[CANCER] Treatment in the Midst of #COVID19

[CANCER] Treatment in the Midst of #COVID19

Some days I feel lucky – I am receiving excellent treatment on the NHS (and having had to pay for treatment in New Zealand, it made me extra grateful), and, so far as we know, there’s no progression at the moment, so I’m not having to have any of the super-high risk treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Work, Work, Work

I also made it back safely from New Zealand, to a house that I’ve been doing up through the last 2-3 years of treatment,so although I didn’t get any space to ‘breathe’ there, maybe there’s a bit of space to ‘breathe’ this summer in my own house, as we’re not coming out of lockdown that fast, right? I say time to ‘breathe’, but I’ve a book deadline, an academic article deadline, and a funding bid deadline, along with meetings with Occupational Health and various managers to work my way back into the classroom.

I managed a full set of hours this week, although the week has felt like ‘get up, breakfast, shower, work, walk, work, TV, bed’ and by Friday I was entirely running on steam, so very thankful when I realised that Monday is a bank holiday … then re-worked all my annual leave so that I have 4 day weeks running through til August, when I’ll take 3 weeks off … then the new academic year starts, and I’ve applied to work Mon-Thurs for that year – and we’ll see how that goes!

*I’ve been trying to get round to this blog post since Monday, just never had the energy!

Life, Life, Life

It’s a challenging time right now … existential dread hanging over us (whatever hopes we have about the life beyond this one), along with the practicalities … getting hold of food has been fun – it’s a readjustment from being able to pop down the shops for things when you fancy them – so when do an order (which needs to hit a minimum threshold) end up with random over orders, and, yes, amusingly, a 16kg bag of flour! Been testing out some of the new delivery options, and there’s certainly no shortage of food out there, although still a few odd gaps on the supermarket lists. Also, a cleaner may seem like a luxury, but has very much become a necessity – so now having to do that too (though maybe not as frequently or as thoroughly). And it’s sad to be missing the gym/swims, but as before I’ve been wandering round Reddish capturing my Pokemon … and finding random new little paths… and trying to make sure make time (mostly at the weekends, as I’m done by evenings) to talk to people, and hope to start up some postal niceties before too long.

Enjoying seeing this floating around social media – always approve of this… life is tough for us all at present:

With that in mind, I also think variations on this theme are important alongside:

Some say that now we’re all in the same boat … but I prefer the similar idea of we’re in the same storm but different boats – and some people’s are on plush ocean liners, and others are on leaky boats… The fact that coronavirus is on the world doesn’t mean that the fatigue and side-effects, etc. from the cancer have gone away …

Thankful that although I’m waking up several times, I am sleeping quite heavily – but I wouldn’t say I wake up feeling refreshed! Also thankful for friends and counsellor who remind me ‘look how tired everyone else is who were fit/healthy before COVID19 took over the world, and you were already run down, plus 5+ weeks on high alert in New Zealand wondering if you might be getting a plane at short notice, plus re-starting treatment, are you surprised that you’re running on vapour’!

Really enjoyed this song from church this morning – share the journey, share the load:

Treatment

So yes, after 10+ weeks off Herceptin, Perjeta and Denosumab, on Monday it was back in the oncology ward ready to restart treatment … and I guess the big thing in times of COVID19 was getting back into a space with other people! I already knew that my treatment was going to take longer than usual as the rate of infusion had to be slowed down to manage possible side effects to the heart, etc.

The procedure was:

  • Ring the ward from the car park, and come in when clearance given
  • Choose whether to wear a mask or not – some patients are, some aren’t …
  • Once buzzed in (the ward is always locked because of the cytotoxic drugs), there was a small table set up next to the door, for temperature checks, and normal obs, by a fully PPE’d up nurse.
  • Rather than being able to pick any chair, specific chairs were allocated, with every other chair out of use. The curtains in between the chairs that are usually left back against the wall were pulled forward on either side.
  • Nurses typically have aprons/gloves on, but masks have never been a thing – but now they are – at least for the time that we are being dealt with – and rather than having a mix of nurses, just one dealt with the medical side, though it’s still possible to have a decent chat with all the nurses within the space (and they were looking forward to the Tim-Tams and Whittakers chocolate I’d bought back).
  • The space, therefore, was still pretty cheerful, even though no one was able to bring others with them, and we were spaced out – even the chats with the pharmacist about what was needed for managing side-effects.
  • And otherwise, it was pretty smooth, back home pretty soon after.

We had a chat about the fact that I haven’t received a shielding letter (yet?) whereas others on the same medication as me have (but then so have people who had chemotherapy 7 years ago!). They said I was doing the right thing … staying at home, going out for socially distanced walks on the boring back streets (where there no reason for anyone else much to be there), and getting my food delivered. Oncologist will write a letter if needed to support this…

I was thankful that results from bloods/X-Rays from New Zealand finally came through on Monday, and on Tuesday got an email from my oncologist’s secretary saying that there was nothing on them that was concerning my oncologist… so the chest pains are almost certainly muscular, so I’ll keep going with the anti-inflammatories and painkillers (though both the pharmacist and the UK GP were a bit gobsmacked at the strength of drugs I’d been given in New Zealand – celecoxib and tramadol…

Side effects as ever are fun … nausea, fatigue, mouth ulcers, bubbling skin … but we try and Keep Calm and Carry On (whilst seeking to take/keep some of the pressure off!) …

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