My hospital stay last week wasn’t straightforward. They tried to drain the ascites (fluid) from my abdomen….it didn’t work…they tried ‘wiggling’ (technical name) the drain…it still didn’t work and so the drain was removed. A further scan showed that I have loculated ascites…this is when the fluid is sectioned off into small pockets and is harder to drain. And so the plan changed, as it so often does in cancer care, and I was scheduled for another drain to take place yesterday.
In the meantime I struggled. Both emotionally and physically I felt myself rapidly decline. I was in loads of pain in my ribs from the pressure of the ascites and the tumour by my left kidney, making me feel breathless and distressed.
I’m not going to lie. I found the whole process horrendously tough. I really struggled with the fluid building up, the pain, the hospital admissions and the first drain not working. I was terrified that ‘this was it’; that life from now on was going to be a slow decline into more pain and suffering. And no one could tell me otherwise, because no one knew if a second drain attempt would work.
During this time, I went home on pass and spent some time in nature, meditating and connecting with friends and family. I found myself messaging those close to me and saying ‘I’m struggling’, ‘I need your help’. I was finally allowing myself to be truly vulnerable and, in doing so I found my strength and I felt empowered and held by those I love.
As a result, when I returned to hospital yesterday I felt much calmer than I had only days before. While I was still scared about the drain procedure, I felt held and safe. The Dr performing the procedure had phoned me at home in the morning to tell me that he would try to insert two drains so that he could get as much fluid out as possible. “It’s not going to be pleasant, but I’m going to do everything I can for you,” he kindly explained. I trusted him and felt in safe hands.
When I arrived to the theatre room I was already heavily sedated. They helped me onto the theatre bed, made sure I was comfortable and even allowed me to listen to my own music. While the Dr set up for the procedure, one nurse gave me a morphine type pain relief through an IV and another nurse held my hand while she stroked my hair. The Dr showed me everything on screen and talked me through the procedure. Aside from a brief outburst of pain and anxiety when they inserted the second drain, I felt close to nothing.
As I was being wheeled out of the theatre room on my bed, I turned me head to one of the nurses and said “that was so much better than one of my previous experiences with drains.” “I know,’ she replied with a smile, “I’ve read your book.” Isn’t it wonderful that when a medical team work together with the care and comfort of their patient at the forefront of their mind, how much less traumatic a medical procedure can be. I’d even go as far to say that, because of this team, I now have no fear of having future drains – provided I had them as my team again! Thank you.
So, I now have two drains fitted and about 2 litres have drained since the procedure. There is still plenty more inside so hopefully that will drain too. The fluid that is draining is very dark (almost black), stained with blood from tumours that have been bleeding inside me. I’m told that this indicates that the fluid will return quickly, however they hope that the maintenance drug, Avastin, I am fundraising to receive privately, will help to stabilise this.
I was in a lot of pain overnight but this morning I feel in a good place both emotionally and physically. Nearly two years ago I was on this same ward. It was 6 weeks after my surgery and I had been readmitted with sepsis. I stood in front of the toilet mirror and cried. I was grey, I had a massive scar, I had no hair, I had lost over 20kg in weight. I looked like a cancer patient. I had forgotten how to love and believe in myself and I was terrified.
Today, however, as I looked in the same mirror I couldn’t be more proud of my body – drains and all! – for all that it’s achieved and, more importantly, I couldn’t be more proud of myself for how far I have come and for never giving up hope – even when it was in scarce supply.
I don’t know when the fluid will return, I don’t know if they will be able to drain it again, I don’t know how fast my tumours will grow or if I will get new ones along the way. But what I do know is that today I feel a million times better than yesterday; today I have renewed hope; today I believe that anything is possible; and, above all, today I am a warrior!
Love and light, Fi xxx