Part 1: Being Diagnosed With Cancer
4 January 2005
My Mum, Dad and I headed to Christchurch in my parents car, we left Invercargill just after 7AM. As we left Invercargill I looked around thinking how I probably wouldn't see the place for the next few months but hopefully I would return home with my treatment over.
We arrived into Christchurch at around 3:30 and then proceeded to our accommodation, Ranui House which is run by the South Island Bone Marrow Cancer Trust.
Ranui House is like an apartment building, each patient has a unit for themselves and their families to stay in. There were separate bedrooms for myself and my parents and a communal kitchen lounge area that we can talk to other cancer and bone marrow patients.
5 January 2005
We arrived at the hospital early in the morning and tried to find our doctor and where I would be having my treatment. Originally we assumed the child cancer ward as what I have is a child's disease but later we discovered that I was far too old to be treated in a children's ward and was directed to the oncology ward (Ward 27). On arrival at the oncology ward we all met with one of the nurses and were given information about the chemotherapy drugs I would be treated with. I was told that I will end up loosing my hair and most patients usually shave it all off before starting, I decided this would be a good idea just to get it over with.
Once I had the chemotherapy explained more in detail I was told that today doctors will be fitting a Hickman line into my chest, this will be used to pump any drugs into my body instead of jabbing needles into my veins and eventually having these veins collapse. The line is inserted on the left breast and runs directly into the heart, externally there is a tube that separates into two lines the white line is used to pump any drugs into my body and the red line is used to take any bloods I need. I was taken to an x-ray room to have the Hickman inserted under local anaesthetic this means that while I slept during the procedure I was still able to wake at any time, I did see the line going in for a brief few seconds before going to sleep again. I spent the afternoon asleep after I was taken back to the ward and later that day I was released after being shown how to flush the lines but for the next few days I was required to come over to the hospital to learn how to flush the Hickman line with Heparinised Saline.
6 January 2005
We met in the morning with Professor Bridget Robinson who will be my main doctor while in Christchurch although she will not be the one performing the surgery later in my treatment. What I was told by Professor Robinson was the same as I had been told a day earlier about the chemotherapy and the possible side effects, it looks as if this treatment will take more than the 3 - 6 months I was first told. I will have six cycles of chemotherapy before the surgery, each cycle involves three days of chemotherapy and after that I will be allowed to go home to Invercargill to rest until the next cycle. About 5 days after chemotherapy my white blood cells will be low and at this point I am at risk of getting any infection, if I end up getting sick I will end up in hospital straight away and on antibiotics. Two weeks after the chemo starts and I should be feeling well enough to do normal things but each chemo cycle will knock me harder than the previous one. After the surgery I will then have another 8 cycles of chemo but at least the final 8 will be at a lighter dosage. So far from what I have been told it appears that the cancer seems to be isolated to the one spot although there appears to be a spot on my lungs but this is so small it may just be a scar.
The rest of the morning was spent at the hospital having an Eco-scan to access whether the organs in my body were fit to take on chemotherapy. The afternoon we had free and we spent this at my Auntie and Uncles place for afternoon tea. I returned to the hospital in the evening to have my Hickman flushed and had a go at doing this myself I was also given some saline, syringes and plastic needles to take home to practice with. Patients at Ranui House helped me and gave me an insight as what to expect on treatment only every patient seems to be different.
7 January 2005
Over to the hospital at 8 in the morning assuming that I would only be there briefly. First of all I was taken down to x-ray to have dye injected into my body for a full body scan to be held later in the day. On return to the ward we then met with a representative from Canteen to be given information on their services only it is not possible for me to be a part of Canteen as I am over 24 years of age. I was also given information from the Cancer Society on how to deal with being diagnosed with cancer. Late in the morning I then was taken for the full body scan to find out whether there are cancer cells in any other parts of my body. On return to the ward we were told to wait around as Doctor Beadle, who will be performing the surgery, is on his way and he would like to speak to us. We also were told to go to the Southern Cross Hospital at 3:30 for another MRI scan as the scanner at the public hospital was not working. We waited many hours for Doctor Beadle to arrive and he didn't so at 3:30 we left for the scan. The wait for an MRI was also a long one it took only 10 minutes in the public waiting room but a whole hour in the MRI waiting room. Once again I was given headphones while in the MRI scanner and this time I was given a list of CD's to choose from for music. The doctor doing the MRI scan still injected the dye into my vein even though I have a Hickman line now as I was told it is not possible to inject the dye through a Hickman line. After the scan it was another long wait while the results were been written to a CD that we could take back with us to the public hospital. After arriving back into the ward Doctor Beadle finally came and saw me. After examining the results of the MRI scan I was told there is a possibility I may have my collar bone removed and possibly not replaced. This could seriously affect movement in my right arm and the possibility of being able to work in my job again.
We finally left the hospital after 6PM and mum and dad took me out for tea I was able to eat a big meal and dessert as well as what I ate that day in hospital. Late that night Katrina, my sister, invited me around to her place as it was Friday and this was a chance to escape what had been days of hospitals and talking about my treatment. I showed Katrina and her flatmates the Hickman line and told them how great this would be when it came to having drinks, if someone gave me a horrible beer I could just inject it into the Hickman and get the effect that way. That night I enjoyed my final few beers, I didn't drink any alcohol again until the end of the year.
9 January 2005
I have been freed from the hospital for the weekend however I am still required to walk down there twice a day to have the Hickman line flushed out, I am now able to do this myself but the nurses keep watch to make sure I am flushing it correctly and washing my hands beforehand. Dad drove home today as he only had this week off work. Mum and I walked around town looking for hats that I could wear once I had lost all my hair.
10 January 2005
After being free from the hospital all weekend I now had to return to have a bone marrow sample taken for examination. This was real painful, my back was jabbed with a needle and then it is like they starting coring into my back the same way you would into an apple. A small bone was taken it looked like a wish bone. For the rest of the day my back was in pain and it was hard to sit on a chair. In the afternoon I was given one more x-ray of my collar bone and given the rest of the day to rest.