Cancer – Prognosis and Treatment Plan

Sorry for the delay in posting but on some days I don’t feel I have the energy to do that much. Anyway, I’ll try to bring it all more up-to-date.

Last Wednesday I had my appointment with the Oncology doctor. Matthew came with me, it definitely helps not being on your own. It was strange going into Oncology as it’s the part of the hospital where I worked when I was casualty porter. It looks the same from the outside but inside is all new and shiny (anyway a lot shinier than when I worked there).

In the room with the doctor was one of the lung cancer nurses and a nurse who is carrying out an evaluation of a new cancer drug.

The doctor took me through the in and outs of chemotherapy, that I would start off by having two drugs injected and eight days later I would have one of them again. After that there would be a period of thirteen days to recuperate before going through the cycle again. I think the course is three times through this cycle. Then everything  would be evaluated (as it would be throughout the treatment).

I had a few questions:

  1. How effective is chemotherapy? I didn’t really end up with a clear answer to this. I can see why – cancer comes in different types and attacks different organs and chemotherapy doesn’t work with everyone.
  2. What’s the prognosis for what I have? Without chemo I would probably not last longer than a number of months and possibly a year or so. With chemo (if it works) I could get another four or five months. That was a bit of a surprise but not totally unexpected.
  3. What are the negatives around chemo? It doesn’t work on everybody. People react differently, some have no problem with it while others get very sick. Also as it is attacking the cancer cells it also attacks the good cells, resulting in a lowering of resistance to any illnesses which are around.

At  the time I sort of thought, “What choice do I have”, so I said I would go ahead with it. A date was set, which is tomorrow, 24th August. After a few more tests – blood, height weight etc. Matthew ran me home. Royal_Lancaster_InfirmaryI wasn’t keen on telling the family but, when I told Denise, she wasn’t very surprised. Matthew seemed to take it well but Anna was upset at the news.

Later in the day Denise spoke to one of the lung cancer nurses. My breathing wasn’t so hot at the time (it comes and goes) and I was also coughing quite a bit. So Denise asked her if there was anything that might help. She said that, for the cough, it would just be cough medicine as there wasn’t anything in particular that they would be able to give me. But, for the breathlessness a medicine called Oramorph could help.

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Denise rang the GP surgery (see how I’m getting out of doing things), and later in the day Sam went and picked up the prescription from the pharmacy. Looking at the bottle when he came home I realised that what I had been prescribed was Morphine.

It’s quite difficult in my position as I am a recovering alcoholic and addict though I’ve never tried heroin or morphine (basically the same drug except that heroin is more potent weight for weight). But I know I’m going to need some kind of pain relief as things move on so, all-in-all, I’ll do what they tell me and take what they give me to take. I know this will be frowned upon by some twelve steppers but I don’t intend to be a martyr for anyone.

But, overall, I am feeling positive about things; not that I’m likely to buck the system but rather that we will deal with what comes along as it comes along and try to make the most of whatever time we have.

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Sam, Me, Denise with Rosie and Anna plus Poppy

Until my next post, which I will try to get out a bit more speedily than this one, thanks for reading this.

The Diagnosis

Thanks for all the Messages of Support

It was quite touching to read all the positive messages in response to my previous post, both on my blog and on Facebook. They made me feel warmly cared for. I’m writing this here as I don’t think I would have the energy to reply individually to everyone. Thank you to everyone.

What I hadn’t realised, until today, was that there isn’t a definitive diagnosis of cancer until a biopsy has been done.

The Camera

A week ago today was my appointment to have a camera passed down my windpipe into my lung to get a closeup of the tumour; at the same time a swab would be taken to enable the biopsy.

I was taken into a room in Endoscopy where there were, as far as I could tell, two consultants and several nurses, plus a few thousand pounds worth of sophisticated electronic equipment. A nurse carefully explained what was going to happen then one of the consultants inserted a needle into the back of my hand, taped it in place, and injected me with a sedative. I didn’t feel any drowsiness or loss of consciousness but, looking back, after having some sort of anaesthetic sprayed into the back of my throat and a sort of gag fastened in my mouth, all I can remember about the following hour (I think they said that’s how long it took), is every so often feeling I was choking and a nurse using a suction device in my mouth to get rid of whatever was there. I don’t remember the camera being inserted or anything anyone said.

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A room something like the one I was in

Afterwards I was wheeled into another room and left to recover for about an hour and a half before being offered a drink and something to eat.

The staff were great; in fact the staff at the RLI have been fantastic right through, clearly describing what was going to happen and making me feel as though they were there to help me as much as possible.

Then Ric came to drive me home.

The Follow Up

Today was the follow up meeting to get the results of the biopsy and to find out what would happen next. I had arranged for Matthew to take me and he took some time off work to do so.

The doctor I saw was one of those who had been there the week before, in fact the one who had given me the sedative. He started by saying that the news was not that good; in fact what he meant was that the biopsy had confirmed it was cancer, something I thought had already been confirmed. It was then that he explained that a final diagnosis couldn’t be made until an actual biopsy had been performed. He told me that the type of cancer I had was ‘non-small cell lung cancer’ (NSCLC) which is by far the most common type of lung cancer and is slower spreading than small cell lung cancer, and that the treatment which would be offered would be chemotherapy (surgery was out because of the secondary cancer in my liver). I am not unhappy about this as surgery is something that scares me. He had made an appointment for me to see a doctor in oncology who would explain what chemotherapy entailed and offer it to me. I will, of course, accept.

Matthew was great, calm and supportive and helping me feel I wasn’t on my own. Thanks Matthew.

Will write more tomorrow.

1972 – Lou Reed, Lou Reed

Lancaster in the 70s was very different from how it is now – less alternative, fewer students, more traditional. But it had one thing we don’t have now, a really good indoor market. And in the market was the best record shop around, Ear Ere. 4426480

That’s where I bought my copy of Lou Reed. As far as I can remember Ear Ere was originally up on the balcony overlooking the market. You could go in and browse the albums, listen on headphones, and buy whatever you wanted – and I wanted all of them!

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This is when Christine and I lived on Havelock Street, before we moved to Golgotha Village. I can’t remember if it was before or after Matthew was born, but it was definitely around the time. So I took it home and listened to it…….. and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t like the Velvet Underground stuff and felt as though he didn’t really know where he was going without the band. And he had a strange assortment of backing musicians (Steve Howe! Rick Wakeman!). Not exactly cutting edge rock musicians. So I took it back, told them I didn’t like it, and they let me take something else. They were great like that at Ear Ere. I can’t remember what I swapped it for. Continue reading