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Getting to the route of the problem…

Warning…this post (and photos) may be too graphic for some…

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Since my last post 5 days ago the plan changed slightly.

On Friday I was taken to see an intervention radiologist in theatre to have my infection drained. I was to be awake for the procedure and the radiologist was to use an ultrasound and X-rays to guide the drainage. Now, I’m particularly anxious of drains after a bad experience earlier in the year where a Dr took several painful attempts to drain my abdomen; each time cutting through my skin, fat and muscle with no success…only pain! For this reason I’d asked if I could be sedated for the procedure. The Drs, thankfully, agreed and I was given an oral sedative on the ward before I was taken down to theatre on my hospital bed. However(!) en route we were told of a delay and I was taken back to the ward. Happy and relaxed I ate a wee protein seed bar while I waited. This was a mistake!…

Half an hour later I was back on my way down to theatre and met by the medical team who would be controlling my pain. They offered me the same IV sedation I’d had for my biopsies earlier in the year which had been very effective – I’d be awake but not ‘with it’ shall we say. Fantastic! Until they asked when I’d last eaten… Turns out I’d needed to be fasted for 6 hours prior! So they were no longer able to offer me sedation and instead could only offer IV pain relief. I was gutted!

Accepting this was just how it would have to be, I was wheeled on my bed into the theatre room. It was fascinating! Because I was awake and not sedated, I was able to watch the team getting ready. I was moved onto an X-ray table whilst they put on their X-ray proof vests and theatre aprons. They then scrubbed their hands and gloved up before placing theatre sheets over my body.

Next the radiologist used an ultrasound and X-ray machine to locate the abscess that had shown on my earlier CT scan. Once located he injected local anaesthetic into the area whilst a nurse started to administrater IV pain relief. The radiologist then began cutting through the layers on my abdomen and, initially, all I could feel was pressure. Suddenly I was hit with stabbing pain and I admit I screamed. He reassured me and injected more local anaesthetic whilst I was simultaneously given more IV pain relief. Once I was comfortable enough to proceed he went ahead with the final cut. It was excruciating! I burst into tears. He again reassured me and explained that he had been unable to numb the abscess wall and that’s why I had experienced pain.

His next step was to insert a tube into the abscess and then to drain some samples for the lab. Following this a drain bag was attached and the tube was stitched and tapped in place. I was then lifted back onto my hospital bed and changed into a new gown as mine was now stained with blood.

The team were exceptional. They explained everything, comforted me and even had music playing! I felt very well supported and entirely in safe hands.

I was taken back to the ward on my hospital bed and advised to remain lying down for a few hours. I was exhausted and unable to stay awake for long – a happy side affect of the pain relief.

What drained from the abscess over the next wee while was disgusting! A thick brown lumpy liquid that you definitely wouldn’t want hanging about in your body, least of all around your liver!

Although I’d been told it could be up to 5 days before the lab were able to determine if what was being drained was an infection, just a few hours following the procedure the ward received a phone call to say that the lab were already growing things from the samples. This confirmed that I did indeed have a form of sepsis. No wonder I’d been so unwell!

All I can say is I’m so glad to have access to medical treatment for this, however unpleasant it may be, and especially for the intervention radiologist allowing for treatment without the need for another general anesthetiser and operation!

Here’s to onward healing.

Love and light, Fi xxx

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Pain, drain and a friend’s baby

Today was another busy day. I knew I was to be admitted to the oncology ward but didn’t have a time and had been told to just wait for a phone call. However, instead I woke to the wonderful news that one of my best friends had given birth to her baby girl during the night – and in the hospital I was being admitted to! Nothing brightens your day like meeting a brand new baby!

Barely able to concentrate after that awesome news, I spend the next hour reading through the information sheet on the drug trial my oncologist suggested I enter and writing a list of questions. I had so many! My poor oncologist underestimated asking someone who is a researcher for a living to enter a drug trial!

The hospital then called to ask me to come in just after lunch – I was to have another abdominal drain to remove the fluid that had built up in my abdomen (again) and then tomorrow a biopsy of my cancer and then on Thursday a kidney function test for my chemotherapy – so a few days in hospital were definitely on the cards again!

I had already booked a head and foot massage at my favourite salon a few days ago for this morning and I wasn’t away to cancel it so the owner very kindly squeezed me in a wee bit earlier. This meant I got to have an hour of something nice happening to my body, rather than the needles and tests it had been constantly subjected to over the last few weeks! I’ve been told I can’t have a body massage because of my tumours but the head and foot massage were utter bliss! This may be something I’ll include in my weekly treatment to help ground me and give me something nice and relaxing to look forward to.

After that my husband and I headed to the hospital where the labour suite made an exception, given the circumstances, and let us sneak in for 15 minutes to meet my friend’s new baby. She was utter perfection! And it was such an honour to meet her whilst still in hospital! Wonderful and definitely a highlight of recent events!

When we arrived on the oncology ward I was taken for an ultrasound to mark where would be best to put the drain in my abdomen to remove the fluid. This was painless and just involved a big black marker pen!

I was then subjected to countless nurses and Drs coming for chats about my diagnosis and treatment, including my oncologist coming in to answer my questions about the drug trial. During this chat she explained that only 60 people in the UK will be given the drug and only 9 of these will be in the hospital that I am being treated in. She also explained that I would be the first in this hospital to be given the drug. I felt reassured by her answers though and encouraged that she said if she were in my position she would enter the trial. On this basis I have initially agreed to enter the trial – although I can change my mind at any time.

She also filled out my cancer insurance forms – yes I have cancer insurance and I highly(!) recommend that anyone with a family history gets it! It costs about £5 a month and, let me tell you, cancer is an expensive lifestyle and money is definitely required! I sadly discovered that my life insurance doesn’t cover me because I only have critical illness cover and not terminal illness cover – also something I suggest people look into while they are still fit and healthy! It’s not morbid – it’s sensible!

The meeting with my oncologist was also really upsetting. She explained that she can’t cure my cancer. She can get me into remission but the cancer may come back and then I may go through this process again. When you are 30 and full of life this is not easy to hear and take in. It didn’t physically hit me until two hours later though when I saw my husband and I just cried and cried. It’s something I knew but hearing it was part of accepting it.

After all these chats – which lasted over three hours! – it was time to have a cannula put in my wrist and  a drain put in my abdomen. The Dr came to put the cannula in and it was so painful I actually called him a bastard! Poor guy because in reality he was lovely but the word just came out! The research nurse then came and tried and put one in my other hand. This time we managed to get through without any additional profanities!

The Dr then came back (the one I’d sworn at) to put a drain in my tummy. This involves injecting local anaesthetic into my tummy and then cutting a small hole and inserting a tiny tube to be left in overnight. The hole is only about 0.5cm across but it goes through your abdominal muscle and, although I’d had a drain in the past, I just couldn’t take the pain at all and he had to stop after a number of attempts. In hindsight I’ve realised that when I’m feeling emotional about something, my pain threshold is lowered (like when I had the dye at my CT scan) and so I think this was a result of having just had a chat with my oncologist. So, we are planning to have another go in the morning in the radiology ward when they do the biopsy of one of my tumours – fingers crossed it goes more smoothly. Usually my pain threshold is very high!

Now I am, once again, worn out from all the prodding and so I’m having an early night to ensure I’m ready for another busy day tomorrow.

Before bed though I managed to squeeze in a wee bit of tomato soup with ‘buzzy bee’ and my husband by my side for company – I’m pretty sure the nurses think I’m weird but it brings me comfort and reminds me of friends and that’s all that really matters!…

love and light, Fi xx

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