Monday, 8 October 2012

You want to put THAT in my veins?

C- day has arrived. Like D-Day, but with less chance of being revisited by Stephen Spielberg. Like D-Day, there is a lot of waiting around for action. At least my day is designed to keep me alive though.

DH and I arrive, book in and are shown to the room, which is a fairly bog standard hospital room except for the crucifix in the corner - this hospital's roots are in the Catholic church and I don't, despite being a Christian, feel all that comforted. It feels a bit sinister, like there's a lack of hope in the room, a black splinter in the pale blue paintwork.  I know I should feel quite the contrary.

We wait for a bit, and nothing happens. So I toddle off to the loo, wanting, how can I put this, a bit of time to perform the necessary function. At which point the consultant arrives, and has left again before I can rearrange myself to come out and see her. Then I don't dare move in case she comes back, despite the fact that not going to the loo will doubtless make the constipation situation worse, not better. She does eventually come back with the Macmillan nurse in tow and explains again what will happen today, getting my signature on the consent form we realised yesterday I hadn't signed.

And we wait for a bit longer, so I go off to the loo again. Which is when the nurse comes in. Back to the chair to wait...

Cannula in, the first drip up is straight saline to keep the vein and port open until they're ready. Then a pack of glucose - 10 mins. Then a pack of magnesium and calcium goes in over the course of the next hour to combat the peripheral neuropathy that's one of the major side effects of the Oxaliplatin. After that, a syringe of steroids and a syringe full of anti-sickness drugs before the main event. By this point I've been wired up to a drip of some description for the better part of 2 hours already. Cutting up my lunch - a jacket potato - proves impossible and I manage to distract DH's attention from his iPad game for long enough to get him to do it for me.

Aha, the main course. Which arrives in a clear plastic box sealed with bright yellow tape that says "TOXIC" and carries pictures of skulls and crossbones. Nothing like making it obvious that this is kill or cure. The nurse doesn't seem to see the joke though. Maybe if you do this all the time you don't find it surreal any more. The first 30 minutes are ok, nothing happens. Then my arm starts to tingle. Then I have pins and needles in my whole hand, reaching up my arm and I decide that this probably isn't just me sitting awkwardly. The nurse brings a warm pad wrapped in a high tech cover (pillowcase) to go over my arm, which helps a bit. Other than that there is nothing to do but sit and wait for the poison to go in, which it does over the next 2 hours.

For dessert, there is a final flush of glucose. The drip rate is too high and my vein is throbbing, so the nurse turns it down - it just means it takes longer. All done by 3.30; having arrived at 10 am and we leave with an enormous pharmacy bag containing the tablet chemo and more stuff to manage side effects. The steroids, apparently, should not be taken after 5 pm because they make you hyper. The pill-popping timetable is too complicated for me to get my head round.

The autumn sunshine is extra bright as we leave, and I have that slightly disorientated feeling that you get when you leave the cinema in daylight, as if somehow the day should be all done because my one task has been done. The next obvious side effect hits - the slightest touch of cold feels like ice. Air, water, door handles, taps, everything. First stop is the bike shop for some gloves, and I find a thin woolly pair with a little grip to them that will at least let me hold a steering wheel properly once I'm back in the driving seat.

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