With perfect timing, we arrived at hospital about 10 minutes before shift change, so had to wait whilst everything was handed over to the one Registrar who’d be in charge of four cancer wards for the night, poor kid. As there’s a dedicated cancer hospital in Newcastle, there’s no need to go via A&E, you just turn up at the ward the duty nurse tells you to, so it’s all very straightforward. The ward Healthcare Assistant directed us to the Day Room, where we sat and watched Big Brother, while I occasionally honked in to the cardboard cowboy hat the the HCA had kindly provided.
As the show ended, we could hear a patient arguing with a nurse about his IV line that had ‘fallen out’. He stomped in to the Day Room in a right mood, kicking a coffee table out of his way as he went, clearly aggrieved at the nurse not accepting his nonsense as gospel truth. A trailer for an upcoming show came on telly. “Wadda leurda SHITE!” he shouted at it. A & I rolled our eyes at each other. The pyjama’d radgie turned to A and asked if we were watching the show that had just started and if not, would he mind turning the TV to channel 14? Naturally, I expected channel 14 to be showing Top Gear or MMA cage fighting or some other leurda SHITE, but it was in fact a programme about life in the countryside. Tales of getting fibre optic broadband to rural cheese shops and giving lambs a face wash for market visibly calmed the radge. Once done, he tottered off to bed, telling us “Eeeh, I love all a that country stuff, me. Countryfile, sheepdogs and that.” So there you go, just because you use a shower as an excuse to pull out your IV, and enjoy kicking innocent furniture, doesn’t mean the heart of a bucolic milkmaid doesn’t beat within.
Whilst this was going on, Nuno the doctor with the excessive case load had arrived in his jaunty purple scrubs to assess me. He declared that all the puking had left me dehydrated, there was a distinct risk I’d chuck up the evening dose of anti seizure meds without us knowing how much had been absorbed and I’d need to stay the night for rehydration and for anti seizure and different anti emetic drugs to be administered by IV.
A room was quickly found for me, and the drip set up, which provided almost instant, blessed relief from the spewing. After an hour or two I was able to risk a glass of water and even managed to keep it down.
The next morning the debate centred on whether to risk an oral dose of anti seizure meds or stick with IV, and what to do about the anti emetics. We were all in agreement that the new anti emetic worked a treat, but as nurse Wayne and his shadow, student nurse Hannah pointed out, it’s notorious for bunging you up, and can’t be used long term.
Maybe this happens to everyone, but it happens to me a lot. You make jokes, or say things which seem perfectly reasonable to you, but everyone just looks at you like you’ve just landed from Mars. This whole hospital stay was like that.
Me: So you’re asking me to choose an end? Stop puking or stop pooing? The one that is currently uncontrollable or the one that may have difficulties in a few days. Yeah, I’ll take instant gratification every time, cheers.
W&H: [look at me like I’ve just landed from Mars]
The first proper test of the anti-emetic was a light breakfast followed by a scheduled MRI. Noise loud enough to make you vibrate, coupled with the first food I’d taken on board in 24 hours, all within a very confined space? Last time I’d seen the MRI lads, I bled all over their floor. Could I go one better and fill their £multi-million tube with partially digested cornflakes and orange juice? Go hard or go home. Luckily no puke was forthcoming, the Dettol stayed in the cupboard, and I’ve not been barred out of the imaging suite for life. Yet.
Back upstairs on the ward, cheery consultant Ahmed was on his rounds.
Ahmed: PCV eh? *whistling intake of breath* Yeah, that’s a rough one. You did the right thing coming in. You can’t risk a seizure.
Me: The Ted Dansontron seems to work well though.. [I meant Ondansetron, the successful anti-emetic. It’s entirely my sister’s fault that I kept getting the name wrong. She calls it that for a joke.]
Ahmed: Ted… Ondansetron? [looks at me like I just landed from Mars] Good, but you can’t use it long term, it bungs you up something chronic.
Me: *nods sagely and resolves to start stockpiling Senna tablets*
We agreed to risk taking the morning anti-seizure drugs orally, and I’d stay for most of the day to see how the second dose of chemo drugs went. It was, to be honest, slightly disconcerting to be told by a Consultant Oncologist that my type of chemo is ‘rough’, but despite the puking, it still doesn’t seem bad to me so far.
Not long after, Paula, my consultant oncologist popped by to visit. After bigging up the fashionable way I’m dealing with baldness in a letter to the GP, I was sorry to disappoint her by wearing my distinctly unstylish bucket like sleep cap when she arrived. She had already reviewed the MRI images and said it all looked good – in fact improved from the ‘before’ photo taken pre-radiotherapy, as most of the swelling caused by the biopsy had now gone down. Poor Paula apologised profusely my reaction to the Procarbazine.
Paula: I’m SO sorry we made you feel crap by giving you an anti emetic that was less than bloody useless!
Me: Ah, no bother. Worse things happen at sea.
Paula: [looks at me like I just landed from Mars]
Me: And the Ted, I mean Ondansetron is working so we’re all sorted now.
Paula: OK, let’s continue with that for this cycle, but be warned, it bungs you right up.
After Paula left, I suddenly had a flashback: an image of a perfectly undigested ‘less than bloody useless’ anti-emetic, Metclopramide, floating in a toilet bowl; I’d been prescribed it for hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) when pregnant with E, nearly 15 years ago. If only I’d remembered that a few days ago, this whole episode could have been avoided. Sigh.
Around lunchtime, I took the Procarbazine, and everyone watched to see if I’d start erupting like a vomit geyser again. While we waited, a lady with a deep and abiding interest in labyrinths (NOT mazes they are NOT the same) came and did some reflexology, the pharmacist reviewed my meds and completely lost all composure at me repeatedly calling the drug Ted Dansontron. I aim to please. Naturally, she made sure to point out that it causes constipation. Got it.
There were also several lovely chats with the Healthcare Assistants and Hannah the student nurse. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how much I love and am grateful for the NHS and the people within it, who spend all day every day giving everything to their patients despite some serious piss taking by politicians.
There were some near misses, and as we approached the puke danger window of 4-5 hours after taking the Procarbazine, Wayne and I agreed that I’d stay for tea, and if that didn’t come back up again, I could go home for that night.
Wayne: Sorry for the delay, this is the last ward in the hospital to get meals, so they tend to come later than normal.
Me: Oh! I did wonder why breakfast was at 9.30, not 5am like other hospitals. I just thought you were a really laid back ward and being nice, just letting everyone chill out and have a bit of a lie in because we’ve all got cancer.
Wayne & Hannah: *collapse in a fit of giggles* LAID BACK! Ha ha ha! [look at me like I’ve just landed from Mars]
At that point A&E arrived to visit, and complained that they could hear me laughing from outside the ward. Another dose of Ted Dansontron to be on the safe side and we were off.
Sorry to leave you on a cliffhanger last time. I did intend to write and publish this post a day or two after the last one, but am fairly easily distracted at the moment, and really fucking lazy at the best of times. To reassure anyone worried, the remainder of the 10 days of Procarbazine passed without incident. At worst, I felt slightly hungover. Not like a OHMYGODI’MNEVERDRINKINGAGAINLIKEEVEREVERAGAIN.MYLIVEREXPLODED. hangover, just ‘oof, probably had a couple too many last night, maybe a coke and a croissant would sort it out’ type hangover. Tired, a bit bleurgh, but essentially OK.
And the Ted Dansontron? Didn’t bung me up at all. Both ends in full working order! What it did do however, was give me some weird dreams. I don’t remember the dreams, but each day I woke up with a burning, but very random question. For the record, some were:
- How big is the world’s tiniest violin?
- Did the Wee Pappa Girl Rappers go to the Women’s march?
- What exactly, was Chiang Kai-Shek’s deal?
- Does the Queen get excessively waxy ears?
[looks at self like I just landed from Mars]