You may have seen in my last blog entry “20th February, Getting to Western Park” a picture of me stood outside the entrance doors of the hospital. The idea of this was to help keep a visual timeline of the journey to help both me, my wife and family when we needed to remind ourselves of the progress we were making.
The picture on this blog was me after getting settled in to my room on ward 3. Notice the cap? For some reason it gave me comfort, perhaps even some confidence; the fact I was on a caner unit surrounded by people that really didn’t care ‘how you looked’ hadn’t quite sunk in with me at this point.
So what’s it like to settle in on a cancer ward? Nerves aside, it was a far better experience than I had imagined. My wife was with me, I was on a ultra modern ward (thank you Western Park Cancer Charity & NHS), I had my own private room with bathroom, complete with Dyson fan and a smart TV and as you can see on the picture a tub of grapes (the compulsory food in a hospital 🙂 ). After about 2 hours being in the room the nurses started to come in and do the usual checks you’d expect; weight, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. All of these were to make sure I was in a good enough state to start my Chemotherapy treatment.
Next, the Ward Sister came in to introduce herself and to put my canular in; This would be the method I’d receive my BEP (Bleomycin, Etoposide & Cisplatin (platinum) chemotherapy and relevant fluids. Another hour or so passed and at around 5:30pm the sister along with a nurse came in with a tray which had a number of ‘fluid’ bags on it, one of which was my Chemotherapy.
Ever heard the phrase ‘every days a school day’? well today was no different. I was about to learn how my chemotherapy drugs would be given.
Here’s a very quick overview: to BEP Chemotherapy from my experience:
Basically, BEP Chemotherapy is a regime of the three drugs I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, it is made by a specialist team within the hospital specifically for the patient. each drug (3x total) is given individually over a cycle, each of which last a number of hours. For example, I’d start treatment at 5:30pm and it would finish around 1:30am. At the start of the cycle you’re given ‘steroids / anti sickness’ via the canula and between each ‘drug’ you’re given a ‘flush’ which are basically fluids to ensure you don’t become too ‘poisoned’. It’s important to keep drinking plenty of fluids (water preferably) to ‘flush’ your system and keep your bladder etc working.
My regime was over 5 days, but some BEP cycles may be given over 3 days. It depends on how much your consultant thinks you need and can handle.
Each day your regime changes slightly. For example you’ll be given all the drugs on one day but then the next day you may be given just two of them. This is all calculated out and planned on a schedule the nursing team that looks after you has. For more information on BEP chemotherapy visit the Macmillan website here.
Back to 5:30pm and the nurses starting my treatment, after a thorough check they’d got the right treatment for me I remember the nurse asking “are you happy to start your chemotherapy treatment?” I replied “I’m not sure I have a choice do I“. A slight smirk back at me, treatment began.
I remember Robin looking at me as I think we both expected there to be an ‘instant’ feeling, she said “are you alright?” I replied “Yes of course”. I might have been smiling on the outside but my inner self was scared. I was entering unchartered waters, a place I never thought I’d be. Over the next couple of hours Robin could see my nervousness and I my dislike to the word ‘chemotherapy’, Robin being her usual upbeat self said “from now on we’re not calling it ‘that’ we’re calling it ‘getting better medicine’.
The rest of my first evening was a bit of a haze, I remember eating dinner, playing a game of trivial pursuit and Becky (one of the amazing nurses) joining in for a few minutes and then it being time for Robin to head over to her hotel. It was so hard for us to say goodbye. Even though we were lucky she was only going to be around the corner, being left made me feel vulnerable.
After a few tears she headed out for the night. I was left contemplating in the room with the noise (the awful noise) of the machine that was pumping my ‘getting better medicine’ in to me.
The nurses kept popping in to check on me, each making me feel so well looked after, all introducing themselves and asking me questions to ‘get to know me’ as much as they could. This human aspect of the care at Western Park was to make my cancer journey so much better.
As I tried to fall asleep a loud chanting sound came from another room, it sounded like someone was in pain and people in the room were trying to help in some way. The chanting continued. I found out from a nurse that it was a prayer session going on by a mans family who was very ill. There I was laid listening to my machine in one ear and the chanting / prayer of a hope in another.
To wrap up my first night on ward 3 came in the form me suddenly feeling very sick and having to call the nurse followed by the new state of the art lighting deciding to turn on (fully) in my room at about 3am. That would have been fine if I could have switched it off, but no, it had gone faulty.
The nurse quickly dealt with my sickness by giving me some tablets but the lights weren’t getting fixed anytime soon. With a scarf wrapped around my head I tried to settle but simply couldn’t.
Eventually, the night staff decided to move me to a new room. Sadly, the patient whose family had been praying just a few hours earlier had been rushed to another hospital their room had become vacant. After a deep clean I was being moved across the hallway. Finally, I could sleep and mentally I told myself I’d ‘beaten’ day 1 of chemotherapy, sorry, ‘getting better medicine’.
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