Part 5: Life After Cancer
Removal of the Hickman Line
5 December 2005
It is now 3 weeks since my last chemo cycle and if there were any more cycles I would be having the next one this week. Today the district nurse came and took bloods to find out if my neutrophil levels are high enough to have the Hickman line removed. If my levels are high enough the Oncology department will send a referal to the surgical register to have the line removed.
6 December 2005
The district nurse rang while I was out and left a message saying that I am still neutropenic so the Hickman can not be removed this week and another blood test will be done in a week. I was not happy with having to wait a week to when it is possible whiteblood could rise before the end of the week allowing the line to be removed this week. I gave the Oncology department a call and asked what my neutrophil levels actually were to find they were as low as 0.2, this is a dangerous point if I were to get an infection. Normally my neutrophil levels would be higher than this by now and that is because I didn't have any Neupogen after my last cycle of chemo. I asked if it were possible to give me Neupogen for a couple of days considering I was offered it before I started the last cycle of chemo and this was done between another cycle when I didn't have Neupogen after that cycle. The response from the nurse is that it is not possible as Neupogen is expensive, I requested another blood test at the end of the week but this was declined as the nurse felt my Neutrophil won't have risen enough by the end of the week. All they could do is send off the referal now and do a blood test next Monday so the line can be removed immediately afterwards.
12 December 2005
The district nurse came once again to take bloods to see if my Neutrophil levels are high enough to have the Hickman line removed.
Four weeks since my last chemo and I have to say that I am starting to feel normal again, I have been out and about with my friends quite a bit in the past few weeks. It was a bit of a let down when one weekend we all went jet skiing and I had to sit on the side of the beach and watch everyone jet ski as it was quite risky if I was to fall in with the Hickman line still in. On another day I went to the beach with Aimee and Anita and went for a paddle and had a lot of fun getting both girls wet and they couldn't splash me back.
16 December 2005
I spent the evening with Robert and Stephen at their flat and had my first beer since my treatment began. I decided it was best not to drink while on treatment as the nausea from the chemo was big enough hangover for me, plus the chemo does some pretty nasty things to your bowels and alcohol would just make things worse. I found the beer went to my head after just one drink and I was drinking slowly too.
19 December 2005
The Hickman line still has not been removed all of last week I was getting on the backs of the surgical department of the hospital getting them to hurry up and get the line removed, I have told them I want the line removed before Christmas. The district nurse came and this will be her last visit. As my blood are fine all that was needed was to have the dressing changed on the Hickman site and to have the line flushed. After this was done the district nurse took the large box full of medical supplies that we have had since my first visit from the district nurse. If the line does not get removed before Christmas I have been left with a dressing pack and I am to change the dressing myself, I am only allowed to do this myself now as my treatment is over. We will be in Christchurch next week for Christmas so this is why the district nurse will not be visiting. Getting the dressing done in Ward 27 at Christchurch Hospital is an option but this could result in waiting all day.
After the district nurse left I once again called the surgical department and I was asked if it mattered who removed the line, I told them I didn't care and I just wanted the line removed. The department called back later and told me the line will be removed on Wednesday morning.
21 December 2005
Well the day has finally come that I can have the Hickman line removed and this completes all of my treatment. From here all I will need is regular scans. We arrived at the hospital in my usually late fashion, at around 8:15AM, with me explaining to mum that we don't need to be on time to go to the hospital as they always run late and if they are on time they can just wait for us like we always have to wait for them. When we arrived at the hospital we went straight to the day surgery. After waiting in the waiting room for about 20 minutes Mum and I were taken to a room were I could get changed into a gown for surgery and I then talked with several medical staff going through the usual paper work before we could begin. At 9:30 I was taken to theatre and it was just after 9:40 when the anastetic was injected into me. I have no idea how long the actual procedure took but I woke up just after 11 in the recovery room. I was taken back to the day surgery room and allowed to rest in a lazy boy for a while. Once I had woken up a bit better I was given my clothes and allowed to change back into them and after having a cup of tea and sandwich I was allowed to go home. I spent the afternoon having a lye down and resting.
I am still not allowed to go swimming for a week when the stitches get removed, this will be done in Ward 27 at Christchurch Hospital where I had my first 6 cycles of chemo as we will be holidaying in Christchurch for Christmas. It does feel a bit strange not having the line in anymore like I have been so used to having it get in the way.
23 December 2005
Today marks the one year anniversary of when I was diagnosed with cancer. Looking back on the past year I certainly didn't think that my treatment would just have finished now I expected to be back to work by the middle of this year. I have to say that lately I have been feeling "normal" and it is like I have my life back again. My hair is starting to grow back a few days ago I shaved all the white hair that has come through off and what I shaved off has now grown back and is starting to come through brown or black. I am also having to shave pretty much every day once again and it is normal hair that is coming through instead of the "bumb fluff" you would expect to see on a teenager.
Today we left for Christchurch for our family Christmas, it was nice travelling to Christchurch by car as for our family this is the traditional way to travel up instead of all the flying we did to Christchurch this year.
In the evening we arrived at Katrina and Chris's new house in Christchurch. Katrina was having a few quiet drink with her workmates so I gladly joined them drinking a few beers. I am pleased to say that I was able to drink about 4 beers with it having very little effect on me, the difference to a week ago I guess is the beer I was drinking. Katrina ended up getting very drunk providing some entertainment for the night.
25 December 2005
Christmas Day and this year it was a Christmas with a bit of a difference for the Howden and Symons familes. We decided instead of spending large amounts of money on Christmas present to have a $2 Christmas. This is where everybody buys $2 presents and instead of giving them to a particular person we opted to put all the presents in a big pile and auction them off using Monopoly money. One of my presents ended up being a set a of tennis balls that all were lost by the end of the day after playing lawn cricket. I had no problems playing lawn cricket but after about an hour of bowling my shoulder was quite sore and I guess this is because I was raising my arm to bowl. I ended up eating heaps on Christmas Day and drinking all day and didn't feel drunk at all, after a year of not drinking it actually feels as if I never stopped at all. I have to say this is certainly the most enjoyable Christmas I have ever had compared to the usual family Christmas we have had in the past.
28 December 2005
It is now a week since the Hickman line was removed so it now time to have the stitches removed. Mum was sick today so Dad took me down to Christchurch Hospital to have the stitches removed. The staff at the Oncology Ward (Ward 27) were certainly pleased to see me once again although most of the staff were away since it was between Christmas and New Years. Once the stitches were removed a new dressing was placed over the area and I am to keep this on for a few days.