I said I’d update you on our London appointments this week, so here we go.
The plan was;
Monday a.m. – CT scan at St George’s Hospital
Monday p.m. – vaccine at London Clinic
Wednesday – clinic appointment at St. George’s Hospital
Friday – chemotherapy at St. George’s Hospital
Well it only took until Monday morning for those plans to go awry.
We made it as far as St. George’s for the CT scan. Just as I was getting out of the scanner a radiologist came in…
“How’s your breathing, are you short of breath?”
“Yep, definitely short of breath”
“You have a large pleural effusion in the right lung”
A pleural effusion is where excess fluid collects between the inner and outer linings of the lungs, and isn’t uncommon where cancer is present in the lungs. The pressure of the fluid compresses the inner lung itself, reducing lung capacity and making it more difficult to breathe.
The doctor explained that due to the size of the pleural effusion they weren’t entirely comfortable letting me leave, and suggested I be admitted to the hospital immediately to have the excess fluid drained.
Sally and I agreed to this, figuring that we were there anyway, so we might as well sort it there and then. We were sent to A&E, then resus, where we waited for about six hours for a bed to become available in the main hospital. Eventually we were found a bed on the Oncology Ward, and we settled ourselves in.
The drainage procedure took place on Tuesday – a tube (or drain) was put into my back and then guided via ultrasound to the area containing the fluid. Which was quite an uncomfortable process to be honest. They use local anaesthetic, which is fine until they get too deep beyond it’s reach. The point where they have to push through the lining of the lung was really quite painful.
However, while it may have been painful, it certainly was effective. Within a few minutes of the drain being fitted, I’d filled a litre bag with fluid. The bag was emptied and we returned to the Ward.
Over the next twenty-four hours I drained a further three and a half litres (so four and a half litres in total, or roughly eight pints for those still in the imperial world). – This was quite a shock. I had no idea it was possible for me to be carrying such a lot of excess fluid around, while basically functioning on one working lung.
The drain was taken out of my back yesterday morning then (also quite painful, but at least it was quick – they just yank it out), and we were eventually discharged from the hospital.
I haven’t noticed a significant improvement in my breathlessness yet, but they say it can take a few days. Also they think I might have a chest infection, which won’t be helping, so it’s off to the GP for some anti-biotics later.
So there we are, my impromptu little stay in hospital messed up our plans for the week barely before it had started. I think it was a good thing though – firstly by being an inpatient I met many more of the team looking after me. In my experience it’s helpful if they know your face and a bit of your history.
And secondly we were able to get my CT results very quickly, as opposed to waiting and worrying for a few days.
As far as the results went, it was a mixed bag. The disease in the liver and spleen has shrunk, which is obviously good news. But that in the lungs and brain has progressed slightly (that’s the bad news). So the focus is going to be on stabilising these little b@stards in my head. Potential options include further radiotherapy, and possibly a change of chemotherapy. I have had six cycles of Carboplatin now, which is usually the maximum – but it looks like I’m going to go to eight, before switching to a low dose tablet chemo. This tablet chemo is used for some brain cancers, so hopefully it can therefore reach the brain (and kick some melanoma ass).
So yes, the scan was a mixed bag, but it’s positive to be having a response in the liver and spleen at least.
Now back at home, and dead tired. I’m planning on resting until someone physically forces me to move. Which, due to my fatness is unlikely.
It looks like I am going back into hospital next week for another stay, when they will attempt a procedure to try and prevent another pleural effusion occurring. Plus our vaccine appointment is next week.
It really does never end!
Right, thanks for reading, and thanks to all those who provided support and helped us out this week.