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Through The Mill ...


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I promised I’d update, so here goes…

My treatment is over, today. I’ve had  4 sessions of chemotherapy (over 3 months), 15 consecutive days of radio therapy, and 10 days of radio therapy to the brain as a preventative measure. The chemo sessions were severe, each lasted 10+ hours.

The good news:

My last scan showed a two-thirds reduction in tumour size - from 9cm down to 3cm. This is a fantastic result. I was only weeks away from death before treatment. Big thanks to my consultant - she delivered. And I even kept my hair, although its very patchy and not growing.

But I’m afraid that is the end of the good news…

Being only 55, and otherwise in excellent health, my consultant warned me she was going to nearly kill me to extend my life. And she wasn't joking. There is absolutely no way I would have been given, or would have survived, the harsh treatment I’ve received if I’d have been older, or with other conditions. Strangely, it wasn’t the chemo that flattened me. Before cancer I’d, like everyone else, known people with cancer, and the word chemotherapy frightened me. But in all honesty, it wasn’t too bad. A few days of nausea/lethargy after each treatment, then pretty much back to normal for 2 weeks. I got used to it. But the radio therapy, oh God the radio therapy. The only way to describe it is it’s a vicious monster that creeps up on you.

The first ten sessions, again, went Ok. I really began to think I was pretty much getting away with all this cancer treatment. But then during the last five days, everything changed.

I’d often wondered why cancer patients lost weight. Did the cancer stop them from eating or did they loose their appetite? In fact I asked my cancer specialist about this before treatment, and she was vague in her answer. Well the answer, for me anyway, is both.

I’m 6’ tall, and normally weigh 12.5 stone. Whilst not skinny, I’m slim, and have little leeway for weight loss. Well, let me tell you, I’ve lost 2+ stone in just 6 weeks and I’m still loosing it. I’m genuinely in real danger of going sub-10 stone right now, and for a guy with my height, that’s skeletal.

I just can’t eat. For someone who normally loves his food, not being able, or having the slightest interest in eating, anything, is horrible. The radio therapy has burned my insides and has severely narrowed my oesophagus. The acid reflux is horrific. Swallowing anything but iced water has been like swallowing pure acid. On top of that the radio therapy took away my appetite. Add to that the drug they gave me to counter the acid reflux didn’t work. It got so bad that after 2 weeks I admitted myself into hospital as an inpatient, was put on morphine to counter the pain, and was going downhill quite fast. Drips were being talked about, I was loosing.

I don’t know where on earth I found the impetus, perhaps it was the ineptitude of the junior doctors/agency nurses who seemed to do nothing except rouse me every 2 hours day and night for mundane and pointless tests, that made me decide that if I’m going to die, I’d rather do it at home without the sleep deprivation torture. So I discharged myself from hospital.

Cutting a very long story short, it wasn’t the cancer specialists that came to my rescue, but a lowly GP at my local practice who I’d never met before. After hearing my plight he said ‘I’m going to prescribe these; they are the Rolls-Royce of anti-acid drugs’. Word for word I replied ‘I hope so, because I’m loosing the battle here.’ It was true, and he could see it. Well, he was right. Within days the new tablets began to work. A month later the acid reflux had all but gone. The doc was my new hero, and is on my Christmas card list. The only reason I’m not eating at the moment is because the brain radio therapy has, again, stolen my appetite. But one battle at a time.

So that’s how things stand today. 50+ trips to hospital. Hundreds of hours in traffic and in waiting rooms. Pain, pain, pain. 1000+ pills popped. Scores of needles and injections. Numerous scans, measurements, fittings, meetings and consultations. And a knackered relationship, although I think she’ll forgive me eventually.

I’d love to end on a positive note, but as I lie here on the same settee for about the 100th day in a row, it’s hard to think of one. I have extended life, but I curse my survival instinct, and sometimes wish I’d bowed out with dignity before all this, because life right now isn’t a life. I said in my original (first) post that I wanted my old life back. Well I now know that’s impossible. I’m not the same person, and I know I never will be. But there is one constant to be had here… I will post again, and I hope next time from a happier prospective. Thanks very much for reading.

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