Chemotherapy Diary - Cycle #4: Day 5
****Pre-warning in advance - this blog post will contain graphic details****
I was woken up on day #5 of my mum's chemotherapy cycle 4 by the sound of the bathroom light being switched on quickly followed by the sound of retching at 6am. "Good morning Chemotherapy!!!!" As I rushed to the bathroom, my mum was kneeling over the toilet and though she felt nauseous, she did not actually vomit. Apologies for the graphic details - this is chemotherapy. My mum has a standard response now when people ask her how she is which is "Sometimes ok, sometimes not ok" and that's a perfect way to describe chemotherapy. There are good days and there are bad days. And on this occasion, there are good moments and there are bad moments. So after I gave her some medication to settle her stomach, we went back to bed to nap for a while longer. 5 days after chemotherapy, she was still a little foggy and hazy, she was also starting to get some pains in her stomach as she had not had a bowel movement in 4 days. When we woke up, I phoned the triage line to get some advice. The triage line is a form of hotline provided to patients' undergoing chemotherapy, a registered nurse with specialist expertise in oncology is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide advice on symptoms related to cancer treatment. This is an invaluable service which is incredibly helpful and at it's strongest saves lives and at it's weakest, reassures and supports fearful patients' and carers' in their time of need. Personally, I cannot fathom how someone can go through treatment without this form of service available to them and I hope it never goes away. To put it in perspective, if the triage line were not available, the next stop would be Accident & Emergency. The next day I would have to go to work, so I made arrangements for my sister to stay with my mum as she had an appointment which she had to attend. This could have been re-arranged as she was not feeling well but she was also going to stop by and see the stoma nurse for advice on the bowel movements. It is estimated that 1 in 500 people living in the UK currently have a stoma. As part of her debulking surgery, cancerous nodes were found on her bowel which was subsequently resectioned and has left my mum with a permanent colostomy or stoma. When we eat, food travels down the digestive system into the small intestine where water from the food we've eaten is extracted and then into the large intestine which is approximately 20 meters long. As part of her surgery, an opening was made in her large intestine to divert the flow of faeces out of an opening in the abdomen. Because the large intestine does not have muscles, it cannot hold poo like is possible with the bum. As such, poo will flow out of an opening in the abdomen freely as and when required. To catch the poo, a bag is stuck to the opening of the stoma. My mum has been living with a stoma for 9 weeks now, adjusting to it and getting used to changing the bags. To this day we both look at it and still find it an amazing surgical procedure and a grand example of how medicine has evolved over years. We receive a lot of support from the stoma team as it is an adjustment which has taken some getting used to, so tomorrow, she see the nurse.
I'll leave what happened on day #6 to tomorrow's blog post but it involves a hospital visit which turned into a hospital admission, vomit and lots of strong pain medication.
I'm extremely excited to be able to say that I've been nominated and shortlisted for Carer blogger of the year within the Health Unlocked 2017 Health Blogger Awards. I'd appreciate it if you could vote for my blog here.