Sunday, 31 March 2013

The beginning of the end

We made it. Cycle 11 of 11 is in. It's all over.

Slightly moderated this time as the onco is concerned that the numbness in my feet and hands is not recovering between cycles and that cycle 10 seemed to be that bit harder to take.  As she points out, not only did I get a massive blast of Oxaliplatin back at the start, when I was on the 3 week cycle for 2 cycles, but the Scott trial is having some success with only doing 4 x 3 week cycles of the "traditional" version. Also this is a belt and braces treatment, preventative rather than curative. Whilst I'm not persuaded by the last point, the first two are more persuasive and I am now getting concerned that the neuropathy will be permanent. So we agree that it is 5FU only this time around. The real bonus is no Neulasta bone marrow booster jab as whilst my platelets are borderline, my white blood cell count is up so no need for the evil stomach jab.

She spends a chunk of time with me and DH today, answering questions and explaining what comes next. No, this isn't a hormone driven cancer. No, there is no evidence to suggest that I could have passed anything to DS whilst in utero (as the polyps are slow growing it is possible they were growing whilst I was pregnant with him, plus I can't remember when the blood in my stools first appeared). Both DD and DS should request screening on the basis of family risk 10 years in advance of my diagnosis age as, whilst this has all the signs of just being an unfortunate quirk of fate and not genetic, their risk is now higher.  All the precautions for immuno-compromise need to be followed for 4 more weeks. Ditto condoms, whilst the last of the drugs leave my system. No more Zoladex, as the last jab will see me through to more than a month post chemo. There will be another scan and set of bloods in 3-4 weeks, then it's on to the monitoring and maintenance regime of scans every 6 months, bloods every 3 months, another colonoscopy later this year, with the gaps gradually lengthening until the 5 year all clear. The portacath can come out after the first scan (my choice, I want to know I don't need it any more). She also understands that actually, this is the scary part. No one's watching me every 2 weeks any more. The cancer could come back and how would I know? As I've mentioned before, the survival rates are not wholly on my side here and whilst I have every intention of doing everything I can to avoid the cancer returning (whilst still having a life, not an existence) it still might come back. She offers to get the Macmillan nurse to call me in a couple of weeks - she's on holiday - which both DH and I agree to; we're also exploring some counselling available via my employers' Employee Assistance Programme, although this seems to be a bit slow in coming. But at least it's all there for us. Both of us finish the consultation feeling thoroughly positive about the future.

The drug reduction doesn't mean a quick get away today. There are still steroids and calcium and flushes and the first dose of 5FU to get in, so DH goes off shopping and for lunch. After he gets back I notice that the sight in my right eye has blurred and a band of it looks as though I'm viewing the world through a kaleidoscope. It doesn't clear up quickly, so I push the call bell. Having told the HCA what's going on, suddenly the room is filled with nurses clipping off lines and checking my vital signs. I half expect the bed to be flattened and me carted off down the hall somewhere in true hospital drama style. Things calm down considerably when someone points out that I may indeed be experiencing blurred vision but it's not likely to be chemo related as I haven't had any today! Honestly, I get through 7 months without having a critical adverse reaction and the day it seems I have, actually I haven't. My vision clears up and everyone relaxes.

It's sad to go home. The team have been marvellous - smiling, happy, supportive, concerned. Chatty when we need it, holding hands when it's been tough. The mugs I've painted for them and the hot cross buns don't feel like enough to say thank you. Unfortunately, owing to running a double clinic (avoiding Good Friday) and holidays, most of the people I want to say goodbye to aren't on the ward. And I hope, lovely though they are, that it is goodbye. Because the first step out of the hospital doors today, pump and all, felt like a new day and a new life.

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