Monday, 25 January 2010

Onwards....and sidewards

So there we go - mam's had the first, much anticipated course of chemo.

Despite the snow (and the north east had an awful lot of it) and problems with the patient transport, mam made the 10 mile journey to Gateshead Queen Elizabeth hospital on 13 January to start the next part of her "journey".

Link: how does chemo work?

The initial plan was to give her two types of chemo - carboplatin and taxol. They tried the carboplatin, but she was in a lot of pain. Apparently it's not an uncommon reaction - some people just can't tolerate certain types of chemo.

So they moved on to the Taxol and it went in okay - along with steroids, which you get when you're on chemo, to counteract how tired it'll make you. And by that afternoon, she was back home.

My brother phoned her the following day and apparently she said she felt really well - the best she'd felt in ages! Must've been the effect that the steroids were having. That was Thursday the Saturday, the nasty side-effects finally arrived - sickness (green!), diarrohea and she couldn't sleep - another, less nice side-effect of the steroids. I spoke to her on the Sunday and she sounded so weak, and tired...and had to run off to be ill, mid-conversation. It's days like that that it's awful being so far away on the end of the phone :(

I asked if she had any appetite - she said not really but the previous day she'd had a craving for good old-fashioned fried bread so had made herself a slice and said it didn't touch the sides!! Hearing her tell me about that, she sounded like a naughty schoolgirl who'd pinched the last slice of cake :-o She said she was just over 10 stone when she was first taken ill in early October, but the consultant weighed her before the chemo and she's only 8 stone now. And not eating much. Told her to remember to use the liquid 'meal substitutes' but it's still worrying.

Saturday 23rd, called again: she still sounded weak but not as bad as the last time we spoke. Sounded like the sickness was tentatively starting to wear off but she said how fed up she is with feeling rubbish...she said she felt so bad one particular day that, in her words, she "wanted to die" - it's hard hearing her talk like that. I want her to fight it and see the positive side of why she feels like this, but I can understand why she's so fed up with feeling ill. She also said she'd had a fall - luckily indoors, in her bedroom, but she'd fallen and bumped her forehead. Dad was in the bathroom next door, heard the noise and came to find her on the bedroom floor, and put her into bed - but I couldn't help thinking of it in terms of a fairly frail little old man 'rescuing' a frail little old lady.

Put the phone down feeling a bit low and worried, but an hour later older sis called - she'd just spoken to mam as well, and mam told her she'd stood and baked a couple of batches of scones!! So maybe all the stuff she said to me - maybe she was just 'unburdening' herself, getting it out of her system - and she realised she didn't feel so wretched after all?

And now it's nearly 2 full weeks since the chemo, so hopefully things are improving - and it's another week until the next chemo on 3rd February. I told her to make sure the consultant knows how bad the sickness was, maybe he can prescribe stronger anti-sickness meds?

So it's good that the chemo's finally underway...but I hate thinking of how ill it makes her. But three days after her next session me and hubs will be up there for a long weekend so I get the chance to be there for her, for dad, and to really look after them :)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More detail

I had a funny feeling when I spoke to mam on Tuesday that there was more to it - the chemo - than she'd told me. Couldn't put my finger on it, but felt that it wasn't down to me to question, and that I should trust her - she's been honest with us so far, we know how bad it is...would she hide anything?

Well it turns out my instincts were right, but just for a change it wasn't another kick in the teeth waiting to come and get me. My older sister emailed me and mentioned that the hospital will be giving mam the more aggressive chemo that they mentioned a while ago as being an option (so I'm guessing from this that they're using the tactic of 'going in with all guns blazing'). The less agressive option was using only one of two possible treatments - carboplatin or paclitaxel. The more agressive option is to use both at once - which is what they're going to do, starting next week.

She'll have three sessions of chemo, each three weeks apart. Shortly after the third, she'll have a CT scan to see if the cancer has shrunk and if they can go on to perform an op to remove as much of the cancer as they can. It'll be a significant op, similar in magnitude to the one in November when they removed her ovaries, and apparently she's not looking forward to it - but mam being typically mam, she knows it's necessary and that's all there is to it.

So with two chemicals being pumped into her every three weeks, she's going to feel really dreadful for most of the next three months, followed by a big op. We've just got to hope against hope that it's all worth it.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Moving on...gradually

Mam finally got to her chemo registration appointment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital today. My brother went all the way up there just to take her to that - he wasn't able to get up at Christmas/New Year as he'd already agreed to spend that time with his inlaws in Norfolk, so to go all the way up north was a nice touch. He was mam's first child so I suppose there'll always be a sort of 'extra closeness' there, and I know mam said she gets a lot of comfort from it when he's around.

First of all this morning they pumped some sort of chemical into her kidneys, and she had to have a scan every hour for about five hours, to see how the stuff was going through her. She was happy enough to toddle around the hospital on her own, bless - which in itself is good to know, because I know there have been days when it's all she could do to walk upstairs or from room to room.

Then, this afternoon, the chemo registration. The outcome is that she has two appointments next week - one on the afternoon of Tuesday 12 Jan, which is just a quick one to give her some test results, and then the actual chemo on Wednesday 13 Jan which will take most of the day.

So at feels like things are finally moving in a positive way.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year?

(Pic, left - mam on Christmas day 2008 - four months before the first sign that anything was wrong)
New year's eve makes me wierd at the best of some extent it's always felt like "enforced jollity" - you stay up late, drink and lark around because it seems to be 'the done thing'. Jools Holland doesn't even do his NYE programme live, it's done a couple of weeks in advance.

This time around I decided well in advance that this NYE would be different. In all likelihood it's going to be a pretty horrible year: mam has advanced ovarian cancer and has already had a series of ops just to find out what's wrong and 'stabilise' her overall condition, which have left her looking nigh-on skeletal, pale and incredibly fragile. This year she'll hopefully (if she's well enough) begin a course of fairly severe chemotherapy which we know will leave her feeling even more rough than she currently does. Me, my older sister and brother are stuck 200 miles away, have done and will do what we can given our leave allowances and the logistics of financing 400 mile round trips.

I guess there must be a decent chance that the chemo won't achieve much, given how far the cancer has spread already (from ovaries to bowel, stomach and bladder). And even if its success is limited, it might take so much out of mam that she decides not to persevere (I know there's already been one night in hospital recently when she felt so ill she thought she was 'slipping away'...turns out she was just dropping off into a deep sleep. What if the cancer spreads even further? What if she's not even well enough to start chemo in the first place? So there must also be a decent chance that 2010 will be the year we'll lose mam - and have to work out how we move forward, with an 82 year old dad who just wouldn't be able to cope with running a house, but is way too proud to move to a care home or even just have a home help.

All things taken into account, I just couldn't see why I should be looking forward to 2010 because there's a good chance it WON'T be a 'happy new year'.

So I spent NYE baking, and avoiding all the TV/radio coverage of impending celebrations, watched 'normal' tv then went to bed to read, turning the lights out at 11.20. Must've been just nodding off when fireworks were let off for midnight but they didn't last long and I nodded off again.

Woke up the following morning......and I don't feel like I missed out on anything.

Phoned mam in the evening of January 1st and she sounds really perky, just like "normal mam". My brother is travelling up on Sunday and taking her to her kidney ultrasound tests and another attempt at chemo reg on Mon.