Monthly Archives: November 2006

Chemo at Cookridge

Began my chemotherapy at Cookridge on Wednesday. It was a very long day indeed leaving the house at 8.30 and not getting home until 7.30. Not just the traffic, I had to spend virtually the whole day on drips in what will be the longest session I have there because I was given two of the drugs and a flush between them. I take the third in tablet form. I am not on the permanent line they were talking about in Halifax. Rather pleased about that.

None of it was an ordeal other than the drive and one of the side effects of the drug oxaliplatin which I had been well advised about and which started literally the minute I left the hospital. It’s called peripheral neuropathy. The nerves react to cold by tingling and electric type shocks. From now on I must be like a Victorian lady and never go out without gloves which I must also use whenever I remove something from the fridge. For example it doesn’t feel cold to me in my bedroom at the moment but as I am typing this I feel it starting up prompted by the colder air I presume.

But in spite of all this I was really taken by the the way I was treated on the ward. The atmosphere was completely different from Halifax. If there were any copies of “Hello” magazine around I didn’t see them. D, the nurse who was responsible for my care was an American from New Jersey. She’s in her early 30’s I would guess, very intelligent and wanting to train as a clinical psychologist. We had all sorts of interesting discussions throughout the day & she was a star at getting the cannula in my dreadful fragile, slippy veins.

The other patients were also very easy to spend time with. Experiences in Halifax have made me forget just how intelligent working class women can be. One even linked the growth in cancer to Chernobyl. In Halifax none of the other patients would have heard of it. The woman in the next bed had colorectal cancer too which had returned after 4 years to two other places and so is like mine inoperable. Even though she was diagnosed earlier than me it’s still come back.

Everyone was so friendly. They were all interested in why I was coming so far & when I said I found Halifax depressing two of them said that people there said it had always had a reputation for being “clannish” and unfriendly. There was quite a sense of camaraderie & I felt yet again how much more at home I feel in a cosmopolitan place like Leeds. I have of course noticed this before, how genuinely friendly Leeds and Bradford people are, especially by comparison to Halifax.

Chris didn’t stay with me the whole time but popped in and out throughout the day. He is also very impressed by the different atmosphere and commented that the nurses seemed far more relaxed and approachable there. But he says he would welcome any suggestions for finding the best route, ie with the least traffic. We’ve already tried several routes but around Leeds especially the traffic doesn’t seem to move.

Chemo round 2

I am about to start the second round of chemotherapy.

I have transferred from Calderdale Royal Infirmiary to Leeds Cookridge which is a university teaching hospital and feels so much better.

On Friday, we had the second appointment with Dr A to go through the procedure. The drugs I will be given as part of the chemo are flourouracil (“5FU”), oxaliplatin and cituximab, an Avastin type drug which is part of a clinical trial. Like Avastin it doesn’t cure the cancer but can prolong life. I only had a one in three chance of being given this. So the good news is that I may get more time but the bad news is that I have to travel to the hospital once a week which means that most of the prolongation of my life span may well be spent in Leeds traffic jams!

The stated aim of the treatment is to “shrink or control” the cancer.

The first session is to be Wednesday, 8th November and then it will be weekly. The travel time has varied from just over an hour to two hours each way, and I will need to be there for much of the day.

I injected myself with the viscum on Friday which provoked quite an extreme fever: I was in bed and out of it all weekend. Feeling much better today.

Staying at the Park Attwood Clinic

Elaine returned from ten days at the Park Attwood clinic in Worcestershire on Wednesday, 1st November. The clinic was in a truly beautiful setting. The day I went to pick her up the sun was shining on Autumn leaves, still on the trees, there were books and beautiful paintings throughout the building and a wonderful panoramic view in the reading room.

Elaine had Viscum treatment based on extract of mistletoe. This was administered initially by a drip, and later by injection. The treatment continues so Elaine will, later today, be giving herself the next injection. This treatment is designed to provoke a fever which in turn provokes an immunological response which, it is hoped, will work on the cancer as well as the fever.

The treatment is based on anthroposophical principles rooted in the works of Rudolf Steiner. There were many Germans working or staying at the centre, and of course Elaine had interesting conversations with many of the patients, including a German artist in her eighties and a retired Rear-Admiral.

The clinic discovered that Elaine already had a temperature when she arrived, and had a urinary tract infection. She didn’t know about this and it could have explained some of her recent tiredness. This was treated with compresses & uva ursi tea and has now gone. Elaine did suffer with gout for much of her stay. They didn’t want her to take the normal anti-inflammatory tablets which would also lower the fever. This meant she wasn’t able to walk around the grounds as much as she would have liked. Or get the train home!

We’ve tried to explain the logic of the treatment. It was noticed in the 19th century that people used to get bad infections after their cancer was operated on. There were no antibiotics of course so many people died from the infection. Of those who survived, it was noticed that the cancer returned less often than with those who had not had an infection after the operation. In the 70s I had warts appearing on my hands, may be 8 or 9. I didn’t go to the doctor but they disappeared completely after a very bad dose of flu which laid me up for a week. It was learning about Elaine’s treatment that let me make sense of the connection.

Elaine certainly seems stronger since she returned, although activity still tires her in a way it never did before. She had also been complaining of pains in her liver – these have gone for the moment.