It’s been a while again, but I want to thank everyone for their well wishes regarding the treatment in Bristol. The first one went well, and I’m due to go for the next on Thursday and Friday this week. The process of the treatment was simpler than I had thought it would be, and was very relaxed- each day I arrive, get hooked up to the machine, and just sit in the chair (a nice one like the dentist’s) and wait for the machine to do its thing.
All whilst looking incredibly chic in my sunglasses and bobble hat! We went for coffee after the treatment on one of the days, and the photo below was the result of my ‘cool’ outfit and a very large plant. Whoever knew Bristol Royal Infirmary was so exotic?
Another update: I’m no longer an inpatient!!!!! I am finally home, though having to return to TCT daily for my infusions, I still need treatment for the CMV. Thankfully my bloodwork is showing the drugs ae taking an effect, so it’s all good.
The final thing I touched upon during my last ‘update’ blog was my hair. It continued to fall out over the past few weeks, so I have now shaved it off. And I’m not too upset. The transition from patchy-fally-outy to skinheadish is definitely a positive one. I may still be devastated that it has fallen out, but I’m glad I won’t have hair all over the place any more. Please remember: my being bald doesn’t mean I am suddenly more ill, or have cancer again. It’s just become a part of my post-transplant journey, something all transplantees will agree is weird, unpredictable and just plain doesn’t make sense most of the time. I’m still ill, but not. It’s a bit of a confusing place to be, this recovery phase and even more confusing to try and explain. Also, being bald DOES NOT mean I look like Sinead O’Connor. Or any other bald woman. Because I really don’t, you know except for the fact we have no hair.
I’m glad this next week is going to be a busy one, with Bristol, TCT Cardiff every day, being in uni and assignment hand ins because it’s also the anniversary of the week I found out I’d relapsed. Which means a year has gone by already. Can you believe a whole year has gone by? I’m struggling to, because though I feel like forever has passed by since everything went up sh*t creek, a year seems like such a long portion of time to know I’ve been in this way for. I may talk more about it later in the week. I don’t know. Urgh. And that means 2 years since diagnosis is impending, but also the mark of me being a year in remission (YAY)
There will be a full-on post coming about it soon, but get your Santa costumes, tinsel and baubles and be ready to run to beat blood cancer!
It’s going to be on the Saturday 12th December at 10am from the Olive Tree near the Oasis in Croesyceiliog, in association with Griffithstown Harriers and in aid of Bloodwise. It’s going to be fun for all, and at only 2 miles the whole family will be able to get involved! It’s only £5 to register and I can’t think of an easier way to get on Santa’s good list…
Keep your eyes peeled for more information over the next few days, but if you’re already sold, you can sign up at https://bloodwise.org.uk/event-challenges/run/family-santa-runl
PS. A HUGE thank you to the Knitting Cwtch at Llantarnam Grange for their amazing donation of hand knitted hats. The skill and craftsmanship that has gone into them is beyond belief, as is the number! There are hats going to the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital, Teenage Cancer Trust Cardiff and the Oncology Centre in Bristol. I will post some pictures of them being modelled when I can!
Today I am officially 6 months and one week post transplant. Counting the weeks I know 27 have passed. A quick search on my phone tells me that it was 187 days I received new life, but that could be lies seeing as I stopped counting days at 100.
I meant to write a post on the actual six month, but hospital admissions got in the way of that, and what is a blog unless you feel like it. I guess that’s the element of “no matter how it may seem” about all this.
Because in the past week, I have taken the single biggest step since having the transplant in way of.recovery.
It’s probably the most exciting step as well….
I HAD MY HICKMAN LINE TAKEN OUT!!!!
Anyone who has ever has to live with any sort of permanent central line will know what a huge deal this is and how much it means.
Admittedly, I had it removed due to infection (not my fault may I add) but the fact it hasn’t been replaced shows how I am no longer dependant on electrolyte and blood product infusions. Less than two months ago I was having blood every fortnight, platelets almost 3 times a week and magnesium at least twice. I’ve come a long way.
I may still have CMV, but I’m having a new form of treatment for that, so that’s all good. I still have this mysterious para – influenza, the flu that doesn’t make you feel ill, and we can’t get rid of….but that’s all good. I probably still have mild GvHD. Clinically I look a bit shifty still, but even my consultant has to admit in that person I don’t really match up to my notes, I’m too well!
I’m a great believer that if.youre well enough to be bored, you can’t be that ill, and this past hospital admission has really shown that. Thankfully I was discharged today!
I am so happy with where everything’s going. I’ve had a Chinese takeaway, something we couldn’t have dared do without a decent neutrophil count, however the removal of my stiches today has lead to the most exciting development…
I have had a PROPER bath for first time in 9 months!
Yes, this is a weird thing to share, and yes I have been washing since November, let’s make that clear.
You see, living with a hickman line isn’t all about just having a tube you can see. It’s a tube that genuinely goes inside of you, meaning anything that tube is exposed to can too. Meaning washing becomes a fiasco of tape and towels, and not getting the dressing wet and being careful and most definitely not having a deep relaxing bath.
Having one today was freedom. Bubbly, hydromoly, blissful freedom.
I am very glad the bathroom is a private place because if anyone had seen the way I was smiling just laying in the bath, I fear I may be off a rather different type of hospital for sure!
Just imagine though (if you’re a bath kinda person) how great a deep, hot, bubbly bath on a bog standard day…
Now imagine it after being discharged
from hospital, after having to have a cannula placed, needing a relax AND having been deprived of a proper bath for almost 9 months. You can see why I’m a happy chickie right now.
Don’t take the little things for granted, because they are great. I’m not saying that to make you be ‘inspired’, make you reassess your life or suddenly start crazy philanthropy. People with cancer are ordinary cool people with the short end of the stick. I’m saying it because life is awesome. Especially the bits with baths and Chinese food and steak. Hickman lines and transplants and doctors and all that are pretty great too, but it’s better when we don’t need them.
I hope you’re all doing well and that you get in touch with how your lives are going 🙂
P’S. In case you were wondering, because these things are of great worldly importance, yes my bath did indeed have a rubber duck 😀
Next stop : The Beach!
Let’s get ready to rumble!
I am booked in as a patient, the consent forms have been signed, and the chemotherapy is up- I have officially begun Bone Marrow transplant prep!
It’s a little scary I have to admit. Though it’s obviously more daunting for me, I imagine many of you will be quite innocent to the transplant process, so I’ll try and break it down best as possible, so you get some of the things I will be talking about in the coming weeks and months!
The most important news first- I have a match!!!!
Of course I wouldn’t be stating the transplant process if they hadn’t found m a match, but the decision has been up in the air between different donors, and I didn’t find out the outcome of the decision until yesterday morning.
I am so incredibly grateful to this anonymous Spanish person, that I may never know who is doing such a big thing for me. Words can’t explain how much I feel I need to be able to thank them, because I will literally have their blood in my veins!
To start, did you know these things about transplant?
- A bone marrow transplant, unlike the transplantation of organs, doesn’t require an operation. The actual transplant itself is seen as the easiest part in fact! Receiving the cells, is an infusion much like having platelets.
- If the donor of the cells has a different blood group, the recipient’s blood group will change! My own donor is the same group as me, B positive- so my blood will stay the same group (just different genes!)
- As mentioned, my blood will be completely ‘new’ after the transplant! It will have the genetics of my donor, so a genetic comparison of a cheek swab and a blood test after transplant would come up as different people. As my consultant says, I will be a hybrid human from now on!
A bit more insight on me….
Today (Saturday 17th) is day -10 on my transplant protocol, meaning I have ten days until I have the transplant. This is made up of 2 days of chemotherapy, then 4 days of radiotherapy, then 2 days of monoclonal antibody therapy, then a rest day, then a day to start the anti-rejection/immune suppression drugs..’.Then FINALLY the transplant itself!!!
It’s going to be a bit of a long slog- once I’ve had the transplant I’ll remain in isolation for between 3-6 weeks afterwards, and I will have to semi-isolate myself from people for at least the first 100 day after the transplant. Hopefully, when I reach 6 months beyond, if I don’t show any signs of GvHD (graft versus host disease) I can have my immunisations as soon as possible, and go back to normal. Even if I’m not quite right, and am having GvHD- which is the graft battling against my own cells and causing issues, I’ll be well within the next few months.
This treatment will keep this pesky, evil cancer away for good- the rest of my life is so worth doing this for! Though I know it will be hard work, I am looking forward to getting it done, being done with side effects. The monoclonal antibody therapy is known to cause fevers and rigours, and is nicknamed ‘Shake and Bake’ so I’m looking forward to getting that behind me.
I am super thankful for all the support so far and am pretty bored (and I’m on day -10) so please send me blog post suggestions, links your own blogs, funny clips on YouTube and cake recipes (?!)
Once I reach Day 0 of transplant (the day I have the transplant) I will be doing the #100daysofhappiness challenge, to document my journey up to day +100
From the 27th I will be Welsh outside, Spanish inside…and I can’t wait! Perhaps I will discover a passion for flamenco, or suddenly be able to catch a tan, instead of remaining my ghostly speckled self…..
Since telling you all of my news on the 17th, STUFF has happened.
Lots of stuff.
I have had my first round of chemotherapy, and though there were a few hiccups along the way I am now home and feeling relatively ok. If I am honest the fact it is my younger sister’s 16th birthday tomorrow is a more daunting prospect than side effects at the moment. I am sat on my sofa, and just waiting for my neutrophils to drop, and make me ‘susceptible to infection’ and for the rest of my blood counts to lower- potentially making me need a blood or platelet transfusion. It’s all right though.
As you may have heard, my sister Holly unfortunately isn’t a match. It was a massive blow to our family of course because it really would have been the easy option. It would have been hard, with the process of Holly donating being tense due to her diabetes and just generally a tense time due to the importance of the donation. If Holly had been the donor it would simplified things. We wouldn’t have to worry about the respect of there not being a match. We wouldn’t have had to worry whether despite all our effort, I have to endure further chemo, just to wait for a donor. It would be easier.
Obviously this isn’t an option now, and complicates things slightly. Anyway, I’ve never rally don things the easy way, otherwise I wouldn’t have done science Alevels or done the course in Imperial College last year, or applying to uni without AS levels or even having cancer firs time round. Doing thing the hard way just gives us the opportunity to achieve more I think.
The progress on donors has been quite frankly incredible. We have had 519 clicks to Delete Blood Cancer and Anthony Nolan (!) and from what we have heard so far, we have around 300 people who have signed up to the registries SO FAR. (This is just from my rubbish social media counting…)
This IS just the start. Some local companies have decided to run donor recruitment days, place the registry details on their office intranet and some places have printed the details on their payslips.
I regularly wish I was a more interactive writer, better comedy and portraying the sometimes incredible strangeness in my life but at this moment, however showing the seriousness of is key. I need a bone marrow transplant. I will need to have one to live. Right now, my best option is a generous, selfless thinking member of society that is also miraculously a HLA match for my blood. A match from an unrelated donor is coincidental, and hard to find so I need as many people as possible to sign up and maximise the chances of my finding a hero. Many of you ask about the potential for being tested specifically for me, but the thing is there are thousands of people out there as well as me looking for matches, looking for thir heroes. If you join the register, you could be one of their heroes. You could be a 12 month olds baby’s lifesaver, or a mother of three’s lifesaver, a teacher, nurse, firefighter, student or aspiring ballerina’s lifesaver. Or you could remain on the register and never be called up. Give yourself the opportunity to become that hero.
Joining the stem cell/bone marrow register is a big thing. Huge. If you donate it will involve needles, and blood. But it would also SAVE SOMEONES LIFE. I urge every one of you reading this to sign up, encourage others to sign up, or find some other way of supporting. It means the world to me, and could one day result in you saving someone’s world, perhaps mine.
Like I said, if you sign up it is an awesome, super-duper, cool, heroic and awesome thing to do. So shout about it. Scream from the rooftops, subject your Facebook friends to the news, and frenzy your followers on twitter. We want to see #RemissionPossible ALL OVER social media. We want to see your swabs, your spits, the kits and the sign up notifications. We want to see it ALL. If you feel like you’re spamming us, you’re doing it right. The first swabbing pictures are beginning to come in, and I love it!
Our Facebook is RemissionPossible (www.facebook.com/remissionpossible2014)
Our twitter is @remissionpos
As always- to sign up to be a bone marrow/stem cell donor…
If you are 16-30 years old register at www.anthonynolan.org
If you are 18-55 years old sign up at www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk
Please note RemissionPossible as your reason for signing up.
Now, if you are unable to sign up for one reason or another (a 74 year old lady was disappointed to be unable to sign up this week, amazing!) please, please don’t leave it there. In Britain we love ‘nominating’ people to do stuff, so why not try and recruit ‘Just one more’ onto the register.
Thank you for all the well wishes,