To give you an idea of how tired I’ve been getting as a result of the whole day treatment there have been days where, although I eat, I haven’t had the energy to drink fruit juice … water only.
One practice that is slavishly followed before every different stage of treatment within a session of chemo is to ask me for my name, address, and date of birth. I respect the need for it. ‘John Hendry’ is not an uncommon name. I’d hate to wake up with a leg missing.
Mini treatment – Friday 21 September
For the first time something went wrong. The cast: Nurse Ian: late 20’s from Brighouse … intense eyes … careful … caring … details … tries to keep us in the picture. Doctor Ireena: mid-forties … withdrawn … strong Central European accent … wistful … haunted by a youthful lovelieness. The usual routines had been followed and I was settling down to a half hour of treatment where I had been expecting to be reading or writing quietly and painlessly. Just a few minutes into the chemo I suddenly felt very ill. I found it difficult to describe then as I do now. It wasn’t pain. It wasn’t the feeling that I was going to be sick. I’ve never experienced it before. One way into it is to remember that overall buzzing giddiness … what I imagine to be seasick nerve-endings … that can come with flu – but 100 times worse. In the confines of the armchair I shifted from position to position restlessly seeking escape. Nurse Ian without hesitation disconnected the liquid drug and talked me through what he was doing ‘ You have had an allergic reaction to something we have given you. I’m going to flood your body with an anti- histamine drug for an immediate antidote and call for the doctor to come’. Doctor Ireena was summoned. She confirmed the diagnosis of an allergic reaction and said she would return in half an hour after the drip-fed antidotes, one effective there and then, one to kick in back home from 8.00 . The first antidote worked after a quarter of an hour or so. The relief wasn’t up there with the absence of pain but it was good. I was mightily relieved when on Doctor Ireena’s second visit she said that was enough for today … forget the rest of the chemo … I could go home. (Ian told us that among the 60 daily patients on Nightingale there are about two instances of similar allergic reactions a week. My heart goes out to them.)
Mr Jain, mentioned earlier, the surgeon who carried out the initial operation to remove the tumour, said something which I often remember and find a comfort: ‘And when it’s over next Spring, I hope you will be back to how you are now’.
Is that the best they can do?