Bear in mind that my days here in hospital begin around 2pm, when I came in, so writing this the morning after is still actually Day 0.
Day 0 is the day they give back the stem cells which were collected several weeks ago. They’re given back to ‘rescue’ the bone marrow from the effects of the heavy duty chemotherapy. This is quite amazing science, isn’t it? I mean how did they work it all out? Who did they experiment on to learn this?
A couple of years ago, I was temping, in between more permanent jobs. I worked for a while for the University of Nottingham, based at the Queens Medical Centre, which is part of Nottingham University Hospitals. I was working in a cancer research department, where during the first week, they very cautiously told me that they do research using animals, that the labs were secreted upstairs with very strict security. They asked me how I felt about it and I answered very honestly that I had mixed feelings about it, but felt ok to continue working there.
I felt then and still feel now that I am not sure it feels totally ethical to test drugs for humans on animals who have been made ill in order to experiment on them for human benefit. They don’t test drugs on rats for rats’ benefit!
Me being me, maybe “Curious Wildchild Braveheart” to coin my friend Mo’s naming, when there were quiet moments with work colleagues, I occasionally asked how they felt about it. This was in no way to criticise or judge, but to help me understand better all the different aspects and to work out how I felt and thought about it. This is often how I understand myself best – in communication with others. However, I could see that being asked to face that question was sometimes a bit uncomfortable for some. While others were very matter-of-fact accepting of the situation.
I don’t think they understood me at all. A few weeks later, after being highly praised for my work and seemingly trusted with keys to come in over a holiday period, I was summarily dismissed by the agency without an explanation that made any sense. I couldn’t even go back in to collect some things I had brought in – a plant, mug, chocolate bars in my drawer. I later heard from another temp who stayed on after I left that she’d overheard murmurs about me questioning colleagues, which had made the manager nervous about me and that’s why I was fired. No discussion, just reaction from fear that I might sabotage their work. By the way, I had no such intentions!
And now…? With cancer, how do I feel? Yes, I still feel the same, despite being glad that there is treatment which will give me possibly 10-15 years longer than without, and knowing that treatment would not exist without being tested, probably initially on animals. It’s not an easy one to square for me and harder I know for other family members who are committed to animal liberation and living kindly beside our fellow earth dwellers.
That’s the thought for today done! Comments, thoughts, feelings welcome!
Back to the medical stuff now… Around 5:45 yesterday, the nurse, Fay brought in a familiar-looking plastic pouch filled with pinky-red fluid – that’s my stem cells!
She hooked it up to my line and stayed with me while they went in, checking my blood pressure, temperature and oxygen saturation levels every ten minutes. When the first bag was close to being finished, she motioned to the “stem cell lady” (who incidentally looked more like she worked in a butcher’s shop) to unpack the next bag from its freezer box. I had two full-sized and one half-sized bag and stayed well throughout in terms of the obs monitoring.
I did feel quite shivery and woozy, not quite tired, but my brain wasn’t working quite as quickly as normal. Fay assured me this was quite normal, so I was ok with it. Feeling woozy is quite a nice state to be in actually, when you don’t have anything important to do, apart from resting.
My friend who had sat with me most of the day and stayed while I had the stem cells transplanted, left a little later to get dinner and allow me time to sleep, which I did for about three hours, uninterrupted – bliss! When I woke up around 10pm, the lovely nurse, Karen (my current facourite!) came in to do obs and see how I was doing. I felt really good, well rested and much more together than earlier.
In amongst all this, I had a couple of phone calls from my aunt and mum and some lovely Facebook messages from friends spurring me on. I’ve said to people that it’s ok to call but if I’m not up to it, I’ll say so or just not answer. I’m expecting people not to take it personally. 🙂
I slept well last night, with a small interruption around 11:45 to change the drip and a couple of times awake to pee or drink water – very dry mouth! But then I think I slept right through till about 7:30 this morning. Karen came in saying she’d left me to last to let me sleep. What a sweetheart!
As I mentioned, they check my weight daily and measure how much fluid I’m taking in – I have to write down every cup of water and tea I drink. And they measure how much water I pass. I also have to provide stool samples, which are definitely looser than normal, but so far not heavy diarrhoeia. They send the samples off to the lab to check for infections. With an about-to-be-nil immune system, this is vital.
I had gone for a brief wander round the ward outside of my private little room earlier in the afternoon, just to stretch and move. On my walk, I spotted the now-familiar noticeboards monitoring various infection control standards. Two of these are MRSA and C. Diff, both are potentially quite serious, particularly for older patients. Their MRSA chart showed only one incident this year, but the C. Diff showed one every couple of weeks. I’m just hoping I’m not going to be the ONE this week or next!
Ooooh! I was just about to publish this when a knock came at the door and in walked a whole procession of medical folk… Prof Russell, who I’ve not met before but seen him around in clinic; Dr Jenny Tam, the registrar who has been in to see me each day I’ve been in here; two senior house officers whose names elude me and finally the newest kid on the block – Helen, in her first three days of being a doctor out of medical school.
Prof. Russell did all the talking, very to-the-point, even began speaking before I’d put away my laptop. I asked him to wait. It was a bit of a non-event though, as what he told me to expect was nothing new and I had no further questions. The little gang trouped out as quickly as they’d trouped in. I’m glad though – nothing to concern myself about. All going to plan!