A detour from the plan

September 22, 2010

When I first started out on my chemotherapy journey it sounded reasonably straightforward – 8 times chemotherapy at 14 day intervals. I immediately went home and plotted the dates in the calendar with a big star on the final date. I guess I was naive, or maybe I have just been unlucky, but those dates have been changed so often now that I have more or less lost track….

Basically the problem is that chemotherapy can’t distinguish between the good cells and the bad cells, so the good ones take a hammering along with the nasties. While this is irritating in terms of hair, digestive tract etc., it is pretty serious with regard to the white blood cells, which popularly speaking constitute the immune system. The white blood cells get killed off by the chemotherapy but then gradually increase again ready for the next chemo treatment 14 days later. However in my case the counts have generally been low and already chemo #3 was postponed a week to give them a chance to get better. The problem with a low count is that not only are you more susceptible to infections, but if you get one the body isn’t able to fight it by itself.

The last time I wrote chemo #6 had just been postponed by a week due to a recurring infection at my catheter entry point, so Friday 10 September was again blood test and doctor consultation day. The infection wasn’t completely cleared and it turned out that my white blood count was even worse than the previous week, but since the effectiveness of my chemo is dependent on it being administered regularly, the Doctor decided that we needed to go ahead with it on Monday 13th regardless, but with caution that I needed to be extra paranoid about infections.

During the course of that Friday evening I developed a pain in my neck at the place where my catheter tube enters the main vein (under the skin) and it was a bit swollen. But it wasn’t red and my temperature was normal, so we decided to wait until the next day to see how it developed. However I woke up at 1am shivering and soon discovered that my temperature was 40.3°, so after a quick call to the duty doctor, we rushed off to the hospital. It turned out that the infection had spread up the catheter and into my blood. This would be bad news for anyone, but is definitely not good when you have a non-existent immune system!

My temperature hovered around 40 degrees for the next 48 hours. On Saturday evening they decided to remove the catheter which made sense. The only problem was that from then on I had to have all the fluids, antibiotics and when the time came, chemo, into a vein in my arm – and my veins are not great (the reason I had the catheter in the first place) so that wasn’t a lot of fun! On Monday morning they got the results on the test on the catheter and discovered the bacteria causing the problem was resistant to the broad spectrum antibiotics I had been getting, so then adjusted to the right ones and by Tuesday morning my temperature was back to normal. With the infection under control, they decided to go ahead with the chemo on Wednesday, which immediately made my temperature shoot back up over 40 degrees, resulting in a new batch of blood tests and x-rays, but it seems that it was just a reaction to the chemo, and was back down again on Thursday. However I had to stay in hospital until Monday so as to complete the course of antibiotics (which were administered intravenously).

So it has been a bit of a tough time since I last posted! But there have been high points. It was my birthday last Tuesday. I woke in the morning (they woke me each day at 6am for my first dose of antibiotics) with a pounding headache and feeling very depressed that this was probably going to be the worst birthday ever. But then, a little after 7am, my daughter stuck her head round the door, which was a total shock (I thought for a moment I was hallucinating!). She and my son and my husband  waved to me to come out and then lead me to the staff meeting room where they had set up for a birthday breakfast with flags, and presents and all the works! It made me cry – that really is love! During the rest of the day I got lots of birthday wishes on facebook, phone, sms etc – plus from all the hospital staff and my family came back in the evening for a birthday dinner in the hospital canteen. I think it probably turned out to be one of the best, if somewhat unconventional, birthdays I have ever had!

I’m home again now and feeling a lot better, though very wobbly!


5 Responses to “A detour from the plan”

  1. Colin Says:

    Do you know what? I can’t read your posts without getting a lump in my throat. Can you please stop doing that, cos I’m at work and it’s not a great look for me 😀

    But in all seriousness, I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a tough time wiht chemo, but there are just two more left so there is an end in sight. Let’s hope that your body holds out through this next month and then returns to strength soon.

    I’m only now getting back to exercise after my radiotherapy – I think that took more out of me than I expected, but the message to hold on to, Kirsten, is that I AM BACK OUT THERE RUNNING (sorry for shouting) after all that treatment, and my Hodgkin’s is history, just as yours will be too.

    Look after yourself
    Colin @365er

  2. rozzibee Says:

    I did that too! I had July 28th marked as my final chemo, but due to pneumonia and a week in hospital, that wasn’t the case! x

    • Kirsten Says:

      Hi Roz, I’m so glad you posted a comment because otherwise I wouldn’t have found your blog! It’s going to take me some time to go through it all but I relate so much to what I have read so far! Congratulations on your remission and I look forward to following your progress….

  3. […] 2010 really was an annus horribilis for the Ejlskov Jensens!). The third week was when I was in hospital with septicaemia in September. What amazes me about that is that I only had one totally running free week at that point, despite […]

  4. […] seriously ill with septicaemia thanks to having a compromised immune system due to the chemo.  As I wrote at the time it was a special day thanks to my husband and kids who pulled out all the stops to spoil me. […]

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