Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Long And Winding Road...

It's been more than a year since I have felt like re-examining my travels through the world of blood cancer and I make no apologies to you dear reader for this, it's hard indeed at times overpowering.
Let me take you back to October 2015 I was awaiting my result of the second CT Scan of my pancreas. The result was in there was some scarring to the pancreas but it was healing and that it should resolve itself given time. It did the pain subsided and I was soon back on the transplant express. I had a meeting with my consultant and complained of severe headaches when I bent over, he said to me in a conspiratorial way ' look you've already missed one transplant date, for you the window is closing you need to go now or your chance will be gone' I forgot instantly about those headaches and have never had one since. I call it the 'transplant express'  because you agree to the procedure then it takes off like an express train and there is no getting off. Date confirmed for 7th November 2015, admitted week before and administered increasingly stronger types of chemo and other fiendishly human unfriendly drugs to wipe out my immune system. Imagine my joy when my hair began to fall out in lumps, I felt like a real cancer patient then. I had the badge of honour that I had failed to achieve with my earlier chemo bombardments. The Anthony Nolan Organisation had found me the near perfect match, a 25 year old young man from England. I was ready, the donors cells arrived and from a small bag of pinkish fluid my only chance at life was dripped slowly into my blood stream via the Hickman line in my chest. Maria was the name of the Nurse who sat with me, my wife and daughter who was extremely emotional and cried through the twenty minutes or so it took for the stem cells to drip into my body. I received a birthday card from Anthony Nolan to celebrate my transplant date.  That was it I felt rather deflated such a big build up, then it was over with no real fanfare or marching bands just a return to a waiting game to see how fast I could recover my 'counts' to see when I could get home. I expected a long stay in hospital however I was pleasantly surprised when three weeks later my consultant informed me I could go home.
Home for Christmas a dream come true I was still very weak, everyone in the family had to get the flu jab to keep me safe, avoiding busy public places for fear of infection, walks in Balloch Park with Lyn small distances, fresh winter air then back home, exhausted but rosy cheeked. Christmas spent with my children, wife and Sister and brother in law so enjoyable family time had never felt so sweet and precious. Even the crazy winter sweaters we all had to wear failed to diminish my enjoyment of just being there with them, my family.
I was still consuming large quantities of prescribed drugs, morning and night but slowly as the new year moved from Winter to Spring the drugs were slowly withdrawn and I recognised a long lost friend stirring inside of me...it was me, appearing from the shadows of the drug induced, toxin imposed stupor that had enveloped me. Spring became Summer, outings became more a normality, restaurants, cafe's, car trips, shopping and imbibing in a few real ales. Seeing my Daughter  receive her LLB at Strathclyde University again reinforced how those pinkish cells had allowed me to be part of her memories and allowed me to feel so proud and honoured to have her as a Daughter. Travel by aircraft was out of the question so First Class rail travel become the norm. A trip to York was an enjoyable and memorable experience, we promised each other we would return again it was so good. My twice weekly visits to the clinic had been reduced to once every three weeks they were monitoring my chimerism in effect the donor cell and my cell balance, unfortunately mine were in the ascendency and his were falling. I therefore needed a 'Donor Lymphocyte Infusion' a top up from my donor which was arranged for the  14 June 2016. A quick visit to the Beatson and 10 minutes later the infusion was done. A brief warning from the Consultant that in about 5 weeks I might get some 'Graft Versus Host Disease' symptoms maybe a skin rash or upset stomach nothing to worry about though.
So of to the British F1 Grand Prix we went First Class travel picked up hire car, great weekend my god I had my life back, we had our life back, amazing, the darkness would finally leave us. Back home life was great, really great feeling more and more like myself doing things the couples do, even falling out.
Small rash appeared on my arm, called Beatson asked to come up next day, duly attended and saw Consultant who prescribed some steroid cream apply three times a day, sorted.  Well not really... and for that dear reader you will have to wait for my next instalment.