24 September

September 14th was my last chemotherapy session. I’ve been doing this since May, and it’s been a long haul. This is an update post.

Back in July I had the halfway CT scan that gives a first indication of how well or otherwise the chemotherapy is doing at beating the cancer back. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the results of that scan were good – dramatically good. Not just better than my consultant expected, but better than he has ever seen before. So everyone’s been looking forward to the results of my end-of-chemo CT scan; me, my family and friends, and the medical staff as well.

I had that scan last Thursday (Sept 20th), but I don’t yet have the scan results; I’ll get those on the 26th. Right now, however, I’m sitting in a hospital bed waiting to be discharged.

What happened? Well…

I’ve been battling a bacterial infection over the last month, taking two rounds of antibiotics and then self-injecting filgrastim, a treatment that boosts the bone marrow’s production of white blood cells. That seemed to help, but on Monday 17th I had a slight fever and had very little energy. I should have called the hospital for advice (chemo patients are at significant infection risk, and a temperature over 99.5°f is a big concern) but I fell asleep and woke up on Tuesday feeling a bit better. For a while.

By late Tuesday afternoon I was feeling shivery, and I actually threw up at the beginning of the evening. That was a first for me; I hadn’t even come close to being sick through my whole chemo session. Fortunately I was in the garden so it didn’t mean loads of clean-up.

Later that evening I had a temperature of over 101°, and I had so little energy I could hardly walk! I called the Oncology department and was told to go straight to the emergency room. In the ‘do not pass go, do not collect $200, get your ass in gear’ sense of right now. Here’s the timeline for Tuesday evening:

  • 10:45 PM
    I arrive at the emergency room and get triaged. My temperature is almost 102°. I’m really tired and I drift to sleep frequently, holding a sheet of paper with “SEPSIS” written on it in huge letters. I’m taken through to a treatment area in the ER pretty quickly.
  • 11:30 PM
    I’m put on an IV with a broad-spectrum antibiotic and given a chest X-Ray. I’m monitored all the time. I don’t recall things terribly clearly from this point.
  • 5:00 AM
    I am taken to an intensive care ward and handed over to the staff there. It has people with a variety of issues, all of them at least a bit serious. The staff are friendly and caring, and they show real respect for all the patients.

This ward was my world for a few days. The CT scan that everyone’s waiting for was originally supposed to be at a different hospital, but it was rearranged so I could have it where I was instead. That was Thursday, and I was all set to go home after the scan! Until… someone came back with preliminary scan findings and said they’d seen a clot in my lungs.

I felt very little of this but, thanks to being pretty much 100% immobilised from Tuesday evening, combined with the effects of chemotherapy, I’d developed DVT – deep vein thrombosis – in my legs, and clots had travelled to my lungs. I had pulmonary emboli. That totally borked my chances of going home that evening! And because I also had a very low blood platelet count (thanks again, chemo) I had to have a transfusion before I could have treatment for the clots themselves.

On Friday morning a blood test gave me a cautious thumbs up so I started injections to tackle the clot issue, and I also moved to the chemo specialist ward. That’s nicer and relatively quiet.

Now it’s Monday afternoon. I’m being discharged today but I’ll have six months of injections to give myself before I’ll be considered out of those particular clot woods.

So what was up with me when I went in? I’ve now been told: urinary sepsis. If I had tried to sleep through it on Tuesday night I probably wouldn’t be around to type this. Kids, do NOT mess with sepsis!

Getting a pulmonary embolism (technically emboli; more than one clot) as well was sheer bad luck, although not particularly surprising. It’s strange to come through two potentially fatal conditions in one week, but I’m pretty much okay again now. Albeit rather weaker than I was. Huh.

No other data is available yet from the CT scan; that’s going to be discussed on Wednesday. In the meantime I’m just waiting for tubes to be removed from my arm and injections to be prepared for me, then I’m vacating the premises and going home! Don’t stop me now.

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