Monday 10 – Tuesday 11 June 2019
Monday the tenth of June was my birthday. I was woken to an amazing fruit salad and a delicious loaf made of oats, apple, carrot, sultanas and maple syrup.
I was feeling tired, but fairly good in the morning. I had an appointment at 9:00 so I headed out to that, after which I spoke to my mum on the phone, and a few other people. Then I settled down to write to my integrative physician, as I had a few questions about my supplemental protocol.
As I got into the afternoon I was starting to feel a bit under the weather, slightly dizzy and light headed. We had to pop out briefly after collecting the girls from school, as we needed to get some medicine for a sick chicken. We kept two chickens in the back end of the garden, but one of them had started gasping and hadn’t been looking well for a couple of days. It looked like it could have been down to a type of worm, so we drove to a farmers’ supplies store to get some worming medication. Whilst at the store I found that I was feeling more and more unstable, so I was glad to get home and chill out for a bit.
Pia mixed the worming medicine with some chicken food and tried to feed it to our sick bird. Unfortunately she promptly died.
When it came time for dinner, I tried to sit at the table but started feeling unwell after a minute or two and had to lie down on the sofa. I was eventually able to eat whilst slouching. I even had some incredible frozen dessert which was made from blended cashew nuts and homemade berry sorbet.
After eating some of this, I started to feel shivery, which I thought may have just been from having eaten something cold. However my temperature had risen to over 37 C. Whilst I would not normally blink an eyelid at this, I knew that an elevated temperature in a chemo patient is a cause for concern as there’s a risk that it could be caused by an infection. Chemo patients often have low white blood cell counts, in which cases infections can be particularly dangerous if not treated immediately.
I monitored my temperature and it went up to 38 C, then down a little, then back up over 38 C again. At this point I called my oncology team’s emergency number. They advised me to get in to see them straight away. Unfortunately it would have taken me an hour or more to reach them in Bristol, so we agreed that I would go to accident and emergency in Bath as it would be less than half the journey time.
It was after 23:00 at this point. One of our friends came over shortly after to stay with the girls and Pia drove me through dark wet roads to Bath. We arrived after midnight.
When I got to reception, I found that the nurse I had spoken to in Bristol had called ahead to Bath to let them know to expect me. They were all ready and I was walked straight through to a bay in their high care section. My temperature had already started to come down at this point, but they wasted no time in treating me on precaution for neutropenic sepsis, a condition in which a patient’s neutrophils (the white blood cells which act as the body’s first line of defence) are depleted and there is suspected infection. This meant an intravenous dose of high-strength antibiotics and some other IV fluids. Despite having a PICC line, the nurse dealing with me insisted on sticking a cannula in my wrist. It was nicely done but perhaps unnecessary.
After several hours in A&E, I was sent for a chest x-ray and then moved to the hospital’s chemo ward where they had found a bed for me for the night. The good news was that my neutrophils had a phenomenal reading of 7.5 (anything above 1 is considered adequate) and signs of infection were normal. This was by far the highest my neutrophils had been since I’d started having full blood counts taken a few weeks earlier. I’m sure it was down to the Filgrastim injections that I had been taking since day four of the cycle.
Pia drove home after I’d settled down, around 5:00. After getting home, she didn’t get much rest before having to get up and get the girls ready for school. I slept a little, but not much, and was pretty exhausted in the morning.
Around mid morning, one of Bath’s consultant oncologists came to see me. He was happy that I could go home and said that I’d done the right thing to come in and get checked out, given my symptoms. He suggested that the fever may have been a side effect of Bleomycin.
After a nurse had removed my cannula, Pia came to collect me, a bit after midday. We got home and had something to eat. I was fortunate enough to be able to have a sleep on the sofa after that, but Pia had to head straight out to collect the girls and go to town for an appointment.
After I woke, a whole comedy of errors ensued after our last remaining chicken was chased out of our garden by a predatory neighbourhood cat, and ended up running along the road trying to find a safe haven. I was feeling quite delirious but was home alone and had to try to deal with the situation myself. It took some time, and involved me losing my glasses in the overgrowth of a vacant lot, but I eventually managed to get our chicken back to safety (and then recover my glasses). I won’t go into any more detail, but it was one of those ridiculous scenarios in which whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. A happy result at least.
When Pia got home she was utterly exhausted. We were all in bed by 21:00, badly in need of some rest.