Just after nine o clock, yesterday morning, Phil and I travelled up to North Devon Hospital once
more, accompanied by perfectly still and peaceful countryside scenes. It was a lovely morning, a
peerless blue sky, small pockets of low hanging mist, shrouding some valleys and dips, most birds
were still at rest and the sheep seemed to be asleep too.
We arrived in good time, in just over an hour, missing the morning rush. We delivered the card and
chocolates to the Radiology Department for the kind and thoughtful consultant and his team, who
carried out the stent procedure, then carried on to new chemotherapy unit.
We only waited a few minutes before being called through to the main treatment room. There were
also individual treatment rooms for patients, too. The main room was extremely spacious, a natural
light-filled room, and not in the least cluttered. Gigantic, individual recliner chairs, some that
converted to a bed type, were given privacy by the space the room afforded. The chairs were
upholstered in a soft green or lavender colour. It had all been designed to be as relaxing as possible.
Trolleys and medical equipment gleamed and sparkled, indeed everything was brand new! There
were views to the garden on both sides, and a suitable “easy on the ear” music played low.
All this a stark contrast to the former chemotherapy unit, which consisted of a range of small
cluttered rooms, with the oncology department in another section of the hospital, now it had all
been bought together, but there were still the smiling and kindly nurses on hand! I asked how long the treatment might take, and the nurse said about 4 hours. The urine infection matter, I was worried about, had been checked by a doctor and they agreed it was OK to go ahead with treatment that morning.
So given the choice of seat, a warming cushion was placed on my fore arm in readiness for the
cannulation. It is easy to access the veins when the skin has been warmed. After a successful
cannulation, the nurse explained the succession of drugs to be infused by drip. All the treatments
came as clear water-like liquid in strong, plastic sealed bags. An anti-sickness drug was given first
through the cannula and then a steroid. Following was the Oxaliplatin, a chemotherapy drug, which
took 2 hours to infuse and then a small amount of glucose. Then the final treatment of Avastin,
which I have never had before. Avastin is a biological therapy. It works by reducing the supply of
blood supplies to the cancer cells, and also shrinks the current ones by reducing the amount of
oxygen to the cancer tumour.
I suppose having the treatments in hospital are the more attractive experiences of cancer treatment.
I managed to share a few words with the lady opposite, who said she had breast cancer, and
exchanged smiles and nods with others, but the place was nowhere full to capacity, it is open
Monday to Friday.
Most people read while having their treatments, sometimes their partners stay, or come and go. Phil
is used to all this, so went to Barnstaple - M&S for a new jumper, searching for a new bed, and
looking at cars. He had fish and chips in the Silver Cod, the best fish and Chip shop in Barnstaple. He
returned with one new jumper! Had tried a few beds out and sat in a few cars.
During chemotherapy treatment the advantage is, is that you can eat and drink before and through
treatment. This fact makes it much more attractive alone. The tea lady offered soup, sandwiches and
jelly and several hot drinks throughout the time I was there, all free of charge!
The main side effects of Avastin, the nurse said, was a possibility of a rise in blood pressure and the
way the kidneys affect work may be affected. Before each treatment, along with blood test, is a
urine test too. The main effects of Oxaliplatin for me yesterday, was peripheral neuropathy. This is
where the nerve endings become hypersensitive to cold. Most patients will notice once they step
outside, that the mouth, ears, nostrils and eyes may feel extremely cold, as so with any uncovered
skin. It is best not to drink ice cold drinks because it will be uncomfortable. There are several
possible side effect to drugs but most patients only have a few common ones.
I have to take the third drug in the form of a tablet, by mouth and it is called Capecitabine. I take
these for 9 days and then the body has a rest from drugs before the next cycle begins. My course will
cover 3 months.
We had arrived at the chemotherapy Unit at eleven that morning and left at five .The work traffic
was in full flow by then, so we found somewhere to eat and finally arrived home at eight, a long day,
but a good start!