Archive | June 2013

OK, so now I’m a proper chemo patient

As I’d been told it might, it started this morning with finding an unusual number of hairs on my pillow this morning.  Over the course of the day it’s just continued from there, with more hair falling out every time I rub my scalp or run a hand through my hair.  By this evening Hair lossI can just pull clumps of it out as the picture on the left shows.  It’s weird – it’s like being at the hairdresser’s and picking up some trimmings from the floor – except that’s come straight from my head.

As it happens I normally have quite a thick head of hair, so despite the clumps coming out, there still seems to be some covering.  Funny thing is, looking at this shot of the top of my head, it doesn’t look that atypical for a 39-Thinning a bit on topyear old man!  Unfortunately it looks like I would only have a very narrow window of opportunity to exploit that comedy potential, because at the rate it’s going I won’t have any hair by tomorrow evening…  Ah well.

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Mmmmm…. morphine

Whilst the oral morphine helped, it wasn’t long (once I’d seen the doctor the next day) before I was upgraded to IV morphine.  This is administered by a little piece of kit like thisMorphine pump, which just presses the plunger of a syringe of morphine in over the course of 24 hours.  It’s locked in a clear plastic housing so that no-one can vary the pump rate.

So I now have a nice trickle of morphine flowing into me, which is helping a lot with the sore mouth/throat.  It still comes and goes though, having moments where it can flare up and be quite debilitating.  Fortunately the paracetamol / oral morphine and oxetacaine / sucralfate are still available for those moments.

I haven’t had any adverse side-effects to the morphine, so the dosage has been tweaked up a bit over the last couple of days.  A more noticeable “effect” of the morphine has been the rather wacky dreams that I now have, especially when nodding off in the daytime I find…

 

Blleargh… oral mucositis

Aaah, it was all going so well.  However, over the last couple of days my mouth has become more and more sore, and overnight my throat joined in as well.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is mucositis.  It’s quite a common side effect of various chemo- and radiotherapies, but is particularly common as a result of melphalan, the treatment I’ve had.

A real battle when you can't swallow...

A real battle when you can’t swallow…

So my morning set of pills like these have become quite a battle.  I’ve steadily moved my way up through the painkillers over the course of the day today.  Soluble paracetamol was OK,  and certainly took the edge off it last night when trying to sleep.  Beyond that is Oxetacaine/Sucralfate, which are a pair of vaguely minty gloopy fluids that get given to me in syringes to squirt into my mouth.  They’ve also been OK for a while.

Early this evening though I discovered the hard way that the terribly-good-for-you nothing-artificial peach and banana smoothie, which I thought would slip down nicely, in fact additionally has a splash of lemon juice as a preservative, and that left my mouth writhing somewhat.  Shortly afterwards I asked for the next step up, which turns out to be oral morphine.  That helped (though if I’m honest, was a bit disappointing on the knock-you-out off to la-la land front).  Hopefully if I can avoid the things with lemon juice in, that set will be enough to take the edge off it…

Also earlier today had my first injection of GCSF since my stem cells were returned.  I’ve mentioned this stuff previously, as it was what I was injecting myself with daily in the run up to my stem cell harvesting.  Basically it boosts the bone marrow’s blood cell production.  So another step towards having some blood counts back, which in turn will hopefully, inter alia, help my body to fight this damned mucositis…

Neutropenia and an unexpected trip out

The weekend was fairly quiet.  My oldest friend James got married on Saturday, so it was obviously a great disappointment not to have timed my chemo better, but I got a good stream of photos, videos, sound bites and messages sent to me throughout the day, so I didn’t miss out too much.  Congratulations, James and Helena!

Had a few visitors on Sunday which was nice.  One friend even turned up with beer! 20130602_154412_sm The Bavaria 0.0% alcohol “Wit” beer is a great refreshing drink, so it’s nice to have a few in the fridge now – thanks Alan!

Also got to see my brother-in-law Jan on Sunday before he had to head back to Germany today.  It has been great to have him around over the last couple of weeks.  Guten Flug, Jan!

Generally feeling OK at the moment, though always quite tired.  I’m getting quite good at back-to-back daytime naps.  One of the doctors commented this morning that my neutrophil count (as is to be expected) had dropped quite markedly from Sunday morning to Monday morning and is now at quite a low level.   I guess that makes me officially neutropenic now (and therefore not good at battling infection).  I didn’t feel so great yesterday, when I was struggling to keep warm and at one point was dressed, with a dressing gown and under my duvet in bed!  That seemed to go over the course of the evening and I slept well.  Perhaps a last show of resistance from my neutrophils before they bowed out for a while.  Some IV antibiotic Tazocin probably helped too…

I felt much better today, but because of the shivering yesterday, I was sent for a chest X-ray today as a precaution.  The radiology department is on the other side of the hospital, so I got an unexpected outing from my room.  All very comfortable too as the porters simply gave me a mask and wheeled my entire bed there and back!