A new cancer drug has a frisson of excitement impossible to ignore, and multiples of new drugs are excitement beyond belief. But as we’ve all found from experience, every yin has its yang, what goes up is certain to come back down (generally with a splat on your head), and as everyone with cancer knows, new drugs are huge divas, always accompanied by a gaggle of groupies touting side effects like there was no tomorrow.
My Targeted Therapy drug failed and in September I stopped taking it. It certainly lived up to its Wonder Drug epithet (after the first few months of hideous SE’s) but it gave up too soon for my liking. Its successor took a month to prove its mettle before floundering at the first fence; those fences might look flimsy but they’ve repelled everything to date including the test of time, so I bear it no malice.
Next in line is Carboplatin Platinum Therapy. Even dressed up as a fancy-schmancy Therapy it’s still a chemotherapy with chemotherapy pros and cons. I last used it in 2011 and it worked. These days it’s accompanied by a new level of support drugs which I’m about to road-test. Re-using a drug has the drawback that cancer might remember the best way to avoid a prolonged discussion, but these days slowing the disease is good enough. I no longer build expectations, re-cycling is very fashionable, and who am I to turn down an opportunity?
And so, through a long series of tiresome events (a whole other blogs-worth) I was sitting in a hospital bed on Tuesday having a blood transfusion. It’s a time-consuming affair, especially when the blood arrives some hours later than promised (did they first have to catch a donor?) and I’d already been in hospital for four hours before the bags arrived. Time to wait is also time to think, something I’ve avoided for the past few months, and here I was staring it in the face with nowhere to hide except watching Homes Under The Hammer on TV.
The debilitating abdominal and back problem I’ve had for the past few months is the first time in twenty-nine years my actual cancer has caused me pain. I’ve dealt with enough medication complications, side-effects, reactions, and over-ambitious treatment to make your eyes water, and nursed enough post-operative wounds to make Florence Nightingale proud, but until now I’ve never felt my body physically abuse its self. I’ve joined the generals making decisions and avidly read war reports, but I’ve stood outside watching the war raging within without stepping into the arena.
Since September, I’ve blamed everything except cancer growth for the pain. Some things rightly – high-dose steroids, gastritis, Bruce’s dying, IBS. As a result I’ve not dealt adequately with palliative care. Why would you need morphine when you simply have gas? I have never avoided the blatantly obvious to such an extent as I have for the past twelve weeks. Until yesterday, when I stared at it from a hospital bed.
If I’m being drawn in to war I need armour and fighting togs. My first weapon of choice is eight hours uninterrupted pain-free sleep, and regular bowel movements are second (I’m sure Boadicea never had this problem). Concise geography of the battlefield is an advantage because chemotherapy may carpet-bomb the entire site, but guerrilla battles will be fought in the rubble. I have yet to choose my fighting attire, suggestions welcome. I’m fighting For Us.
The palliative-care nurse visited this morning and I have a prescription for my armoury. I’m studying my scan reports against Dummies Guide to Anatomy to better visualise the cancerous-lymph-node barracks, along with the routes the outriders are scouting. Yes, they’ve gained ground, but it’s a war neither of us will win. It’s taking part that counts.
Cancer Under The Hammer? Cancer had better get his tin hat on. He’s gonna need it.