On Monday 19th September, I was back on the chemo ward for part two of cycle four. I went through all the regular checks, and this week my veins were well behaved for my wonderful nurse! However, my blood caused her a bit of trouble when she tried to do my routine blood tests. But the incredible nurses have lots of tricks up their sleeves to solve problems. Instead of trying to fill up each vial with blood, she attached a syringe to my cannula and took all of the blood she needed. She then put my blood in each vial. Although she got a cannula in on the first go, I will still consider putting the PICC line in the future, if my veins keeping playing up.
When the doctor came to see me, we spoke about how the week had been and how I was feeling. Unfortunately, I got some news that instantly shook me. On Monday 12th September, my CA 125 was taken and it came back at 333 (this is very high). The last time it had been taken was before my operation and it was at 16. This was a confusing result because three days prior to this I had a CT scan, which revealed no sign of cancer, but some fluid on the outer lining of my right lung. She explained to me that they were going to repeat my CA 125 and depending on this result they would possibly do another scan to see what was going on. She told me that later in the day the professor in charge of my chemo would come and see me to explain more. When he came to see me, he explained that they thought the CA 125 reading was high because of a plural effusion that I had developed after my operation. He explained to me that a build up of fluid that is not cancerous could cause a CA 125 reading to increase. He told me that we just had to wait for the new CA 125 reading the next day, and if it had decreased there would be no need for a repeat scan.
If I am being wholeheartedly honest, in a split second the mantra about accepting bumps along this road, that I have tried so hard to follow went out of the window. I was in complete disarray. All I could think of and say were negative things, and no matter what people said to me, I found it very hard to bring myself back to a clear state of mind. However, with the support of the medical team, my family, and my friends Chloe and Rosie, who visited the chemo ward during their lunch break, I managed to calm down and focus on having my chemo. On Tuesday 13th September, I got good news from the chemo ward! My CA 125 had gone down to 192, and the increase in this level was due to the plural effusion as suspected. There is no need to repeat my CT scan and my chemo is going ahead as planned. My CA 125 will be checked each week.
Time to get back to chemo. Once my bloods came back, my cooling cap was prepared and my chemo got underway. I had to stay two hours extra because I was low on magnesium and the doctor wanted to administer intravenous magnesium. I had my usual foot massage, and it was wonderful to spend time with my friends Chloe and Rosie, who as I said gave up their lunch breaks to be with me on the chemo ward. After a slightly longer session, it was time to head off home and put my feet up.
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, the good news about the CA 125 level came on Tuesday 20th September, so I did find myself getting very anxious until the phone call came. Once I had heard the good news, I could breath a sigh of relief. By way of celebrating this good news, and given that I was feeling well, I decided to go out to a local restaurant with my dad for some lunch. This was a huge thing for me to do because I had never gone out the day after a chemo session, apart from once when I had to go back to hospital for a blood transfusion and a CT scan. Whilst we were out, we met my friend Rosie’s wonderful grandma (see the photo below), who is a super star at selling Finding Cyril bands!
Unfortunately, when we got home I started to get hot and cold and my temperature went up. This meant a visit to A and E because when you are on chemo you have to be checked if your temperature is 38°C or more. I am sure I am speaking for everybody when I say I hate going to A and E, and this just felt even worse after having such a wonderful morning. My dad and my amazing cousin David, who is like my big brother, came with me. My blood tests and X-Ray were normal, but the decision was made to treat it like an infection. Therefore, I was given intravenous paracetamol, intravenous antibiotics, fluids and then sent home with more antibiotics. We ended up being in A and E for seven hours because they would not let me home until my heart rate lowered. I am known to have a high heart rate, but for some reason it seems to go through the roof when I visit A and E! As you can see below I documented the A and E visit with a photo!
This visit to A and E took me back to the 3rd June. On this day, I made my second visit to A and E where a CT scan revealed a concerning swelling on my right ovary. This memory came back to me because as was lying in the cubicle opposite the one that I was in on the 3rd June. As I was lying down being given fluids, I was looking at the other bed and recalling the anxiety, fear and pain I felt after hearing the CT scan result and waiting for my transfer to the Royal Marsden. Being opposite this bay (see the photo below) spurred me on to enquire about the amazing nurse who looked after me that day, and came with me when I was transferred to the Royal Marsden. It only took asking a few nurses to find her, and on Friday 23rd September I got to talk to her on the phone! There has not been a day when I have not thought about this nurse. She comforted me from the moment the scan result was revealed. She came with me in the cab to the Marsden and held my hand the whole way. I will be forever thankful to her, and she will always have a very special place in my heart because of the care and compassion that she showed me at a very difficult time.
So this week has been a real challenge for me physically and emotionally. I had the worry about my tumour markers, a visit to A and E, I am a lot weaker from chemo, I am full of mixed emotions and I am still recovering from my operation. This has all contributed to my anxiety levels rising this week (I can sense it because my heart constantly feels like it is popping out of my chest!). To deal with this anxiety I have taken it very easy. I have had two amazing facials by my auntie Roz, and I have had a wonderful reflexology session at Chai Cancer Care. Messages of encouragement from friends and family have also boosted me (as they always do). Below you can see some of the beautiful photos that my friend Anna sent me from Italy that instantly put a smile on my face, and a photo from cousin’s fiancé Gemma showing me how well she is doing with selling her Finding Cyril bands to help raise funds for the Royal Marsden! These things have helped but I have still found myself panicking when the thermometer goes in my ear because I worry that I will find myself back in A and E. However, the antibiotics seem to be kicking in!
As I move into next week, I hope that I will have more ups than downs, but I need to keep reminding myself that these ups and downs are normal when fighting ‘Cyril,’ so if a low moment occurs I have to accept it, allow it to happen and then find ways to deal with it, just like I tried to do this week. I have to remember that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.