I was soon back into the swing of things with the chemo and finding the treatment manageable. I was still managing to work, although mainly from home and was still catching up with friends in the evenings and weekends of the rest weeks. I was taking the tablets like I had initially, in the evening prior to bed and this seemed to be minimising the side effects. I was finding I was eating a lot but wasn’t too worried as I thought it was helping with the side effects and giving me an energy boost to still be able to do things.
The fact Albie had returned was a reality check and made Gemma and I think that maybe hadn’t been doing enough together during the period where I was feeling great and Albie was nowhere to be seen. The Drs always talk about the importance of Quality of Life and how it is important to still try and do things even during treatment. With that in mind we decided that as I was coping well, we should try and squeeze in a holiday. We had found one that we really liked the look of, it was a cruise that went to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and even included a Formula 1 race. The only problem was the dates didn’t quite line up with the chemo rest weeks. We discussed this with the Oncologist and the fact there were two options:
1) Take the chemo tablets with me and be away during the treatment week
2) Delay the treatment week until we got home
Although it would have been possible but likely problematic to take the medication with me it was decided that it would be better to delay the treatment week until we got back. The logic being, what’s the point of being on holiday but then potentially making myself feel rough from the chemo and not want to do anything anyway!
The Dr also said that the only reason the chemo program is five days on, twenty-three days off is that is how the original Trial was set up and there was no evidence to say that the treatment only worked on those timescales.
So with that we decided to risk it and delay a round of chemo for a week and off we went to enjoy ourselves on our cruise. Check out our Instagram page for some photos.
After having a great time away, I was feeling relaxed, recharged and ready to continue with the treatment on my return. It didn’t take long to get back into the monthly routine of bloods, weight, the nightmare of collection of tablets, a week of treatment, three weeks recovery and before I knew it, I was at the halfway point and it was time for an MRI scan to see if the chemo was fighting back against Albie.
I was feeling positive, I had been coping well on the treatment and had just had a great holiday, I knew the TMZ had done the job last time so was just hoping that it would be making Albie very uncomfortable again.
You would have thought that I would have learnt my lesson by now and would stop being over confident, Albie is a real threat and should be treated with respect!
The results were in and unfortunately not quite what I was hoping for….. tumour shows no sign of growth but no signs of shrinking. Technically this is a positive result as the chemo has kept Albie stable but I wanted to knock him out and cut him down to little pieces!
After this result I was so glad we decided to go away and really enjoy some time together, I now had the feeling this fight had a few more rounds to go before we established the overall winner!
It was now approaching Christmas time and whilst I would still be on the chemo I was lucky that the actual week of Christmas fell on one of my recovery weeks so it wasn’t too impactive.
There were however, two small hiccups this time. The first was linked to a blood test at the GP surgery. Usually, I would get it done at the hospital prior to collecting the next round of tablets but for some reason I couldn’t do that this time so booked in to the GP to see the nurse a few days prior to my Oncology appointment at the hospital. This allowed time for them to get the results back and printed for me to take to the hospital.
I’ve never been a fan of needles but over the last two years had certainly got used to giving blood regularly and not worried about it. On this particular day I was due to meet a group of friends for some pre-Christmas drinks in town but needed to have my blood test first. All seemed to be going well and the timings were working out, I was straight in to see the nurse, she managed to get what she needed and I was off to meet my friends.
As I was sat at the table having a catch up with everyone I started to notice a pain in my arm, obviously, I did what everyone would do and just ignored it and carried on chatting. This went on for a couple of hours before I decided I should probably have a look as my arm felt completely numb…….. To my surprise my forearm had gone purple and looked incredibly bruised. I have since found out this was overflow or something from where the vein hadn’t had enough pressure on it to seal it after the blood test and blood kept coming out causing the bruising effect.
The other slight issue I had was catching a cold. I was always very careful to avoid snotty, fluey people during my rounds of chemo but unfortunately in winter it’s everywhere and the inevitable happened. I started to be a bit sniffly and generally feel a bit rough, I was on a recovery week which was good and was making sure I was regularly checking my temperature. One of the main things they tell you when taking chemo is to keep an eye on your temperature… If it reaches 37.5 degrees you need to ring the emergency number or go to the Dr and if it goes over 38 degrees it’s time to go to the hospital immediately!!
Mine was bouncing around just under the initial danger zone but I was still a little concerned so made an appointment to see the GP. This was definitely the right decision and the GP was more than happy to see me. I was prescribed a course of anti biotics and sent on my way. These were great, my cold symptoms cleared up straight away and I was ready to continue with the next round of chemo without any delays.
With Christmas now having been and gone and luckily Albie not ruining it for me it was now time to look forward.
I had finished the full six months of chemo and come out the other end, my arm was better, my cold gone, the only side effect that I had been left with was some weight gain. I have always said that I feel hungry when on chemo and find eating helps with the side effects, the problem is one of the side effects is lack of motivation, especially when it comes to exercise. It wasn’t really anything that bothered me as I was happy to be coping with the treatment, it was only now it had finished that I realised in the last six months I’d put on two stone!!! I was big to start with so really didn’t need this extra!
February marked the three year anniversary of our fight and I was now due the end of chemo MRI scan. I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this scan, it hadn’t been long since the previous one where I was told Albie was stable so I was expecting a similar result.
I did have questions though…. What happens next? If Albie is stable when I’m attacking him with TMZ, what happens when I stop the chemo. That’s it, I’ve done the six month course, if I stop fighting back will he now take charge?
Well it turns out I needn’t worry, not for the first time I had predicted the results wrong…. Only this time it wasn’t me being over confident!!!!
I couldn’t believe it when the Consultant said “good response, there is NO evidence of recurrent or residual tumour”!
This was the best late Christmas present ever!!! I didn’t understand how three months of TMZ chemo could only keep Albie stable but another three months to complete the whole six month program could knock him down and out! That’s right, I was back in control, he tried a sneaky attack and did have me worried but it wasn’t enough!
I would now move back to a monitoring phase where I would have three monthly scans to keep another eye on Albie and make sure he stays down this time!