Last chemo

Last you heard I was in Atherton hospital coping with a small bowel obstruction (SBO). I’m fine now, and really sorry about the big gap in entries here. So much has been happening!

I was out that Sunday afternoon and happier than ever to be home with my family, except that almost exactly the same thing happened on the next Friday evening. After an unpleasant night of sickness the blockage cleared at home on Saturday morning while I was doing “cat pose” (yoga), so I didn’t go in to hospital. However, I battled dehydration all weekend and had to stay in bed.

There was time for some reading and I learnt that adhesions occur in probably 90% of people after abdominal surgery. It’s not just sticky intestines, but also the development of thickened bands spiralling around them. Not everyone with adhesions has trouble, but SBO is very common. There’s a surgical treatment, but obviously this is likely to lead to more adhesions, so it would be a last resort. I found one mention of a physical manipulation technique (massage) available for a price in the US (Wurn Technique) but none of the doctors I’ve asked could comment on it. Small meals might help, but there’s not much help offered for anything else to do, or not do, for preventing SBO 😦 I lost 2kg over the 3 week cycle, presumably due to 2 weekends of complete starvation.

At Monday’s blood test my white cell count was rather low and the Mater oncologists phoned to suggest I do another blood test next morning. On Tuesday my neutrophyl count had risen a little so now the doctors said OK come on down. Therefore this cycle (my last) is delayed by just one day. I was pretty busy arranging and reorganising all my travel plans, but here I am in Brisbane now, with Evan to look after me.

Thursday’s IV chemo went well but predictably after Friday’s tight bellyful of IP chemo, my stoma prolapsed again. By the way, just for the complete experience, I’d had a week of stoma retraction – another complication. This is where the stoma disappears under the level of the belly wall, which would be wonderful except that it’s impossible to seal up the appliances against it and the result is painful burnt skin around the area. Because of this problem I was almost looking forward to the prolapse, but I had a rough evening on Friday wrestling with it. I’m managing again now and have had a really lovely time this weekend with Evan, walking and visiting West End and the Art Gallery.

Here are a few little things I might not have mentioned before:

  • To decorate our flat in Brisbane, I have a small curtain signed with messages from friends and family (Janet’s idea). What a cheer-up!
  • Each chemo trip I enjoy a personal lesson in mindfulness meditation by an amazing Occupational Therapist at the Mater. I’m still marvelling at the luck that brought me this gift.
  • Reg Leonard House is managed by a saint (or is she an angel?) who has been a terrific help.
  • I still have the thinnest of (nearly invisible) eyebrows – it is so weird!
  • I can jump puddles and walk straight up hills (slowly) again now 🙂

My LAST CHEMO session is on Thursday – what a milestone!!

As for what next, I will come to Brisbane again in July for surgery to reverse the ileostomy and remove the IP port.

The Oncology specialist has recommended that I join a research trial of 900 women with ovarian, fallopian tube and cervical cancer across 14 countries to test the anti-angiogenesis drug, Pazopanib. He says it is the up and coming best treatment according to all the tests so far. Sorry to have broken into medi-speak. I am still reading all about the trial and asking my millions of questions. My ongoing care and check-ups will depend on my decision about the trial, so there’s lots for me to think about and I’ll let you know more later.

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