Just when things were looking very bleak, something happens to re-ignite our hope.
Elaine has been seriously ill for the past 3-4 weeks, although she has rallied a little this week. We began noticing a connection with something the district nurses were doing. Each time they flushed Elaineâ€™s Hickman line, within half an hour, she got another attack of the rigor (pronounced rye-gore â€“ involuntary shivering). It happened again yesterday morning for the third time and we talked about bringing it to the attention of Dr A.
By chance, yesterday afternoon we finally had a visit from a MacMillan nurse. We could immediately see why everyone raves about them if Nurse A was typical. She was caring and intelligent and unlike the other nurses, involved me in the discussion nearly as much as Elaine. We just wish it hadnâ€™t taken so long for Elaine to see one â€“ we first asked last summer.
We described the correlation we had noticed between the district nurses flushing Elaineâ€™s line and the attacks of rigor. A great knowing big smile came over her face. â€œItâ€™s an infected Hickman line. Itâ€™s the classic symptom.â€ She explained that she had spent five years working on an oncology ward and had seen it many times. This was fantastic news! It could mean that Elaineâ€™s recent illness was not directly because of the cancer (as she was thinking) but because of an infection. Over the past two weeks, Elaine had seen at least ten different doctors, either GPs or more specialist at Calderdale Royal. None had made this diagnosis.
This morning, we saw Dr A, the consultant at Cookridge. and he confirmed Nurse Aâ€™s diagnosis. He explained that they could treat the infection with antibiotics, but in his experience only a minority responded. It was agreed to have the line removed next Wednesday when she attends Cookridge for the re-arranged scan.
Elaine is now sleeping, totally exhausted after our trip to Cookridge â€“ her recent illness has taken away much of her normal vitality. But we drove back really happy at the prospect that she may get much stronger after the line is taken out.
The decision about resuming chemo will be made when the results of next weekâ€™s scan are known.