Chemo Diary 11&12 21May16

The chemotherapy treatments in April, went ahead and I have found myself increasingly fatigued. The treatment is “maintenance” chemotherapy, aiming to continually shrink the growth of tumours on my bile duct and lungs. 

At these last two consultations with oncologist, I have again raised the possibility of another liver operation, but he appears resigned to the fact that an operation would not be beneficial to the whole picture, so I take him at his word for now and plough on with the treatment.
The side effects have continued. The worst being fatigue and lethargy, followed by diarrhoea, constipation, hands losing their skin on fingertips and palms, lack of appetite, griping stomach pains sometimes, breathlessness sometimes, and also the lining of the nostrils are permanently inflamed, causing bleeding on blowing the nose.  

The oncologist told me to smear moisturising cream into the nostrils to improve the problem. With the palm and fingertip peeling, I have tried Moo Goo, Neutrogena hand cream and a product I found at Tescos called “Du it – Tough Hands”, which was fairly good. The oncologist suggested in the first place to buy a pot of Udder Salve as sold in Cornwall Farmers, as he said that it was far cheaper than MooGoo, which he advised was the same product with a few “smellies” added in! He added, you`re not going to eat it! This I did eventually, and it wasn`t half bad! That is, tried it, not ate it!

 He makes us laugh with his “no frills” down to earth approach to everything! My hands even so, are not too good whatever I put on them. I told him that my hair was falling out. He said it looked fine- he`d never have noticed! Oh well. I suppose he`s heard that one a lot before!    
So in between, in mid-April, Phil and I attended the Beating Bowel Cancer Patient`s Day and as I said before, I questioned a Hampshire Trust Liver Surgeon about the possibilities of bile duct surgery. He did say he would examine my next scan to give his opinion, which I found kind and helpful. 

This week I had another CT scan after the completion of another set of chemotherapy treatments. I have undergone many, many CT scans now over the past seven years, on the chest, abdomen and pelvis, with no consequence. However this week, there was a blip in the procedure of the insertion of the contrast dye test and a false start led to the dye missing the vein and going into the arm tissue. After a second cannulation, the dye went into a vein as it was meant to. There were no bad side effects, only a swollen elbow which quickly returned to normality. 

We saw the oncologist yesterday. Scan results are always a difficult time. We never know what to expect. Will the treatment have been a success or not? What will happen next? So many doubts and runaway thoughts. Keeping them together is like trying to herd chickens at times! 
The outcome was as good as it could be and the scan showed that the tumours had shrunk considerably once more. The ones in the lungs now had holes in the middle, like polos. The oncologist commented that this meant that the tumours were dying in the middle as well as on the outside, which was a very good sign. 

 He commented that the tumours on the lungs could have possibly been open to Radio Frequency Ablation, which uses a procedure whereby high frequency electrical currents are passed through a needle electrode, creating heat which destroys the cancer cells.
 The only problem with the one tumour was that it was very close to the edge of the lung, and that this application, with a micro wave function, might possibly collapse the lung, so he left that idea on the back boiler for now.

 I have remarked to him in the past, and more recently, that I have been receiving “Spiritual” or “Hands On” Healing, regularly through the past weeks and I do feel a great benefit from it. It leaves a feeling of rest, calmness and peace of mind. My constant hip problem has diminished quite markedly. 

 On my comment regarding receiving “Healing”, he added, “Could you ask the Healer to move the tumour in the lung away from the edge, a little.  I said I would do what I could with the Healer`s help! We all laughed! Remember, in this world, sometimes if we don`t ask, we don`t get!
The oncologist was very upbeat and we were very pleased and relieved, with this outcome. He said that he would let the Liver Surgeon at The Hampshire Trust have a copy of the recent CT scan but commented that he believed he would draw the same conclusion as he did, that this was inoperable.
However it is important to look at every possibility and keep pushing forward and being determined and hopeful in outlook. This pattern of thought has enabled me to live almost seven years past my desperate prognosis.  

I began another course of chemotherapy yesterday with same two combatants, Avastin, a Monoclonal Therapy for advanced cancers and Capecitabine, a chemotherapy drug. 
Avastin works by targeting specific proteins on the surface of the cancer cells and helps stop them developing a new blood supply, therefore the cancer cells shrink or stops growing.
Capecitabine is a cancer drug which is given in tablet form and it is converted in the liver and in tumour tissue into the active anticancer drug 5-Fluorouracil, which leads to the destruction of the tumour cells.

The oncologist asked me how I was getting on with the hip problem and I said that I had recently seen an Orthopaedic Surgeon, who advised that another hip operation was not a sound or good idea. He asked me to stretch my leg to the front and then to the side and commented that the woman he saw last week was in a far worse state than me and that he would see me in a year`s time. The oncologist laughed again. I said that I would have to put up with it.

On the way to the chemotherapy unit, we passed the oncologist in the corridor, and he called out “About that hip operation, I`ll get it done for you if that`s what you want!” This oncologist never forgets anything you tell him and is always on your side. A very clever and kind man.
We had some very sad and difficult news this week also. Phil`s mum who is 91 next week, has been poorly since Christmas and has diminished in stature before our eyes. We have visited her at home, at Holsworthy virtually every day since Christmas as her health has so depreciated and at such a fast pace. 

Before Christmas, Joyce was leading a completely independent life, cooking, shopping and enjoying hobbies of needlework and knitting, making dresses for little orphan girls in the South African Continent, and beautiful appliqued quilts and knitted blankets for very young babies there. Crosswords, watching TV favourites, daytrips out on the “Ring and Ride” Bus every week and off to the shops in Holsworthy almost every day on her mobility scooter.
It began with a bad chest infection/virus throughout January, into February and then followed by urine infections, one after the other without cease. Numerous antibiotics have been employed with absolutely no effect. Joyce has always been a buxsom, healthy lady with very few interventions medically, even in recent years. This lady has never had an operation or suffered any long term medical problem other than a little gall bladder problems which had no need for medical intervention. Phil and I have watched her very closely and she has been on a downward spiral for weeks/months. So has her GP. 
We bought Joyce to live with us over a month ago as she was so weak and because of another symptom, an inflamed foot, which meant that she could no longer walk unaided. We have had to press for GP`s proactivity from her surgery several times and she was finally referred for a two week cancer referral recently, by another GP, whilst the usual one was on holiday. There is a clear family history of bowel and gastric cancer, which we advised the surgery and GP of, several times. She has lost three stone in weight and was anaemic, feeling constantly nauseous, not eating and deeply fatigued with numerous gastric symptoms and abdominal discomfort on eating. We typed all these symptoms out, after getting nowhere with advice from her GP, and gave them to the medical centre to be read by a GP and placed within her medical records, in desperation really, after there appeared to be no radical intervention by her own GP. A CT scan was undergone after a consultation with a gastroenterologist. This week we travelled to North Devon Hospital for the results of the scan. 

Sadly the news was as we expected and Joyce has different cancer masses in the pelvic area. The prognosis was that because of Joyce`s age and recent infirmity and the extent of the tumours in the pelvic cavity that it would be pointless and unkind to try to intervene, which is understandable. It may be Ovarian or Uterine cancer, or Bowel cancer, or some other type, they do not know. 

We discussed all this with my oncologist as he had seen Joyce`s scan by the time we saw him on Friday. He agreed too, that it was best to treat the symptoms and keep Joyce as comfortable as possible, which, of course we have been doing. She appears to have taken these circumstances very well, and she is certainly no trouble at all to look after. 
Please take note of these symptoms for your own sake and also family and friends. 
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