Thursday, 29 May 2008


I'm trying to put together a web site that gathers together what I've learnt about cancer and presents it in an easy to understand way. I'm using my superhero, Chemoman as the way to do this. The idea is that the web site is Chemoman's guide to cancer and told from his perspective. So far I've only got a couple of pages done and yeah, they need some work. Anyway, if I get some time when I'm feeling good I'll move it forward, until then, it can be seen here

This week

A quick summary of the week:

Monday - Bank holiday. Got dragged shopping with the wife. Mostly involved me trying to stop our son destroying shop fittings, whilst my wife slid away as deep into the shop and out of sight as possible.

Tuesday - Went to work. I was really tired, but it was good to catch up with people and I went out with my team for lunch, which was good.

Wednesday - Blood letting, I mean, blood test day. I went to the local hospital, got spiked. I now have a huge bruise on my arm, all the different hues of purple and blue. When they take blood, after they tell you to apply pressure to the spot they took it from. If you apply enough pressure or for long enough, you get a bruise. Looks like I was way off.

Thursday (today) - Didn't feel too great this morning, so doing some work from home.

Friday - This is chemo day number 6. Will mean that there are only 2 left after this one. I can't wait to be finished. This chemo cycle thing is really tedious. I know what I've got to look forward to and it's a drag. I know there will be a week of feeling pretty rubbish. Also, it seems to be taking longer each cycle to feel normal(ish) again. Stupid cycles.

The plan tonight was to go and see Indiana Jones. Well not see him personally, rather go and see the new film. I'll see if I feel up to it. Should be fine, just need to be feeling well for tomorrow, so they can make me toxic! Blimey, I'm a whinging git, arn't I!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Inject me good

On Saturday morning I was still a bit zombie-esque but livened up by the afternoon. My wife, the kids and I went to Bridgnorth in Shropshire to visit my wife's best friend. We got there, had a bit of a chill out and then went to find something to eat. We ended up in a pub, not far from her house. The food was okay but the bar staff seemed to be having a sponsored sulk. I expect they made a fortune on that. Unfortunately, Harry, my 3 year old, decided that now wat the time to test his boundaries and investigate his parent's ability to maintain discipline, whilst in a public place. Basically he started acting like a little swine. Generally being naughty and screaming. Perfect. Sam, my wife, was trying to calm him down and finally cracked, taking him outside and returning magically in less than a minute with a calm boy. Not sure how she did it, but it probably involved shouting and pointing! Later on I went to bed and the ladies went out on the town (I was a tad envious, as I've not been properly (i.e. drunkenly) been out for ages). They stumbled back in around 1ish, with Sam's friend the worse for wear, complete with some burger (from the compulsary burger/chips purchase on the way home) stuck to her cheek. I didn't mention it, as I thought it would be a nice discovery in the morning.
Next morning, for some bizarre reason, Harry decided to wake up at 6. Normally, he is difficult to coax out of his bed in the morning. Must be due to the new scenary and that there was a new cat to chase around. Sam's friend was up and active (much to my disbelief) and took the kids for a walk whilst we got up in a more leisurely manner (yay!).
We took Harry to see the steam trains at Bridgnorth station as he is currently obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and friends (I can sadly admit that I can now name the vast majority of the trains, due to over exposure). He loved it and got really excited.
We got home around 8pm and that about summed up the weekend. Oh, we watched Lost, which is about the only show we both like. She likes Sex and the City, which I can't stand and I like Battlestar Galactica, which she hates. Ho hum. By the way, the start of this series of Lost, I reckon was a bit pants but now, since the break, it's getting pretty good again (although not a touch on Galactica, that has got to be the best TV at the moment).

Monday was blood test day and there was a big old queue this time, with it taking over an hour to get seen and puntured. I went for some lunch then but after started to get the familiar feelings of coming down with something (headache, sinus like pain and generally unwell feeling, with a rumbly tum). My temperature was up to 37 but no higher. Tuesday I still felt under the weather a bit but felt improved. I got a call from the hospital to say my white blood count was low and they wanted to start me on a course of injections to kick start the bone marrow into producing more. The stuff they inject is called a granocyte colony stimulating factor. Sounds good to me (appart from the injecting bit).
Last night Harry was poorly, which is kind of ironic, as the hospital told me to be extra vigilant about keeping away from ill people, but not a lot you can do there. Today, Harry has perked up, but still seems a bit under the weather. I feel pretty decent and have just had the lovely district nurse, a lady called Claire, pop round to give me my first of 3 injections. It wasn't bad, she was pretty good at injecting it slowly, so it didn't hurt (unlike the last time I had one, where it felt like they were having a good root around inside! Perhaps I'm just a wuss.)

Friday, 16 May 2008


George A Romero, that maker of mad Zombie films, would have been proud of me yesterday. I could have easily starred in one of his films. I wake up, thanks to my wife's alarm clock and reluctantly helped get the kids to the child minder. I felt like I was not all there, just in a big old haze. I went back to bed and finally got out of my pit to get some lunch. Not a lot in, but I cobbled something together and then just wanted to sleep again. So, I did! I woke up just in time for my wife to ask me to pick the kids up because she was having a nightmare day at work and would be late. I groaned quite loudly, as all I wanted to do was sleep again. I know it sounds lazy but I just had no energy and felt completely drained. What I think was happening was that my body was responding to the withdrawl of the steroids. For those who don't know, part of the treatment is a pulse of steroids each cycle. By pulse, what they do is give you a high (100mg) daily dose for 5 days and then nothing. The steroids both rip up lymphocytes (which are the naughty critters making up the chest monster) and also give you some extra energy and help relieve nausea etc. So for the first 5 days, they're your friend, but then they're taken away and my body then seems to react. On Wednesday and Thursday (day 1 and 2, post steroids), I'm constantly dry mouthed and need to drink loads of water and then of course am paying umpteen visits to unload said water. That's my first sign, the other one is that where I seemed to have energy the previous days (alright, not loads, but I was happy enough getting up and pottering around like an old man) I no longer do. I think I now know what it feels like to be old (not that I think I am old, but you know what I mean).
Anyway, I dragged myself out of the house, picked up the kids, who of course wanted to go to the park and I had to say no and feel like a real killjoy. We got home and I went for a lie down whilst they played (emptied toys on the floor and caused general mayhem). I was hoping my wife would return imminently to help with bath time (usually okay, but can be draining if certain participants are not being compliant!) but she rang and said she was going to be really late. I suppressed the tears and tried to put on a true British stiff upper lip and say, "not a problem, old girl, I'll just crack on and see you later. Tally ho". Okay, I probably didn't use those exact words (perhaps the "Tally ho" was used, I forget). Again, it sounds a bit wussy, getting stressy over bathing a couple of kids but when in Zombie mode, it's a trial.
In the end, my mission was sucessful. The kids were compliant (halelujah!) and were bathed and tucked up in bed as per normal, with me not far behind.
Today I feel more normal again. I still feel somewhat tired, but not the eyes-heavy-want-to-sleep-now tired. Looks like my body has shook off the post-steroidal yoke and is good to go. Yay! Should feel better each day forward now. Just got to keep out the way of any lurgy carriers and all is good.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Two days good, one day bad

How bizarre this chemo thing is. After getting loaded up on Friday and then just wanting to sleep, Saturday and Sunday weren't bad. I was up and about at a decent hour, feeling not bad. I went to my wife's Granddad's birthday celebration and was sorely tempted to have a beer (although I was well behaved and didn't, for the sake of my overworked liver and kidney (although next week is another thing entirely)), so I must have been feeling pretty good.
Then, I wake up this morning and all I want to do is go back to sleep (nothing really new there, except I wanted to go back to sleep 'cus I was feeling rubbish). My head was banging and my energy was through the floor. Curiouser and curiouser, said I.
Anyway, I've dragged myself out of my pit and am sat downstairs, with the glorious weather beaming in through the windows and lightening my mood.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Vanquishing the chest monster

Yesterday was chemo day 5. That's over halfway through, hurrah! Prior to receiving those pretty coloured poisons, known as chemo, I got to see some more details of the scan I had the previous Friday. The measurements have been done and I got to see the before and after pics.
So, the before picture showed the right side of my chest filled with a nasty big blob, aka the chest monster. If left to its own devices, I reckon it would have emerged alien style, a few months later and gone on to consume all before it. Luckily, it was discovered before then and after 4 chemo sessions it has shrunk down. The original beastie measured 10cm by 12cm. Explains why it was making me try and cough my lungs out and why my face and neck were trying to swell up. Now, the current measurements are 9cm by 3cm. So, it is still 9cm long, as it runs from my throat area down into the chest area, but it is only 3 cm wide. On the scan it is hard to see, which is cool. The doc said they have a system of rating the response to chemo. The top rating is exceptional, which is what the doc said applied to my chest monster, henceforth known as the weenie chest squatter (eviction notice being filed).
Chemo 5 went ok. The only difference to the others was that I was dozing off towards the end and was really tired for the rest of the day, or rather, when I got home I went to bed and slept till late evening.

Today I woke up feeling pretty tired, but after I had my meds and the steroids had chance to kick in, I was feeling alright and was up and about. The weather outside is lovely and I'm hoping to fire up the BBQ later, assuming the energy levels hold up. Yay! First bar-bee of the year!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Tuesday, wrote Mr. Kipling

The weekend went well and I was feeling pretty good. Despite finishing the anti-biotics, I still have a barking cought, but I suspect that it is caused by my unwelcome chest resident. It has calmed down a bit today but over the weekend I was doing some serious coughing (to the point of gagging, which was nice).
I intended to go into work today but not feeling top form. I will definitely go in tomorrow, come hell or high water (or whatever the expression is).
Next chemo is this coming friday. I'll be over the halfway mark and on the home straight. I really can't wait for this to be done with (as long as the cancer is dead and gone, that is). I'm looking forward to rejoining the ranks of the healthy (even though I've still got 4 chemos to go).
PS. BTW, no idea why I mentioned Mr. Kipling in this post's title, but he does make exceedingly good cakes.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Scan time

This week I've felt a bit rubbish. I got a chest infection and my temperature shot up. I went to the docs and got some anti-biotics, which started to do the trick. The plan is for us to nip away this weekend and I don't want another bank holiday spent in hospital, so I checked in with the clinic and they told me to come in for a blood test. Anyway, wind back a bit, it's been a bit of a busy day, involving visiting 2 hospitals, getting a scan, a blood test and a shot.
I had a scan scheduled for today. The idea was that I'd then have the results in for my next chemo appointment (a week on friday). The hospital rang me on monday to say they detected elevated blood levels that indicated a possible infection. I had just been to the doctors and got some antibiotics, so I knew what they were talking about. During the week, I'd still felt rough and my temperature had jumped around a bit, so the plan was that I'd give a blood sample at the hospital I was getting the scan at, prior to having the scan and then go to my usual hospital after the scan and get the results, to see if I would be okay for the weekend.
I got to the hospital in good time (thanks to Mr. SatNav), gave a blood sample. The blood was taken by one of the nurses who usually takes it at my local hospital, which was a bit strange, but apparently they go around all the hospitals doing their blood thang.
I got to the scan appointment early, but they were running late. I got brought a big old jug full of a frothy looking clear liquid, which I had to drink over an hour. I had had a scan previously, during diagnosis, so knew what to expect. The main difference was that the drink I got at the hospital during diagnosis (private appointment, thanks to medical insurance) was mixed with squash and tasted good, whereas the NHS version tasted like aniseed and was foul. It took the hour to get through the foul stuff this time. Yack. Not nice. Next time, I'll take my own squash along!
Anway, after an hour they came and took me through to get changed. You get to wear one of those "open at the arse" backward fitting hospital gown efforts. I'm pretty sure they are only for comedy value, to keep the spirits of the nurses up. With my "outfit" on, I was led through to the scanner. It looks like a big, humming doughnut, with a flat bed at the end, that passes through the hole. I layed on the bed and someone came to stick another needle in my arm. They didn't do too great a job of it and sprayed my gown with a touch of the old claret. Anyway, you lie down and they leg it out the room and the doughnut tells you to "breath in and hold your breath". You're then fed through the hole slowly, getting told you can breathe normally, just before you have to anyway. Then they feed in some contrasting dye stuff through the needle in your arm and its time to go through the 'nut again. Finally, they get you to hold your arms above your head and its repeat the drill. Then, that's it. Needle is taken out and you're out of there.
I drove over to the clinic and after waiting a few minutes got to see my consultant, which was cool, as I'd not seen him for a while. He went through my bloods and told me that the infection markers had come down but that I was neutrapenic, which means that the neutraphils in my blood were below 0.2 (where normal is about 3). The neutraphils are the little dudes that make up the majority of your white blood cells and are responsible for fighting infection. So, obviously, when there arn't many around, you're pretty open to infection and more worryingly that can lead to sepsis, which can be fatal. Whilst I was there he was able to show me the scan results. He said they're not officially released but hey, I was happy to see. He showed me the original one, with the chest monster sat there. There were parts that measured 13cm across! It still freaks me out to think about it. Then, he showed the current scan and there was not much left of that big mutha. There are still abnormal cells but no big mass! I was well chuffed. He was very pleased and said I was showing an excellent response and was on track. All good. He was then able to check my lungs and sinuses for infection, which was a bonus. There was a very small amount remaining in the lung but not a lot and the sinuses looked clear now too, which was cool. So, with the antibiotics, he thought I'd be okay to go away, but just to make sure, I was given an injection of GCSF (this stuff stimulates the bone marrow to make white blood cells).
So, all is good. I feel much better today and my blood count should be building up. I just need to check my temperature regularly.