated hiccoughs, which are easy to manage. However, from previous experience I suspect I’ll be seeing more of them, probably as extended attacks, which are less pleasant.

Food is now tasteless again, which is frustrating. We have fresh pasta and sauce with ciabatta planned for dinner tonight – something I really enjoy normally, and I just know it’s going to taste of metal and not much else. Still, I suspect it will mean I’ll eat less over the next few days, which always helps with the (stalled) weight loss programme!

Overall I can see I’m making progress with the chemotherapy, and I can now see why all the healthcare professionals were so sceptical when I kept asking them about going back to work, and working part time, etc etc. It’s now patently clear to me that I couldn’t work effectively to any kind of schedule while I’m going through this treatment – it’s just too debilitating.

Still, I only have another two cycles after this, and then the operation to reverse the ileostomy. By the end of the year, with the help of my Occupational Health department I ought to be starting to phase back into work again, which will be a huge relief.

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3 thoughts on “Initial impressions of cycle 6

  1. Richard, just wanted to let you know that I’ve been keeping up with your blog and wish you all the best for your remaining cycles. Looking forward to welcoming you back to work later in the year.

    • Thanks Robert, it’s going to be great to be back again; I’m really looking forward to seeing all my friends and colleagues again and getting on with life!

  2. Pingback: Update on cycle 6 (part i) « Richard’s Blog

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